Monday, December 29, 2008

The Days of Christmas Week

Last week was a whirlwind of activity--lots of people, lots of food, lots of commotion. It was enough to make a body weary in the best of circumstances. Since Marty and her family were coming and since we hadn't all been together to open gifts together in a long time, we decided to wait until they were here before sharing gifts among children and grandchildren. They drove all day on Saturday, arrived about 9:30 p.m., Tommy and I both preached on Sunday morning so we gathered late in the afternoon for dinner and to see what had been left under the tree. It was fun to watch the cousins interact and to enjoy being together.

Now we are immersed in college bowl games, often not knowing much about the teams we are watching. Since Kevin is connected to the University of North Carolina, we were sorry to see them lose the other night and since he and Marty live in Raleigh, we were pulling for NC State this afternoon when they lost to Rutgers. Years of living in California had us rooting for Cal against Miami the other night. Tonight we are taping the Missouri game for an octogenarian friend who played football in his days there. We'll get real serious with our watching and choice of teams when the SEC games get in full swing. Already, I'm keeping up with Mississippi State basketball online and wishing we could go to games like we did in our younger, healthier days.

I mentioned that Tommy and I both preached on Sunday. We both went to the lectionary readings for sermon texts and did touch base off and on during the week to see where each of us was headed, but our sermons were not alike. He followed the Old Testament passage and the passage from one of Paul's letters. I chose to use Psalm 148 for a call to worship and the gospel reading in Luke, concluding with the passage in Galatians 4. Tommy's title was "That Was Then; This is Now;" mine was "Beyond the Manger." I will always be amazed at the way God opens His word to those of us privileged to share it and gives us different insights.

We have a couple more days of being with family before we get back to the business of treating cancer. Tom and I go to Corinth Friday for an appointment with the oncologist and the next chemo treatment. I have always believed that if you take your medicine, follow the doctor's orders, and rest when the body dictates, you should feel fine and be able to go on with everyday activities. Now I'm finding that age and the multiple chemotherapy treatments I've had are taking its toll. It's been more than three weeks since my last infusion and I stay tired. The drug itself is affecting my feet and hands, making them most uncomfortable and mouth sores make it hard to eat at times. I say this to say that I usually say when asked how I am, that I am fine and I'm tired of not being entirely truthful. Let me be quick to add, however, that though my body isn't in the best shape, my spirit is strong because it is God's Spirit that keeps me going. In our trek through the wilderness called life, we are to trust and give God the glory. I covet your prayers for the journey.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Advent - Day 26

Celebration – Luke 2:8-20
Thursday, December 25

Merry Christmas! Today is the day of celebration. It is the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth. We have prepared the way for the Lord. He has come into your hearts and into mine. Glory to God in the highest!

Emotions run high today. We are glad to be with family, excited to watch the children open their gifts, touched by the thoughtfulness of others. We are also hurried and concerned to get the whole dinner ready and on the table all at once. By mid-afternoon or early evening a wave of fatigue washes over us and maybe the thought, “I’m glad today is over,” enters our tired brains. The day is over, but the truth of what we celebrate lives forever. May we never forget!

Food for thought: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever
Psalm 107:1).

Tom and I wish you the most joyous of Christmases! As we have gotten older and our activities during the season have decreased, we find we have more and more time to count our blessings and to really focus on the birth of our Lord. Try as we might, the "Reason for the season" sometimes has gotten pushed into the background, but now, in retirement, we celebrate more than ever. That, in itself, blesses us.

I posted this final Advent devotional early today because we have dinner at our house tonight with Tommy, Liz and children and Liz's parents who are here this week from Natchez. After I'm finished with the last dish, I'll be ready for bed! We have been busy in the kitchen most of the day doing things ahead of time so we're both taking a brief rest. Fortunately, Tom has felt like assisting which not only makes things easier for me, but more enjoyable as well. He has kept the dishes washed and made umpteen trips to the freezer!

We have heard from many of you and want you to know that we treasure each and every communication just as we treasure each and every one of you! God bless you as you celebrate this most holy of days.

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Advent - Day 25

Excitement – Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Wednesday, December 24

It is Christmas Eve. We are busy, but we are excited. Last minute shopping, wrapping, and food preparation needs to be done. The excitement is energizing. I remember the years we spent hurrying through the day to get to handbell or choir practice before the five o’clock church service, rushing to get to a big family dinner and then dashing home to get the children to bed before getting everything just right for Christmas morning. I get tired just thinking of those years, but wouldn’t change a thing. Being with friends in worship, seeing the church decorated with pine and magnolia garlands, gathering for communion in the warm glow of candlelight added to the excitement of the day.

Excitement is an emotion to share. We can sense it in someone’s actions, their attitude and in their words. What exciting words were shared with the Israelites by the prophet Isaiah! He even writes that he cannot keep silent as he tells of the change that will take place when the Messiah comes. Just as he said, we are called by a new name—Christ’s ones; we are priceless in God’s hand and God takes delight in us.

Questions to consider: Are you excited today? Why/why not? Will you share the excitement of being a Christian with someone else?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Advent - Day 24

Impatience – Psalm 130
Tuesday, December 23

Here it is two days before Christmas and the children are impatient. They keep asking, How much longer? When can we open presents? They have made their lists; they see mysterious packages under the tree; they grow tired of waiting.

Psalm 130 expresses the somewhat controlled impatience of the Israelites as they wait for the Lord’s deliverance. In John Rutter’s Requiem there is a musical interpretation of this psalm. The music begins with low, slow, haunting bass notes that portray a feeling of doom and despair, but as it continues, the mood quickens and brightens when the words, I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. In a few measures the message changes moods from impatience to excitement. Waiting was hard for the Israelites. It is hard for us, but in Him, there is hope.

Questions to consider: Is there something for which you wait before the Lord? Do you grow weary, impatient with waiting? Can you sing with the psalmist of your trust in God’s unconditional love for you personally?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent - Day 23

Loneliness – Psalm 27
Monday, December 22

Maybe you are wondering about “loneliness,” the word for today and its placement following “love.” For some, “loneliness” may seem out of place, but others know that the Christmas holidays can be the loneliest days of the year. Loved ones distanced by war; families split apart by disagreements or divorce; those experiencing the holidays for the first time since the passing of a spouse, a parent, a child or friend all have something in common. There is an empty, lonely place in their hearts. These may be the obvious lonely ones, but there may be others: the self-confident, well dressed person who shares the pew with you in church; the life of the party who laughs the loudest; some you least expect are especially lonely this time of year.

You may be the lonely one. If so, take comfort in Psalm 27, written by David as a prayer asking God to deliver him from those who sought to harm him. It expresses David’s faith in an ever present, loving God, one who is ready and able to fill our lives with good things.

Questions to consider: Have you ever felt alone during the holidays? Have you been lonely in the midst of a crowd? How do you cope? Could you help with someone’s loneliness today?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Advent - Day 22

Love – I Corinthians 13; John 3:16
Sunday, December 21

Love came down at Christmas, a sentiment expressed on greeting cards, both religious and secular. What exactly is the message? For Christians, the answer comes quickly: “Christmas is the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus.” Non-Christians might reply: “Christmas is a family time, a time of giving, a time to share with those who are close to us.” My initial response to such a saying is: “Love does not just come at Christmas, it never stops.” Maybe your answer might include something from all three answers.

Love is definitely in the air. As we begin this final week in the Advent Season we might experience a sense of urgency, coupled with a feeling of well being—a strange combination. Activity is either winding down or increasing with intensity. We have been through most of the services and programs at the church except for Christmas Eve. Traffic is a nightmare, the mall is wall to wall people and the grocery store is a forbidden planet, yet love is in the air.

Questions to Consider: What is love? Does love define God? Or, does God define love? Can you substitute your name for “the world” in John 3:16?

Saturday was quite a day! I headed out to get a pedicure, only to be stopped at the nearest corner and told I had a flat tire. I had wondered what was knocking. The man who stopped me said the tire was pretty flat and that I should go to the nearest service station. Where is he from? Mars? What service station has someone to help with tires and such? I got to the next street, out of the traffic and called Tommy who came within three or four minutes and after a problem or two with the compressor, he put air in my tire and sent me to the tire store. I'm glad I postponed my pedicure because the tire store was getting ready to close within the next thirty minutes. Both my toes and the tire needed "nail attention." The toes will have to wait.

Jacob, Sarah and Drew spent a couple of hours with us this afternoon putting together a gingerbread house kit. It turned out pretty good, but Jake reminded me that we are really just amateur architects. About the time we finished, Liz came to take Tom shopping. Meredith stayed and played while they were gone. If only I could bottle some of the energy they have!

Tonight was the best night to decorate our tree if we wanted it done before Christmas so we decided on Chinese take out instead of anyone having to cook. Tom and I put on the hooks and the children did the decorating--even Meredith who is big enough this year. She will be three on the 21st. I love holding the ornaments, one by one, and remembering when each first graced our tree . Sometimes they have a story to the pottery angel I received at the big family tree the first year I was married; the red teardrop shaped ornaments that are replicas of those Dad and I put on the tree we sent Tom when he was in Vietnam; and the ones with pictures of our children on them. Christmas trees often reveal some of the history of the family and ours is no exception.

