Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

We have never been into big New Year's Eve celebrations so we're not missing that tonight. I suspect Tom has been asleep for hours--at least I hope that's the case. After I fold the clothes in the dryer, I'll be off to sleep myself. There will be fireworks at midnight, accompanied by dogs barking. I'll roll over and keep on snoozing! I do miss being with Tom, watching one football game after the other. Without him I'm not doing so well keeping up with who is playing and when. I wish that was the only thing I missed about his not being here. I've been reminded of our first year of marriage when we missed all our "firsts" while he was in Vietnam. At that time we looked forward to our whole life spread in front of us. It's different now. Tom won't get better; I'd settle for a little consistency.

Who ever thought it was a good idea to transfer a patient to a nursing home at night? I'll never understand the rationale for that. One of the worst things about moving at night was having a glitch in his medication schedule. You can't take medicines with you even if they come from the hospital and everything he needed wasn't available that night or until late the next day. It's been hard for me to determine when he's confused if it's a result of the medicine problem, a natural reaction to being in the home or if his confusion is getting worse. Last night he struggled to understand what we were doing there and wondered when we could go home. Today his mind was better, but he was exhausted from a hard work out in physical therapy. He sent me home about 4:30 p.m. because he couldn't stay awake.

We anticipate changes when he comes home, primarily in the area of securing more help. He is extremely weak, though working hard to regain some strength--if only he could. At times I ask myself a question to which I already have the answer. If we could see into the future when we take our marriage vows, would we commit to stay faithful forever? When you're young and in love, nothing else matters. You see endless years of being together, raising a family, building a life together and enjoying retirement when the time comes. Along comes a crisis--or two--and you learn exactly what your vows mean and what true love is. During some exceptionally hard times with chemo when Tom has held my hand and taken care of me, we grin and repeat: "in sickness and in health," knowing that we've gotten a lot of mileage out of that one. Now it's my turn. He's thin, he's weak, he's confused, but he's the love of my life and that will never change.
Yes, I'd marry him again and again and again.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, December 28, 2009

It is of God's mercies that we are not consumed. They are new every morning. Great is God's faithfulness.

We continue to be strenthened by God's mighty right hand as He gives us healing and energy. A lot has happened since I last posted on Christmas night and today has been expectionally long and tiring for both of us. Let's see if I can make a long story short as I bring you up to date.

When I arrived at the hospital the day after Christmas, Tom broke into a big, tearful smile when he saw me. He was beginning to be more himself, communicating his needs, doing what he was asked to do and did a good short session with the physical therapists who came to his room. Yesterday was a bit better and he was able to walk between 50 and 60 feet with the therapist and was sitting on the sofa when I arrived after church. We had begun to take the initial steps to move him to a skilled facility and I had carefully and somewhat emphatically explained that Monday was a pretty impossible day to move him.

Facilities were not available for us to visit over the holiday weekend and I had a treatment in Corinth at 11:30 a.m. today. Today Tommy visited the two facilities between which we were choosing, keeping in touch with me by phone during the day. About 2:30 p.m., on my way home from Corinth the social worker called and wanted a decision within 15 minutes because they were in the process of discharging him. There was absolutely nothing I could say that would convince her that he needed to wait until in the morning. I got home, made some calls, got a few clothes together and went to the hospital thinking they were ready right then. That was 4 p.m. and we finally pulled away from the hospital at 8 p.m. When I got to the nursing home, I couldn't get in because it was after hours so I called Tommy and aksed him to call the desk and tell them we were at the door but couldn't get in. We were sent to the ambulance entrance, were met with a wheelchair and he got situated. He was so tired that he was having a hard time staying awake to be admitted. I left there at 9 p.m., came home and crashed--something I usually do as soon as I'm home from Corinth. Tommy and Liz came over and brought supper. Otherwise I would have skipped eating . I would say that I don't know where I've gotten the energy since all this started and especially today, but I know.

The initial response to the nursing home is positive, both to Tommy who made the visit and to me after my brief exposure. Tom is trying with all he has to work hard so he can come home. He thinks in terms of a few days' stay, while we know it may take longer.

Again, our thanks for your love and prayers. What great friends you are! I'm off to bed.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas! I hope your day has been full of joy, a day of enjoying family and friends, but a day especially of celebrating the birth of Christ.

I spent most of the day with Tom, arriving about 9:30 a.m., leaving for an hour during the morning to go see grandchildren, then returning to the hospital to spend a quiet day with Tom. He was pretty calm all day and I'm not sure that he realized most of the time that I was even there. He slept, but when someone came to give meds or do other routine things, he was cooperative, but emphatic about the way they cared for him. I left about 4:30 this afternoon to come finish wrapping gifts for grandchildren, then went to their house to eat Christmas supper. While I was relaxing, waiting for things to finish cooking, a nurse called to say that Tom was pretty aggitated. He had awakened and was disburbed that he couldn't find me. He was trying to get up to look for me because "she has cancer and needs to get to the hospital for treatment." I told the nurse that was partly true. I do, indeed, have cancer, am on treatment and have one scheduled Monday. I asked if I needed to return to the hospital, but she thought a phone visit might help, so I talked with him. Honestly, I'm not sure if I calmed him or not and thought about going back to spend the night with him--decided I needed to sleep in my own bed if I would be any good at all tomorrow. God has blessed me with new energy and strength this week. It is a long walk from the parking garage to Tom's room, a walk I could not have made this time last week. Age, weight, chemo keep me from doing the things I once took for granted, but this week has been different. God has given me both the emotional and the physical stamina needed.

The good news is that his white count is falling, that he is not as combative, nor is he hallucinating as badly as yesterday. It is difficult to see someone you love being slowly taken from you by a disease that has no cure. Tom has continued to pray that God will be glorified in his situation. I join him in that prayer and ask you to pray with us.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Advent Meditation for Christmas Day

Joy to the World! The Lord is Come
Scripture: Psalm 98

The psalmist said: Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music . . . The hymn says: Joy to the World! The Lord is Come.

The waiting was over; the long-awaited Saviour has come. Emmanuel, God with us, had been born to the Virgin Mary. Nothing would be the same again. Nothing has been the same. Today we rejoice once more at the coming of Jesus Christ.

Let us all remember that He rules the world with truth and grace. His word is truth and in Him is the manifestation of God’s grace. No more do sin and sorrows grow. Instead, joy fills the hearts and lives of those who believe that the Saviour reigns.

Words to ponder: Does Jesus reign in your life? Name the ways knowing Jesus brings you joy. Share them with your loved ones on this special day.

It has been a really long day! I was awakened at six a.m. by a nurse calling to tell me that they had moved Tom to a bed closer to the nurses' station. You can imagine my emotions when I looked at the clock, just as she identified herself. I guess if I had been on duty since seven the night before, I wouldn't have thought much about calling so early either. When I arrived at the hospital a couple of hours later, Tom was restless and basically giving anyone who came near him a hard time. I was able to calm him some and fix some of the problems, but nothing would help the hallucinations he had all day. I was able to talk with the doctor and the neurologist he sent later in the day. Apparently, infections and being as sick as he is makes any Parkinson's syptoms worse and on top of that, the medication he takes to deal with hallucinations has not been given to him for two