It was quite a day! It was busy, eventful, and lots of fun! We'll all sleep well tonight.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, December 19, 2008

Advent - Day 21

Grace – Titus 3:3-7
Saturday, December 20

A dreaded card to draw when playing Monopoly is the one that bears the instruction: Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. You are condemned, left there, until a lucky break occurs or you can buy your freedom. We have such a dreaded card in life. It’s called “sin.” That card condemns us and binds our wills until grace floods our hearts.

Grace, unmerited favor, is God’s “get out jail free” card. Today’s Scripture reading is a short, to the point lesson on the doctrine of grace. Because of God’s unconditional love we receive God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

Questions to consider: What other “Advent words” do you find in the Titus passage? Is grace truly amazing to you?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Advent - Day 20

Hope – Isaiah 40:28-31
Friday, December 19

Memories of the covenant are sure to bring us hope, just as there was hope in the hearts of the children of Israel. They expected God’s promise of a Messiah to come to fruition. More than that, they trusted God and they looked forward to the coming of Christ. Today, during Advent, we celebrate the first coming of Christ and look forward to the second coming. Herein is our hope!

There is also hope for everyday circumstances. During captivity the Israelites struggled to keep hope alive. Far from home, they were an oppressed people, but God speaks to them through Isaiah, the prophet, in today’s Scripture passage, reminding them who He is and what He will do for them. There are no better words of the assurance of God’s strong presence than these!

Questions to consider: When you are tired and weary, to whom do you turn? Do you hope in the Lord to renew your strength? How has God helped you in times of crisis?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advent - Day 19

Joy – Isaiah 9:2-7
Thursday, December 18

Imagine for a moment that you and I are engaged in a word association exercise. You say “joy,” and I name occasions of joy that come to mind. Immediately I think of my wedding day; today, the anniversary of our son and his wife; getting a phone call from my husband saying he was on his way home from Vietnam; holding each of our children for the first time; every time a grandchild says, I love you. Happiness may be fleeting, but occasions such as these brought, and continue to bring, the deep, exhilarating, satisfying, lasting emotion of joy.

Joy is definitely a word associated with Christmas. Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
The angel told the shepherds not to be afraid for, I bring you news of great joy that will be for all people. Christ’s coming was an occasion of joy.

But, don’t confuse happiness with joy. Both might be described as feelings of elation, but happiness depends on circumstances and joy may be felt in spite of circumstances. Hope brings joy and is a direct result of a heart that trusts in God and God’s unfailing love.

Food for thought: The emotion of Isaiah 9:2-7 is one of joy. Reread it. This time read it aloud and with great joy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Advent - Day 18

Memories – Jeremiah 31:31-34
Wednesday, December 17

Much of what has been written thus far has involved memories. We remember Christmases past, favorite foods, special gifts, our parents, our children—all so much a part of Christmas. When two people marry, they merge their memories and those memories become the foundations for how they establish and continue to celebrate the Christmas season. At dinner tables around the world people share their “remember whens.”

That first Christmas was also a time of memories, a time of “remember when.” I can hear it now: Do you remember when God made the covenant with Abraham? You do know, don’t you, that our ancestors were called ‘children of the Covenant?’ Do you remember when Yahjeh delivered His people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt? Best of all, I remember God’s promise: I will be your God and you will be my people.

Of all our Christmas memories, the best is that of God’s promise to send a Saviour that would assure our place in the family of God.

Questions to consider: What is your favorite Christmas memory? How do your memories of God’s covenant promise affect your celebration of Christmas?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Advent - Day 17

Pageants – Matthew 1:18-25
Tuesday, December 16

When our children were younger they participated in the usual choir and pageant programs at church. They looked so angelic in their slightly tilted halos, their choir robes and their shepherd look alike costumes. Sound familiar? During their teenage years, the pantomimed pageant gave way to the Living Christmas Drama, two shows a night for three nights running. We will never forget the polo pony that got away and had to be chased down the street or the gallons of hot chocolate served between shows. We will never forget the story acted out time and time again.

We remember the story, but do we also remember time and time again the miracle that took place that first Christmas night? The story itself is the fulfillment of God’s promise and the actions of Mary and Joseph exhibited their deep trust in and commitment to God.

Questions to consider: What does the fulfillment of God’s promise mean to you? Is there someone with whom you need to share God’s promise? Do you share Mary and Joseph’s trust in and commitment to God?

In the mid-fifties the church where Tom grew up began a live nativity scene, with real people, real animals, but they didn't move or have a script as the drama Tommy produced or the one he and Marty participated in as teenagers. Tom's parents were actively involved in the scene and arranged to get animals from the Jackson Zoo. After the first night they noticed that the donkey didn't seem exactly up to par, so they took him upstairs to the Fellowship Hall where Mom and Dad and the DCE (the lady who arranged our first date) nursed him into the night until he died. They were reluctant to call the zoo keeper, also a member of the the church, but he made them feel a bit better when they were told that the donkey was already sick.

Fast forward thirty or so years and find Tommy involved with the animals at the Living Nativity at Covenant Presbyterian, our church in Jackson, MS. A familiy in the church had polo ponies and they offered one as the centurion's horse for the performance. The horse got away and had to be chased down a busy street before he was caught. We never talk about the years of the performances that we don't ask, "Do you remember when the polo pony escaped?"

Well, the performance at 1st Presbyterian, Jackson, TN was delayed almost an hour the first night this year because the animals were involved in a wreck in route to the church. Someone hit the trailer carrying the animals. Fortunately, none were hurt and they arrived in good shape to add to the performance.

In years to come, our family will be remembering our history with nativity scenes at the churches where we have worshiped and we will laugh at the memories of the animals. Quietly we might reflect on the places of sheep and donkeys. They were lowly animals then; they are lowly now. Yet, God used them in the greatest of all Bible stories, the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. God can, and does, take the most insignificant creatures and use them for His glory. For that, I am most grateful!

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Advent - Day 16

Music – Psalm 96
Monday, December 15

Our mom loved Christmas music more than anyone else I know. Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, she would assemble all of her Christmas records and from then until the tree came down on New Year’s Day she played them from the time she awoke until she went to bed. She didn’t discriminate among carols, classics or secular songs. She loved them all and I loved walking in the back door and hearing music.

The book of Psalms was the hymnbook for the children of Israel and for many years these were the only songs sung in worship. Different writers expressed their deepest emotions and proclaimed their love and devotion to God. Psalm 96 was written as a “new song” for the whole earth to sing in its adoration of God and it told of God’s wonderful works. Its timeless words remind us of our God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Questions to consider: What is your favorite Christmas song? Why is it your favorite? Could you write a “new song” to celebrate Christ’s birth?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Advent - Day 15

Church – Acts 2:42-47
Sunday, December 14

“Church” means different things to different people. It is a building, a place of worship, an address. It can be used to indicate not only where we are going, but what we will do when we get there. If I say, “I’m going to church,” you will have some understanding of what happens there. There is both a visible church and an invisible Church. Visibly it is the building and/or the group of people who belong there and is spelled with a lower case “c”. The invisible Church is the Body of Christ—all of those around the world who profess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, always spelled using the upper case “C”. There are different ways to worship, different architectural styles, different musical preferences, different denominations within the Christian faith, but always a common denominator: belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Saviour.

Those who were a part of the early church in Jerusalem would not have defined “church” as we do today. It was not a place because there was no common building and to say in public “I’m going to church,” could have been dangerous. Yet, that early church provided a pattern for all the churches which have followed. Simply put, they paid attention to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer, always sharing their possessions with others.

Questions to consider: Compare your “church experience” with that of the early Christians. How does it compare? Is there something that needs improving?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Advent - Day 14

Nativity – Luke 2:1-7
Saturday, December 13

The pocket dictionary I often consult defines “nativity” as: birth, especially with regard to the time, place, or circumstances surrounding it and it goes on to define the Nativity as 1) the birth of Christ. You probably already knew that—but not everyone does.

A couple of months ago I went to a popular toy store in search of a nativity scene play set for a grandchild. A young woman saw me scanning the shelves and asked if she could help me. I told her what I was looking for and she gave me a blank stare as she said, “a what?”

I gave a few clues: “You know, the stable and manger with people and animals a child can move around.”

“Oh, you mean the play farm.”

“No, I’m looking for something that is a play scene of the birth of Jesus.” Only then did she get it. Here I am in the Bible Belt and a person did not know what a nativity set is.

Believe it or not, there are people we know or other people we encounter daily who do not know of the birth of Jesus or why He came. What better time than now to share the good news of Jesus Christ with family, friends and neighbors!

Questions to consider: Do you know someone who needs to hear the Christmas story? How can you use the nativity scenes in your home to tell what Jesus means to you? Is there someone you could invite to the Living Nativity Scene tonight?

Tonight is the second and final night of the Living Nativity Drama at 1st Presbyterian, Jackson, TN. There is beautiful scenery, fresh greenery, live animals, a star and, of course, the Star, the one whose birth is portrayed. In the supporting cast will be Jacob, as Joseph; Sarah, as an angel; and Drew, as the boy Jesus. I can't wait to see them! If you are reading this blog and are in the area, please come to either the six o'clock or the seven thirty performances. Our son, Tommy, is the producer, set builder and director. He learned well at the feet of his friend and youth director, Bill Ballou, when he was a teenager.

Wednesday night we enjoyed the children's musical program. Jacob was a reader, Sarah was an angel and Drew, a wise man. We almost missed Drew. His crown was twice as big as his head and only when we saw a little boy, peering out from under his crown did we recognize Drew. I think his glasses were the only thing keeping the crown from completely engulfing his head. Neither he nor Sarah missed a word in all the songs.

How fortunate we are to see our grandchildren as they grow!

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advent - Day 13

Friends – John 15:12-17
Friday, December 12

A sure sign of friendship during preschool years is if one is invited to another’s birthday party. I can still hear two oft repeated sentences: “I’ll be your best friend if . . .” and “I’ll invite you to my birthday if . . .” In other words, act like I want you to act and I’ll consider you my friend. Often that’s the way lifelong friendships begin, but as we grow, our friendships grow. Some of us are fortunate to maintain friendships with people we have known since preschool; others have friends that have come into our lives later and have stuck “closer than a brother.” During the holiday season we look forward to spending time with friends, receiving cards and letters, worshiping together. Special times are made even more special with special friends.

Jesus told his disciples that they were his friends. I wonder what they thought and how they responded to these particular words. It seems that they saw their relationship with Jesus more as a master to servant. We know that they did not fully comprehend who Jesus was and what his purpose on earth was. Now, here is Jesus calling them “friends,” expressing his confidence in them and his closeness to them. The Master is our friend and what a friend we have in him!

Questions to consider: What are the things you look for in a friend? Can you think of Jesus as your friend as well as your Saviour and Lord? In what ways does being Jesus’ friend affect your relationship?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Advent - Day 12 (Sorry for mixing up the days yesterday)

Parents – Exodus 20:12; Isaiah 66:13
Thursday, December 11

Thoughts of parents are a large part of our Christmas memories. They were the ones responsible for planning everything, from when and how we decorated the tree to what we would have for dinner. Many of us remember the sacrifices our parents made and the extra effort they made to make the holidays special. As I remember, I praise God for those memories of my mother, my aunt and uncle who gave me a home and my mother and father in law. I honor them as I have been taught in the Ten Commandments.

At the same time, I marvel at the unconditional love received from parents and the presence of the unconditional love we feel for our children. Even more amazing than that is the realization that God loves us unconditionally! Once, during our children’s teenage years, I was praying for them as I drove to work. I declared my love for them in my petitions for them and suddenly I was overwhelmed with the knowledge of that God loved them infinitely more than I ever could. God’s love for us far surpasses anything we can imagine.

Questions to consider: In what ways have you felt God’s unconditional love? When have you specifically been aware of God comforting you as a mother comforts her child?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Advent - Day 12

Children – Galatians 3:29; 4:7
Wednesday, December 10

It is often said that Christmas is for children. On the one hand such a statement makes me shudder as I think that whoever makes the statement does not understand the true meaning of Christmas. On the other hand, I agree. Christmas is for children: God’s children. We are heirs of God.

Sometimes the demeanor of children changes this time of year. In some cases more attention is paid to chores, manners improve, conversation and interaction with siblings is downright pleasant. Of course! There is a lot at stake! “Santa Claus is coming to town” and “you’d better be good for goodness sake.” We learn early to expect to be rewarded for our good deeds.

But as heirs, children of God, we have a place at God’s table in God’s house. We do not earn the reward; it is ours to inherit. We are heirs according to the promise, designated as sons and daughters. Jesus made this possible.

Questions to consider: Does thinking of yourself as a “child of God” add to your relationship with God? What does it mean to you to be an “heir according to the promise?”

Monday, December 08, 2008

Advent - Day 11

Light(s) – John 1:1-12; 9:5
Tuesday, December 9

Christmas lights have come a long way since the seventeenth century when small candles were glued onto branches with melted wax or attached with pins to light the trees. Originally they were used to illuminate ornaments on the tree. By 1890 candleholders were commonly used and replaced in the early 1900s with small lanterns and glass balls. The use of adding candles to light trees was first attributed to Martin Luther—a beautiful old custom, but one that would cause great concern for today’s fire marshals. From the early candles to the strings of twinkling waterproof lights of today we love the beauty and the symbolism.

Light is an important word of Christmas. John, in his gospel, emphasizes the difference in light and dark. He says that not only did Christ come to bring light into the dark world of sin, but that Christ is Light. The lights of Christmas are a wonderful reminder of the illumination that Christ brought not only to the world, but to us as individuals.

Questions to consider: In what way has Christ brought light into your life? Are there areas today that need the illumination of Christ? Do you reflect the light of Christ in your life?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Advent - Day 9

Getting or Giving – Luke 12:15; Psalm 100
Monday, December 8

A common question this time of year is “What are you getting for Christmas?” Running a close second is “What would you like (to get) for Christmas?” In our family we were always asked for lists of some things we would like and that habit continues. At times I wonder if asking those questions or asking for a list sends the wrong message.

Luke cautioned us to be on our guard against all greed, but even more to the point are his words that say our lives are not measured by our possessions. We are not defined by our material possessions—at any age.

Maybe a more appropriate question to ask is “What are you giving?” Following the admonition of Psalm 100 is a good place to start. When our hearts are centered on giving God thanks and praise, we become more alive to what we can give rather than what we will get.

Words to consider: What can I give Him, Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a wise man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him: Give my heart. (taken from In the Bleak Midwinter, words by Christina Rossetti)

The hymn from which I took the "words to consider" is very special, not only because it's a favorite Christmas hymn, but it is one I asked our daughter Marty to sing at my ordination. She arranged it for piano and voice and I heard it for the first time after I was given the charge in the ordination service. I'll never forget these words, the haunting melody or her beautiful, clear voice. All God wants from any of us is for us to give Him our hearts--simple, and yet sometimes so difficult.

The routine scans I had scheduled for last Monday turned out to be anything but routine. The short story is that a vein was blown during the process, dye leakend into my arm and I have had a time with blisters every since. Originally it was thought the entire process would have to be repeated, but fortunately the pictures were clear enought to be usable. The oncologist on Friday told us that some of the signs of disease had disappeared and some were smaller so we know the chemo is working. As I reported to some, I was ready to break out in a loud rendition of the Doxology. And, one friend responded that it sounded more like the Hallelujah Chorus was in order. I do not know why God continues to pour out His favor on me, one who is so undeserving. Yet, I do know. It's all because of who God is: compassionate and full of grace and mercy. I don't ask for more life anymore; I just thank God for each day!

The shoe was on the other foot tonight. Carolers from the church came by, stood on our front porch in the cold, and sang to us. The first voice I heard was Drew, saying, "Hi, Maw Maw." Then when we opened the outer door, we got hugs from both Drew and Sarah. The experience was special, but especially so to see two of our angels right on the front row. All the years I took others caroling, I wondered if people really cared if we came or not. I know I cared tonight!

I trust your Christmas preparations are going well--both spiritually and physically. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of extended family and anticipating our time with each and every one.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Advent - Day 8

Gifts – Romans 6:23; II Corinthians 9:15
Sunday, December 7

Unless you are an early shopper and are all finished except to put the packages under the tree, you may still be thinking about buying the perfect gift. What do you give someone who “has everything?” What is the gift that “keeps on giving?” A sign in front of a church on Wallace Drive proclaims that “Jesus is the Greatest Gift of All.” The sign never changes and while one driving past might wonder why the sign is not updated from time to time, the truth of the matter is: the message never changes. Jesus, indeed, is the greatest gift of all.

The familiar words in Romans 6:23 clearly tell us that because we are sinners we deserve death. Don’t you love the way Paul makes use of the conjunction, “but?” He writes: For the wages of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord. God’s perfect gift to us is God’s son, truly an indescribable gift!

Questions to consider: Have you received the perfect gift? Has that gift continued to direct and impact your life? Is your gratitude indescribable?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Advent - Day 7

Aroma – Ephesians 5:1-2 (see also Gen. 8:21; Ex. 29; Lev. 1)
Saturday, December 6

We asked our children once to name one of their favorite things about Christmas and our son, without pausing, said that he liked the way the house smelled. He loved coming home and being drawn into the kitchen by the aroma of freshly baked cookies and stollen.
A live Christmas tree and cedar branches from the yard added to fragrance in the house. Pleasing aromas to be sure and a reminder to those coming home that someone cared enough about them to fill the house with pleasing aromas.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he exhorts his readers to imitate God and to live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (See Old Testament references in Gen. 8:21; Ex. 29:18, 25, 41; Lev. 1:9, 13, 17 and the text notes.) The “pleasing aroma” of burnt offerings was a way that God took delight in the worship of Him. Through their sacrifices God’s children offered themselves and atoned for their sins. The Christ of Christmas became the sacrifice and is that fragrant offering for both the Ephesians to whom Paul wrote and for us today.

Food for thought: When the pleasing aromas of the season fill your house, be reminded of Christ’s love for you and the sacrifice He made.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Advent - Day 6

Home – Proverbs 24:3-4
Friday, December 5

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays, words from a familiar Christmas song bring feelings of nostalgia. Three places come to mind when I think of home and being home for the holidays: my aunt and uncle’s home in Southeast Georgia, home with my mother and father in law and the home where our children grew up. It’s not necessarily the places I remember, though I have vivid memories of them. The people who were there made them home.

When we were packing up our lives and moving across country from the house that had been home for over twenty years, our daughter ran across a letter received the first week we lived there. She was five at the time. The writer stated that he hoped she would like her new house and that he knew she would because it was where her family lived. He went on to say that houses are built of wood and bricks, but homes are made by the people who lived in them. Words we needed to read then and words I still carry in my heart.

The writer of Proverbs shared his blueprint for a home in chapter 24. His essential building materials are wisdom, understanding and knowledge. Thinking today of those places I call “home,” I know it is because they were safe, they provided shelter and I was loved and accepted there. There was shared wisdom, an abundance of understanding and a ready supply of knowledge. Home, there is no place like it!

Questions to consider: Where do you call home? Why? Is your home built with the Proverbs blueprint? Is there need for remodeling?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Advent - Day 5

Colors – Genesis 1:1; Exodus 35:20-35
Thursday, December 4

To me, the primary colors of Christmas are red and green, though I do enjoy arrangements or displays featuring gold or silver or blue. My all time favorite Christmas tree had a “blue section.” Our then five year old grandson was learning how to sort by color in kindergarten so he very carefully separated all the blue ornaments in the storage box from the others. He claimed the area of the tree he could best reach and hung only blue ornaments in that area. It was a beautiful sight!

In the beginning God created . . . colors of all hues, ranging from the deepest blues to the brightest yellows. God created colors, made them beautiful and pronounced them good. The Exodus passage for today’s reading is the account of God’s instructions of how the tabernacle was to be decorated. Attention is paid to color and detail. The most skilled craftsmen and artisans were assigned to the project.

The colors in nature amaze me. I am struck by beautiful designs; intricate needlework draws me like a magnet. See today the colors that surround you. Consider the beautiful design of your place of worship. Marvel at the paintings and the needlework in your home.

Questions to consider: When is the last time you have thanked God for His creation? Do you look upon artistic pieces and think of the creator or the Creator?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Advent - Day 4

Decorations – Psalm 93
Wednesday, December 3

Featured in the news the end of September were stories of a well known retailer’s plans to lower its prices on several toys to get people into the Christmas spirit earlier than usual. Christmas decorations took priority over fall pumpkins and Thanksgiving turkeys. Others followed suit and though we hadn’t even put away our summer clothes, stores were decorated for Christmas. I love the decorations, but suspect they could become a bit tiresome when left up for three months. Fresh greenery would have to be replaced, not once, but several times; the angel choir would collect lots of dust; the garland on the mantle would sag.

The way we decorate our homes reveals a lot about us. Our personalities, our roots are on display. In Psalm 93 the psalmist reveals something about God when he writes that the Lord is robed in majesty. In other words God is adorned with splendor and dignity. Such is the God we serve. Further, the psalmist writes: holiness adorns your house. God’s “house” is decorated, so to speak, with holiness.

We may tire of the early decorations, they may fade before the season ends, but the majesty of our God is endless and the holiness that adorns God’s house never changes.

Questions to consider: What does your home reveal about you? What would it mean to adorn your house with holiness? Could this be a part of your holiday decorating that would endure?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Advent - Day 3

Anticipation – Mark 1:1-8
Tuesday, December 2

Children anticipate Christmas with a great deal of excitement. They are excited because they expect to find that extra special something under the tree—that same something they put on the top of their lists and have been promised. They look forward to Christmas Day like no other!

Usually children of all ages have an air of excitement about them when they anticipate that which is promised. The promise of a new hunting rifle excites some, while another might anticipate a beautiful piece of jewelry or the latest electronic gadget. Promise and anticipation go hand in hand.

John the Baptist appears in today’s Scripture as the voice crying in the wilderness, echoing Isaiah’s message to prepare the way for the Lord. The people wondered if this could be the one for whom they had been waiting. Is he the anticipated, the expected one? And John simply told them that one greater than he was coming and that one would baptize with the Holy Spirit. They must wait a little longer.

Imagine that you are living in the days prior to Jesus’ birth.

Questions to consider: Would you look forward to his coming with childlike anticipation? Would you have believed God’s promise? How would, how do you welcome Jesus into your life?

God bless you as you anticipate His coming!
Pastor Margaret

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Traditions – Matthew 15:2-3; Colossians 2:6-9
Monday, December 1

What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Is it trimming the tree? Do you make the same cookies, the same casserole from year to year? Does your family gather to attend the Christmas Eve service together? Choosing a favorite tradition may be difficult; several may come to mind. We all have them. We all love them. What would the celebration of Christmas be without the keeping of traditions?

The Pharisees loved their traditions—so much so that they were blinded by them. They cared more about what was on the outside, the keeping of certain laws and traditions than they did what was in a person’s heart. They couldn’t see Jesus because their traditions stood in the way. I wonder if I am not something like the Pharisees.

Questions to consider: Is the celebration of Christmas our “tradition” or do we see Jesus? Is our Christian life based on tradition or centered in the Person of Christ?

Thank you for following the blog and for reading the Advent devotionals. It is a special time of year. I preached for our friend in Humboldt this morning and was glad to be a part of the first Sunday of Advent service. The first devotional on "preparation" got woven into the sermon.
We have had a really good Thanksgiving weekend-busy with family, food and lots of it, and football. Our favorite team not only lost, but got walloped and the coach resigned. Those two things were the down parts of the weekend. Monday morning at 7:30 I have to be at the imaging center for routine scans. I pray they are just that--routine. I'll keep you posted, but until then. . .

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Advent Devotionals
Several months ago the parish associate at our church asked if I had any interest in writing Advent or Lenten devotionals. I said I had never done a whole series, but might give it try. The devotionals that follow are the results of that try and have been printed into a booklet for members and friends of our church.

The season of Advent is celebrated annually in the Christian church. It is a season of hope, anticipation and expectancy. It is a time of preparation. The following devotionals, based on words commonly associated with Christmas, are being offered as a way to help each of us prepare our hearts for the celebration of the birth of Christ and are intended for either individual or family use.

There are three parts for each “word of the day.” Short Scripture readings are given and there are comments on the “word.” The “questions to consider” or “food for thought” writings are intended to encourage the reader to meditate on the both the Scripture and the comments throughout the day.

May you be blessed as you read God’s Word so that others might be blessed by you, especially this Advent Season.

Preparation – Isaiah 40:3; Psalm 51
Sunday, November 30

Even though stores have been preparing for this season for several months, the beginning of what is known in the Christian Church as “Advent,” is the official kick-off. Fall decorations are packed away for another year, turkey leftovers are made into hash or sandwiches and the Christmas china is unpacked. Every room in the house is cleaned and made ready. Preparation is very much on our minds as we enter the season. Lists help us remember what needs to be done and just when to do it. We want to be prepared.

May I suggest that at the top of the list we heed Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 40:3? He tells the Israelites to “prepare the way for the Lord,” an instruction they understood to mean clearing all the obstacles off the road for the coming of a visiting monarch. Get ready for the king, the ruler who is coming. And so it is important for Christians today to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the first coming of the King, the Christ Child. There is no better place to begin than with Psalm 51.

Repent. The King is coming!

Question to consider: Is your heart prepared?

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving is here again. It marks our second anniversary of moving from California to our current home. How long ago that seems and still, it seems like yesterday! I will always miss the life and ministry we left behind, but cherish what we have now.

Saturday night Tommy and two of Liz's friends threw her a surprise birthday party and it was great fun! There were friends from church, friends from Liz's school and lots of children, starting, of course with their five. Everyone seemed to enjoy all the visiting and the food. One of the highlights of the evening was a video one of the party hosts made of pictures she got from Liz's mom and Tommy that showed her life from birth through now. Tom and I alternated laughter and tears as we were reminded once more of just how special Liz is!

This has been a week of preparation--after we once got settled from last week's party preparation. I have baked a lot: red velvet and German chocolate cakes for Liz's do; a pecan, a pumpkin and a sweet potato pecan pie for today and I gave our helper a lesson in baking a sour cream pound cake. A house never smells better than when something is baking. Last night my sleep was disturbed as I contemplated how how to serve the sweet potato pecan pie. It's a new Paul Prudomne recipe I tried and it went together beautifully, but was a bit time consuming. Instructions were to roll the crust and pat into an 8 inch cake pan, then layer the other parts. After baking and cooling for a bit, I realized I couldn't get it out of the pan and make it look the way the picture did. We may spoonfuls of pie rather than slices. Our dinner will be late this afternoon and we'll have the nine of us and another family of four from the church around the table. I still have a little more cooking to do, need to extend the table to its full length
and get it set--and figure out how to serve that pie. Other than that, it will be a day of parades and football. Mom loved the Macy's Thanksgiving parade and every year, without fail, she would call to remind us it was on TV, then remind us that they'd be over when the parade ended. I'll watch some of it in her honor. Throughout the day Tom and I will recall all the Thanksgivings we have had together and tonight, when all have gone home and it's quiet once again, we will talk about today and add it to the long list of all for which we have to give thanks.

Cancer has invaded the lives of good friends here. Richard, the friend who asks me to substitute in his Sunday School class, has been diagnosed with a malignancy in his throat. Last week a nodule of some sort was removed and on Monday of this week he was told that it was malignant. When he and his wife met with the specialists, they were told he needed to begin treatment within thirty days, suggesting he see someone at M.D. Anderson in Houston. For any of you who have had cancer touch your life in any way, you know how difficult waiting is. While they wait, life goes on as usual: family arrived for Thanksgiving and Richard will be in his usual place Sunday sharing God's word in Sunday School. Please pray for Richard and his wife, Liz.

Advent begins Sunday, November 30 and so begins the posting of a daily devotional on this blog. I will post at night for the next day so the material will be ready first thing in the morning. Look for the preface and the first installment Sunday morning.

Have a great Thanksgiving and carry the spirit of thankfulness into every day of your lives!

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, November 22, 2008

We celebrated my birthday this past week and I mean just that. Monday was the actual day, but something special happened everyday right through yesterday when four special friends from Mississippi came and brought a deliecious feast for lunch, along with caramel cake decorated with fresh camellias. It's at least a four hour drive up here, they stayed four hours, then drove home again. Only real friends will give a day like that--but that only scratches the surface of the depth of our friendship! I cannot count the ways that their friendship has been woven into our lives over the years. I can only praise God for them and cherish the memories.

During the week I received phone calls, e-cards, cards with notes and packages and I loved hearing from each person! Many heard from this week are newer friends--those we grew to love in California and some we have only known since coming here. I am amazed when I stop to think how God blesses us with the people He puts into our lives--and I mean that seriously. Friends are gifts, God's gifts who enrich life with love and that indescribable, yet rich, thing we call friendship!

Of course, we celebrated with family. Marty and I had a good visit on the phone and it was almost as if she was curled up on the sofa having a cup of coffee with me. Tommy cooked dinner using a little of this and that he found in his freezer. All I told him I wanted was cheese grits, so he started with that. Being with family was the best thing of all!

It has been really cold here this week. When the TV weatherman spoke of temperatures in the teens last night and cautioned people going to high school football play-off games to wrap up, I was feeling especially smug that I had no children or grandchildren involved. I remember those days of short majorette skirts during my own high school days and faithfully following the band to games all the years Tommy and Marty were in band, both in high school, and for Tommy when he was in the Mississippi State marching band. It wasn't quite as cold in Mississippi as it is here or where I grew up, but we did have some cold nights, some wet ones and the opposite extreme in September when the State band marched in heavy wool uniforms. Tommy would be absolutely drenched after a game--fortunately the band paid to clean uniforms because it was required weekly. It's funny the way the mind works. A few cautionary words from the weatherman brought a flood of memories.

I wish I could report that Tom has improved, but he hasn't. He has spent a lot of time on the bed, sometimes sleeping, sometimes just resting. He was glad to see friends yesterday, but didn't feel like being with us all the time they were here. Seeing the grandchildren does more for him than anything. The sparkle in his eyes come out of hiding when the children are around. Our sweet helper came an extra day this week so I could get to the grocery and do some cooking that needed to be done. She is such a help!

Never underestimate the power of your words and actions on other people. What you might think of as "nothing," a greeting you might send, a quick call across town or across many mile, may be just what another needs at that moment. All those who reached out to me as I celebrated another year of life, have given me strength and renewed determination in this journey.

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The ususal minister, the senior pastor, of the church in Memphis where I tune in on Sundays is absent from the pulpit this morning. I have been enjoying his preaching through II Corinthians, but this morning an unfamiliar person began reading from John and here he is preaching. My first impulse was to change the channel, find another service. I wanted to hear the senior pastor. Has something similar ever happened to you? You know the preacher is away, so you have freedom to play. We can do something rather than go to church or we can attend somewhere else. As a church member, I've said that. As an associate pastor, I've heard those words. Where are we taught that our worship experience depends entirely on the sermon or the person who delivers it? What we are taught about worship is that it is what we bring to God; it is all about God. It begins with God; the music is our offering to God; our prayers are a part of our adoration and acknowledging dependence on God; the Scripture reading is God's word; the sermon should contribute to our spiritual growth and understanding of who God is.

The unfamilar person delivering the sermon is finished and his words touched my heart as he spoke on Jesus using the little boy's lunch to feed the multitude. What the boy had was not important. In fact, Jesus, present with God at creation and who could do all things, did not need the lunch to feed the people, but Jesus invited the little boy to take part in His ministry that day. The important thing is that the boy gave all to Jesus and Jesus took it, blessed it and provided for the needs of those who were there. Whether I have much or little, if I give it all, God will use it to bless others. Sounds like stewardship to me!

It's been a little lonely this weekend. Tommy, Liz and children went with friends to Tuscaloosa for the Mississippi State -Alabama ballgame. If you're at the bottom of the SEC, playing #1 in the country, you might wonder at the wisdom of making such a trip. But, football in the SEC is not all about the game, it's the total experience! Tommy, his friend Steve, and two of the children arrived late afternoon Friday to stake out a place to put up their tent for the ultimate tailgate party. Neither heavy rain, nor strong wind that blew the tent away Friday night dampened their efforts. They retrieved and secured it by ten Saturday morning and the fun began. I talked with Tommy before the game time (6:45 p.m. CST) and he said wasn't sure he was going to the game: it was cold and he had no warm clothes with him and no hat for his bald head. People in the next tent over had large, flat screen TVs and were cooking hot dogs, etc. Tommy and Steve were cooking jambalaya and smoked salmon and were thinking they might trade food for a seat in front of the TV. Elisa was decked out in her MSU cheerleading outfit, right in the midst of all those Bama fans, but Meredith saved the day by chanting on demand, "Go Aba-bama." A good time was had by all! Even though we got beat 3o something to 7. Wait til next year.

I am weary. Tom is weak, his stomach is tied in knots and his nerves are driving us both crazy. He wonders if we should try to see a doctor; I wonder what good it would do. I was brought up to believe that things could always be worse and that if you feel bad, you should suck it up and try anyway. I was also taught to be loving, giving and patient with those having a hard time. Tom, who has had few sick days in his life before now, can't wrap his head around my philosophy. I, who have always had trouble with being patient, get really frustrated with him. It would probably help if I made a schedule for the two of us and insisted that we do things, but chemo has taken its toll on my energy. We both need to get out; we need to see people.

Most of all we need to heed the "unfamiliar person's" sermon, offer God all that we are and have and see what God will do. My prayer request today is easy to remember--two "p's"--peace and patience. May you have the same.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Usually when I write I have something on my mind, but I'm a big blank today. There are no burning issues, no significant updates, no new stories. We're really rather boring. Even the weather is dreary.

Last Friday was our regular visit to the oncologist in Corinth and the report was better than anticipated--both red and white counts were up some. That's always good news. If we could get a handle on the fatigue, that would really be good! Tom still is having his shaky moments, usually associated with his getting chilled. He gets cold, starts shaking internally and goes downhill from there. The temperature in our house reminds me of going into houses of other older folks and wondering how they could stand it being so hot. Now we are those "other older folks."

Our front bedroom is beginning to look a bit like the North Pole. Liz has begun to "hide" things over here among the things I'd already bought. Much of my shopping is being done on-line and being delivered right to the front door. How convenient! My earliest memories of Christmas shopping are of wet, cold December days hurrying around in the Memphis traffic downtown. That was when major department stores anchored the corners on Main Street and you could have lunch in one of the store tearooms, entertained by models wearing the latest fashions. Those days are gone, as are the stores from Main Street and the personal touches they provided. One of my favorite memories is of Mr. Peanut handing out samples in front of the Planter's Peanut store downtown. He's gone too, but I still remember the roasted peanut smell. Ah, the good old days! I miss them, but there is something to be said for convenience.

It's a good day for being inside. Maybe I'll start the Christmas cookies or catch up on wrapping what's left in the fron room. It's a good day period. It's the day the Lord has made. No matter what, we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The mail carrier has delivered two surprises within the last few days. Such welcome surprises! Saturday we received a copy of the new FOPC cookbook, reminding me of the people who contriubted the recipes and tastes of things served at Presbytiree Potlucks and Mariner meetings. Such great memories! Early in the week we received the autobiography of a precious lady in the FOPC congregation. I've only had time to scan it, but it's obvious from the beginning what a testimony it is to our faithful God. It, too, reminds me of the special years we spent as "on site" members of the FOPC family.

Congestion, cough, low grade fever and a stabbing pain in my abdomen sent me to the doctor Monday. The first three were symptoms of the pneumonia that hospitalized me two years ago, so I wasn't about to ignore them--as is my habit. I always think that if you wait long enough symptoms will go away. If I hadn't had both the flu and pneumonia shots a month ago I would have thought the flu had me in its grip. Medicine has helped. The pain is a different matter--cause still unknown, but we are in the process of eliminating causes. Tom, as usual, gets worse when I feel bad and this week has been no exception. Observing what is happening to him makes me know that there are worse things than cancer. Tomorrow is treatment day and hopefully a good report.

We celebrated Elisa's first birthday on Sunday. It's hard to believe she's already a year old. Her siblings were more interested in her presents than she was, but she did love the bright pink cupcake!

I have finished the Advent devotional booklet I was writing for the church. This is the first time I've tackled such a project and found it to be really rewarding. The church secretary is busy with the format, assembly and printing. Beginning November 30, the first day of Advent, I will post a devotional for each day of the season, ending with Christmas Day--if you're interested.

Many of you prayed before the elections. Please continue.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Costumes Galore!

Most children love Halloween. Forget about ghosts and goblins and think costumes and candy! Our church had its annual "trunk or treat" event at Wednesday night church this week and the grandchildren filled their pumpkins with all kinds of treats. Last night they dressed in their costumes and went to a "church member filled" neighborhood where the minister and his family live to go from door to door. Unfortunately, by the time they piled in the car and came back to our house, they were all tired and the little ones were tired of costumes. You'll have to admit this butterfly and pink poodle are precious. Marty, Kevin and Christopher were invited to a costume party and following the tradition of the women who have come before her, Marty made costumes for them to wear. Christopher is the cutest pirate I've ever seen.

A word of caution! Cellular phones are not waterproof or baby proof. Tommy came out one day this week to see Elisa either really getting into his messages or giving his cell phone the taste test. After that he could not be heard when he spoke into his phone. Apparently Elisa's sweet slobber shorted out something--which, of course, could not be fixed and he had to get a new phone. I've noticed how conveniently parts and/or batteries for your current phone never seem to be available when you need them.

Tom had a visit with his neurologist Wednesday and his words indicated that the recent imbalance and weakness in Tom's legs was a result of medications not mixing with the antibiotic. When this first started three weeks ago, a pharmacist suggested this could be the problem and it seems she was right. He's been off the antibiotic almost a week and his balance has improved. I wish his cognitive function was as easy to fix. We are now trying something new for his confusion and memory loss. It's too soon to tell if it's helping or if there are any adverse side effects.

Don't forget to vote Tuesday! Regardless of your choice, please vote and please vote that God will be in the midst of the elections. At the time of every presidential election people are heard to say, "This is a crucial time in the history of our nation." True enough. The person elected faces many critical issues that affect both the young and the old and those issues are not unlike many our leaders have previously confronted. Every area of the country has issues that are peculiar to them. It's not too late--nor will it ever be--to pray for God's wisdom and God's guidance. Whether the person or persons for whom we vote wins, God is still in control. I direct your attention to Psalm 33:12-22:
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind;
from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth--
he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do.
No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those
who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us,
O Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.
Pastor Margaret

Monday, October 27, 2008

The air this morning is crisp and cool. I'm glad the newspaper wasn't any further away from the front door than it was. Yesterday I noted when I went out to get lunch that lots of trees in the neighborhood have turned red. That means another trip downtown to see if the ghinkos are yellow yet. We've never traveled up East to see the fall leaves, nor to other places famous for their color, but have been content to enjoy the beauty around us. Sometimes when Mom and Dad would return from some place where "the leaves were absolutely beautiful," Tom would reply, "Mississippi has beautiful leaves." Then, he might go on to comment on the ghinko in our front yard, the pear trees in the mall parking lot or the varieties of trees on the Natchez Trace. I guess we have always been content with the beauty that surrounds us wherever we are.

I haven't given a "grandchildren update" lately, so here's the latest. Nine month old Christopher looked up at Marty one day this past week and said "Mama." All you mothers out there know how special that is! Mallory has been helping Marty with sewing projects. That was fun for both of them. I don't remember Marty being particularly interested in sewing at that age. Jacob is still loving band. I told him over the weekend I was going to put a book on his head, he's growing so tall and might I say "good looking?" Drew has been learning to ride a bike without training wheels. He came to our house a week ago Saturday to practice on our driveway. (Ours is longer and has a large parking area behind the house--perfect for bikes, scooters, etc.) Getting on and getting going is the hard part. I don't know how many times he got on, tried, fell, got up and tried again. Then I noticed the front tire was low and that kept him from steering straight. His determination reminded me of when I learned many years ago and I knew in a instant where he got at least some of that determination. Meredith has always been very verbal, but now we can actually understand much of what she says. She is so cute, bouncing through the house, curls bobbing on her head. Elisa will be a year old next Sunday. Where did the year go? She has only to smile and the day is brighter! Sarah, who in family order comes between Jacob and Drew, has been adding to her cooking accomplishments. Friday Tommy planned a special dinner with homemade ravioli stuffed with crab to go along with veal, red pepper cream sauce and asparagus. Sarah made the pasta and cut it into shapes ready for me to stuff. Saturday she and her dad made pizza and created one with chicken, alfredo sauce, peppers and onions. Friday night her daddy was bragging on her, telling us she had made the pasta and reminding us that she had already learned to make a roux. She piped up and said, "I can make hot dogs too." She has her priorities in order. In other words, forget the gourmet stuff and get on with the basics.

Tom will see the neurologist Wednesday and we pray for some understanding of what has been going on with him the last several weeks. Watching him become weaker and more confused is difficult. You know after the Apostle Paul had prayed for his thorn to be removed and it wasn't, he prayed for grace to accept and deal with his problem. People with chronic illness need to do the same. Jesus spoke to him those words that keep us going: My grace is sufficient. That, my friends, is the bottom line.

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When I think back on last week, a good bit of it seems like a blur. I pretty much operated on automatic pilot--Tom needed a lot of help and attention and I felt pretty rotten and tired. We have had several nights when he has actually been able to walk by himself without falling and one or two when I haven't even heard him. Sunday we were perky enough to go to Tommy and Liz's for lunch, but then crashed when we came home. Yesterday we braved the world and headed for Target to do a little early Christmas shopping. That went pretty well until close to the end of the trip.

We finished our shopping, checked out and went to relax and enjoy coffee at the Starbuck's counter. Tom remembered he had forgotten bird seed and dog treats for our neighbor's dog and wanted to go back and get them. He got another shopping cart and I pointed him in the right direction, but it seemed like he was gone too long and I was getting antsy. Just when I decided I'd have to take my cart and all my purchases and go looking I saw him in a check out line. Whew! Telling him he can't do something, taking away even more of his independence is hard. It's even harder to choose between putting him at risk or robbing him even more of his dignity.

In my head I know this: life requires praying without ceasing and there is a step in Ben Johnson's booklet, Adventure in Prayer, that is really helpful. He says that a part of our morning prayer should include asking God to guide you in whatever will come your way during the day. Ask God to give you wisdom, words, courage for both what is planned and that which is unplanned. When this is our habit, we are prepared for anything.

The reality is I don't always do what my head knows. Life gets in the way and my prayer life is as unbalanced and wobbly as Tom's legs. My focus turns inward instead of upward. Like Paul, I do what I shouldn't and don't do what I should. I pray for help in making "big" decisions, but fail to rely of God for the ordinary, everyday occurences.

Today is not as good as yesterday. Tom is wobbly; he is a bit incoherent and has gone back to bed. Please join me in praying for answers to the problems he is having and that the legs of my prayer life will not continue to be unbalanced and wobbly.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Erroneous belief about older people concerns change. How often we hear the words: He will never change. She just wants to keep doing the same things in the same old ways. Here's my response: never is a strong word--use it sparingly and wisely. Also, we may not want to change things or the way they are done, but the truth of the matter is, we are more acquainted with change than people of other ages.

Change sneaks up on us when we least expect it. Life is happening all around us; things are going smoothly. One day follows another; family events and celebrations seem almost routine. One day we are young, healthy, prodcutive and the next day advancing age is evident, our health is declining and our services are no longer required. Who says we don't know or can't adjust to change? Change is as inevitable as life itself.

That's where Tom and I are this week--facing the possibility of more changes. Changes have taken place in him and we're not sure if they are from medication, the advancement of the disease or a combination of both. I suspect the latter. Four nights in a row, when he got up in the night, he could not stand up or keep from falling. Why he has no broken bones, I don't know. I have spoken with a pharmacist, a nurse and a doctor and am following their directions. Yesterday I had a long talk with our helper about what we may be looking at sooner, rather than later. What a Godsend she is!

God's grace has been evident in the stamina He has given me in these last few days. I did have a treatment last Friday, plus both flu and pneumonia vaccines, so normally would be really tired especially getting up with Tom at night. I didn't even have to take nausea medicine but once since the treatment. God's grace continues to sustain us!

Both the changes and the grace just keep on coming.

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Today would have been our dad's 97th birthday. He was the best of men, honest, wise, caring, a man of integrity. I never heard him tell even a little white lie. He believed in telling the truth and he believed in the one who is Truth. Dad could fix almost anything so whenever anything was broken we went straight to the one we knew could make it right. When there were gifts to open, he drove everyone crazy because he took his time and very meticulously opened his gift. He would take his knife--always in his pocket--cut the ribbon, slit the tape, remove the paper and fold it and then look to see what was inside. In the early fifties, during the polio outbreak, many restrictions were put on children and young people. Dad brought the neighborhood young ones together and had Sunday School for them in their back yard. He was the king of games and Mom and I tried our best to beat him, but rarely succeeded. I thought of him yesterday afternoon when Jacob was here repotting mums for the front porch. Almost all of what I know about flowers, the yard, pruning, etc. I learned from Dad. If he couldn't identify a plant I was sure no one else could either. I wished Jacob could have learned from him. There is much, much more I could say about Dad, but I'll tell you the best things he did for us--and for me especially. He was a godly man. His love and devotion to Mom continues to be an example in our lives and he looked on me as his daughter, not just his son's wife. It seems appropriate on his birthday that I share something we found in his personal papers when he died five years ago. It's called:

Seven Short Rules for Christian Living.

Psalm 119:105 - Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

1. Never neglect daily private prayer. Remember that God is present and hears you (Matt. 6:5-6; Philippians 4:6-7).

2. Never neglect daily Bible reading--and remember when you read that God is speaking to you (II Tim. 3:16-17).

3. Never ask God for anything you do not need or ought not to have (I Cor. 10:13).

4. Never, never doubt God. Tell Him all of your cares and trust Him to carry all of your burdens (I Peter 5:7; Rom. 8:28; Matt. 6:25-28).

5. Never let a day pass without trying to do something for Jesus (Matt. 5:13-16).

6. Never take your Christianity from someone else. Don't say it's okay for me to do it because so and so does (I Samuel 16:7).

7. Never turn away from God's will. If you do His will you will learn to love, trust, and know Him (Psalm 25:14; Micah 6:8).

Psalm 119:11 - Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 19:14 - Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my rock and my salvation.

Dad lived by these simple rules and by his life encouraged all of us who knew and loved him.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, October 06, 2008

Fall in the South continues to be spectacular. That's not exaggeration! The termperatures are milder, there is less humidity and the leaves are turning and falling. Our favorite college football team did well on Saturday--they didn't play. The children came Saturday to play in the yard while we cooked hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill. Even the Farmers' Market has taken a Fall decor with lots of mums, pumpkins, gourds and greens for sale. I was happy to find a few tomatoes and an abundance of Mississippi sweet potatoes. I tried a new recipe: oven fried sweet potatoes with basil salt and a garlic mayonnaise dipping sauce. Yum, yum! Fall, family, food are ingredients for a fun weekend.

Tom and I both visited our primary care physician Thursday--just a regular check-up, but also to report the progress on finding the cause of Tom's headaches, the treatment, the results of his last trip to the neurologist. We came away with a bag full of samples of another medication he is to try for the anxiety and nervousness. Maybe we're on to something. Friday we went to Corinth to see the oncologist and thought the visit went well. It seems that the chemo drug I'm on now causes elevation of the CA125 at first, before it begins to drop and/or level out. My white count is "on the cusp," he said, and he lifted some of the precautions I've been following for the last three weeks--making the tomatoes I found even more welcome. Treatment is this Friday, with another scheduled the first Friday in November, followed by scans. We'll know more then.

It's hard not knowing. I like to know what will happen tomorrow, the next day and the next. I can recount many times when I've been reluctant to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit, when I have really wanted to tell God that I'd like to make decisions on my own, 'cause "I know better." Some of those times I did my thing, didn't listen and always those were bad decisions--big mistakes. When I've listened, when I've been obedient, God has blessed more than I could even imagine He would have. Why, then, do I wonder about tomorrow? Why can't I completely trust God with tomorrow? I call it "human nature," all the time knowing I don't want to be defined by that nature, but by the new person I became in Christ years ago. It's His nature that prompts obedience and provides trust. God is in charge of tomorrow. I don't need to know what will happen.

Incurable cancer plays with your mind, your soul, not to mention what it does to your body. It gives you opportunity to step back, review your life and consider all the things you want to accomplish before you die. It helps you not take people for granted. You value every minute you spend with those you love; you don't put off until tomorrow the things you should do or say today. Those are good things. But, there are ups and downs. Beginning this current round of chemo started a down turn. It was the not knowing, the lapse in trust, the wanting to be in charge. All of us have areas in our lives that need to be committed completely to God. No, all of us need to commit our lives completely to God--not just areas. Then we need to let go and trust Him. God's grace is sufficient for all our needs.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, September 29, 2008

This week will be dull compared to last. We had phone conversations with three California friends, two from Mississippi and visits from two couples who were on road trips from California. A lady from our church here stopped by one day and the children were free enough from sniffles that we were able to share two meals with them at their house. What a week! The presence of friends and family, whether in person or by phone, brings indescribable joy. (It's all a part of the fellowship of believers for us.)

The Witts came Thursday after spending a couple of days in Memphis enjoying ribs at the Rondeveaux--the world's best rib place--and taking in the sights. We had lunch at home, showed them a little of Jackson, dined on catfish for supper and talked and talked and talked. Sunday the Mittlers stopped by for a couple of hours and brought us lots of CDs of services and Bible studies fom Fair Oaks. Those visits will live on in our hearts for a long time.

More and more I am convinced that one of this life's greatest gifts is grandchildren! Christopher has learned to crawl and has joined that group of little ones known as the "Now You See Me, Now You Don't" crowd. Having Elisa crawling around our house makes me more diligent in keeping things off the floor. I'm convinced that all those months babies sit looking around and cooing before they reach the crawling stage, they are really casing the place so they'll know exactly where to explore. I think Marty agrees, now that Christopher is off and going. He has big sister Mallory wrapped around his little finger. Elisa's latest accomplishment is to say "No, No." Meredith has added "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" to her nursery rhyme repetoire, but I think "Humpty, Humpty" is still her favorite. That's the one we hear the most. Jacob, Sarah and Drew are busy with the usual school activities and fun to be around. I love to hear what they are doing in school, to hear Jacob play new notes on his saxophone, to see Sarah do the crab crawl and to get pictures from Drew and see his school work. I bet he's a fun little boy to have in class.

I love this time of year. It has always been my favorite, a time when the weather gets cooler, the leaves change color, the cotton fields stand ready for picking, delicious smells from the kitchen fill the house, football takes over the weekends, basketball begins and families begin dusting off favorite holiday traditions and planning new ones. There is something in the air that prompts both a calm excitement about the present and a warm nostalgia about falls past.

The visits from our friends and the most recent grandchildren stories and accomplishments will be added to the fall memory bank of 2008. All of us are making memories every day, really every minute and we will be remembered by those who know us. The content of those memories is up to us. Think about it.

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My start in Older Adult Ministry years ago was prompted by a couple in our church whose maiden aunt had come from another town to live in an apartment behind their house. She was legally blind and had some mobility problems as well. The couple wanted the aunt to be involved in the church, but there were few ways that she could. I asked what the aunt missed most about not being able to attend and participate the way she had when she was younger and I was told that she "missed the fellowship." Consideration of that statement has been one of the foundational pillars of Older Adult Ministry for me. Not only have I pondered what "missing the fellowship" means, but I have also continued to ask how to extend the "fellowship of believers" to those who can no longer regularly attend.

Today I have a personal understanding of "missing the fellowship." The Church has been an integral part of both Tom's life and mine since we were born. The Church has nurtured us and taught us; it has celebrated our joys and grieved with us in our losses. Worship services and other church events and activities have been our priority. They have gone on our calendar first, other things were secondary. Granted, part of this is habit, one instilled in us by our parents, for which I am glad. My dear mother-in-law taught me the value of good habits. Not being in worship on Sundays, not being actively involved is a hard habit to break!

Greater than the "habit" is the need to be connected to fellowship of believers. Worshiping together introduces us to the "Sweet, sweet Spirit in this place;" studying together provides opportunity for growth; praying with and for one another is encouraging and affirming; serving together unites our lives in a common purpose. So, is the "fellowship of believers" portable? Do we have to go somewhere to enjoy it? Can it extend beyond the boundaries of the church building? The question I've asked in ministry about others has come home to roost, so to speak.

Tom's increased nervousness limits the time I can spend away from him and my lowered white count prevents my being in crowds. (Translation: don't go to church or other such gatherings.)
As a result, I've missed some opportunities to teach and preach and have had to miss a couple of presbytery meetings lately. Now I pull up my chair on Sunday morning and tune in to 2nd Presbyterian, Memphis. It's only a thirty minute service, beginning with a short anthem, reading of God's Word and the message. Currently, the minister is preaching through II Corinthians and his insights are remarkable. I am becoming a part of the fellowship of believers in a congregation that doesn't even know it. They are sharing their worship with many across the mid-South and extending their fellowship to TV viewers.

A friend of a friend contacted me by e-mail after being introduced to my blog. He shared his story and the paper he had written for his doctoral dissertation. By so doing, he reached out and ministered to me through cyber space, thus sharing the fellowship of the Spirit, the golden thread that ties believers together.

After all these years the one question remains, but the answers to it are growing day by day.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ike brought crisp, cooler days, a little rain and wind gusts that cleared some limbs out of the trees. It's good porch sitting weather! We know, however, not to get too used to it. Fall is always hot in this part of the country. I am once again anticipating the turning of the ghinko trees downtown around the courthouse. The seasons come and go, but I never tire of the beauty of each one.

I learned Monday that the tumor marker has lost its way--it's going up instead of down. Of course, the nurse, in her brightest voice, reminded me how many treatments I had had and that I shouldn't be discouraged. "Discouragement" is not the word; it is "disappointment." We want that count to go down and the white count to come up. Pretty typical of human nature. We're seldom satisfied with what we have, always wanting more. The apostle Paul said that he had learned to be content in any state. That's an expression of all -out trust in an unchanging, faithful God and I want to be able to echo Paul's statement. "Discouragement" does not belong in my vocabulary.

I have been drawn to a lovely lady in our congregation who has caregiving responsibilities for her husband. He is a former mayor of the city and until a stroke disabled him, he was active, vital, very much involved in the church and community. The other day she told me that one of her friends saw her at church and commented that she had never seen her look prettier, then added: "Stress must agree with you." We laughed and said that if that's the case she would be the world's most beautiful lady.

If asked, I imagine she would say that her life has not taken the path she thought it would. I never imagined the circumstances we face day to day. Life is fragile. It can--and does--change in an instant. An outwardly healthy person can be felled by a stroke or heart attack in an instant; a doctor's diagnosis can change everything; an accident may rearrange your lifestyle; a broken relationship may hurt you deeply. Life is full of change. It is inevitable. The old cliche, "two things never change--death and taxes," holds no comfort, is no help. The comfort lies in the knowledge that God, alone, is unchanging in all He is and in all His works. While our circumstances will surely change, our lives take unknown, unwanted paths, we trust in an unchanging God who makes it possible for us to be "content" along with Paul.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, September 12, 2008

Does prayer change things?

There is a popular, oft repeated statement among believers that says "Prayer changes things." My response has always been: "Prayer does not change things. God does." Then I go on to explain what I mean. Once in a confirmation class I gave my view and was criticized by a mother who was attending with her daughter. Though I don't think she completely understood what I was saying, her criticism had some merit and did make me think. I went back the next week and began the class with some hopefully clarifying statements.

You, my readers, may not agree with me and might call me a "nick picker." Prayer is a powerful, yet intimate Christian discipline. In prayer we grow in our knowledge of God and closer in our relationship with Him. Our closest human relationships are those where there is trust and open communication. A close relationship with God requires the same. So, when I approach God in prayer, I approach in awe of who He is, in humility because of His mercy and grace, somewhat in surprise that He cares for me and what concerns me and in the absolute knowledge that He hears and He answers. Only with those approaches does my knowlege and relationship with God grow.

Maybe you have heard someone say when a prayer has not been answered the way we prefer that we haven't prayed enough. It's as if the length or the number of our prayers make the difference. For me, those things demonstrate the quality of our communication with God and the trust we have, not only that God does answer, but in the answer itself. I have been blessed and am being blessed by the prayers of God's people! My dear friend, Peggy, reminded me not long ago about the constant, fervent prayer support Tom and I both had when we were at FOPC. And her comment reminded me of how much I rested, knowing that God was working in both our lives and in their lives as well. I need that now.

Here are some requests: 1) Tom has gotten his meds mixed up two days in a row, making me know that he can no longer be left to take them on his own. Every dose will have to be monitored. He and I went alone for my treatment today and he was a real trooper and as much "in charge" as he could be these days. We got home about 3:30 p.m. and he immediately crashed. For the next six hours he has been nervous as a "cat on a hot tin roof" and needed assistance with everything. I have not been able to rest for having to tend to him. Please pray for the stress to be taken from him and that I will be patient as I care for him.

2) Today I saw an older lady and her adult daugther who have been in the office the last three or four times we have been there. The older lady is the patient and it is obvious by her actions and by some of what I've heard her daughter say that the lady is fiercely independent and quite a fighter. She won't even let her daughter go in with her to see the doctor. This morning the lady had on a makeshift sling and was there to get a shot--our doctor wasn't in today. The receptionist asked the daughter about the sling, the daughter told about some pain the lady was having and said she had hoped to ask the doctor. She was sent across the street to have the arm x-rayed. As I was leaving I noticed the lady and her daughter were back. Something told me to stop and talk to the lady and Someone put some words in my mouth. She told me that the source of pain is a tumor in her upper arm, pushing on the bone and threatening to break it. Now, after completing twenty something radiation treatments, she has to begin again to try to shrink the tumor. With that, she began to cry. At that moment I was no longer another patient, but Pastor Margaret. I simply said to her that I have learned that God is greater than any tumor or disease that has threatened me and I know He is greater than her current tumor. I asked her name and said, "Elvie, I'll pray for you." Will you pray for her as well? I went to the car and thanked God for that pastoral opportunity.

3) I believed that the blood drawn this morning would reveal really low red counts that were causing extreme fatigue. The draw revealed really low counts, but not red, white. The red is low, but not so low as to be a problem yet. Medicine itself is causing the fatigue. Low white counts started my crisis two years ago when I spent ten days in the hospital because I was neutropenic and highly suceptible to infection. They did go ahead with the treatment and gave me six pages of information of what I can and cannot do--including no raw foods and avoiding crowds and those with colds etc. Wouldn't you know that Elisa has a fever virus and I can't see her this weekend? Please pray that my body will respond positively to this drug and that the white count will have a miraculous recovery.

4) Join me in thanking God for the love and support of family and friends. Both of my children know how to encourage me in their own special ways. Liz and Tommy keep us fed when I don't feel up to cooking and fit us into an already busy schedule. Marty and I stay close by phone and her voice and the baby sounds of Christopher in the background put a smile on my face. What a wonderful family we have!

Maybe prayer does change things. It has changed my heart. It has drawn me closer to God and to God's people through whom He blesses me.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What a day!

Sometime around 2 a.m. I awoke with a tickle in my throat and got up to get a cough drop. I was almost back to sleep when some tiny, yippy dogs over our back fence started barking--though I'm not sure I can justify calling their noise "barking." (Tom and I like BIG dogs.) At any rate, I was up from then until 6:15 a.m. The next thing I remember was Tom standing by the bed telling me that he sure had some funny looking pills to take this morning. That woke me up to be sure! I asked him to bring the pill case so I could see what he had taken and he had taken the pills we keep in the extra partition--extra pills. So, instead of his regular medication he took a hydrocodone, a xanax and two supplemental sinemet pills. I encouraged him to get back in bed and I got up. He slept until 11. After my night and his messed up meds, we have not done much but sit around--makes me feel useless.

I had planned to make pear honey. The cupboard is bare--haven't made any since my last trip to Apple Hill. Tommy and I found pears at the Farmers' Market Saturday but I haven't had time nor energy to cook them. Pear honey is one of my sweetest childhood memories from my grandmother. The family likes for me to make it because they know I think it tastes best on homemade biscuits. Tomorrow is the designated day to cook the pears and maybe make biscuits for the freezer.

Last night we went to Tommy and Liz's for a little bit of child care. Both of them had meetings and we were happy to be pressed into service. Meredith is going to play school two mornings a week at the church and yesterday was her third time to go. She couldn't wait to tell anyone who would listen about "Humpty, Humpty" who sat on the wall and Jack and Jill who went up the hill to get a pail of water--maybe they were learning the "up and down" concept. I asked what happened to them and she told me Jack hit his head on a rock. Mer Mer didn't get all the words right, but I was amazed that she had gotten as much as she did the first time. She loves to cuddle and I had a good time holding her in one arm while giving Elisa a bottle with the other.

I also got to pick up Sarah from dance. She's having a great time and is very limber--not a trait she inherited from this grandmother. Maybe it's a Heard trait. She looks so cute in her tights and leotard. Watch out Mom and Dad! The boys will be calling before you know it.

Drew and Jake couldn't wait to eat their supper and get outside to play before dark. Jake showed me the trees he's been climbing. He's fortunate to have a few friends in the neighborhood he can play with on the weekends. He is in beginner band this year and we think doing well--playing alto saxophone as his dad and granddad did before him.

I asked Drew if he would like to ask the blessing last night. He said yes. When all the children say it together, they say the usual "God is great," but if one prays by him or herself, then that one prays a spontaneous prayer. Drew is six and I had never heard him pray on his own before last night. I know his heavenly father was pleased just as his grandmama was. When he was four he wanted a Bible for Christmas so I looked until I found an illustrated Bible, not a Bible storybook. He was glad to get it, but I hadn't seen him with it again until this past Sunday. He was reading it while we put the finishing touches on lunch and he told me he had gotten to page 28. Then he told me what he'd been reading. A couple of weeks ago at school he had something to contribute to his science class when the teacher taught on the stars, planets, etc. Our Sunday School is using the rotation method this year which means that the Bible story for the children is the same for several weeks, but they experience it through arts & crafts, storytelling, drama, music, even taste on different Sundays. It's a terrific educational method and the children have responded well. In Drew's school room during science, he raised his hand to tell the teacher he knew something else about the stars, then told about God's promise to Abraham and his decendants being more numerous than the stars in the sky. He got the message and isn't shy about spreading it! There's a lesson here for us grownups.

Friday is treatment day and, once again, we covet your prayers. I'll let you know how things go. The fridge is stocked, I have plenty to read and my helper is on tap to come twice next week. With family here to help, we are all set.

Pastor Margaret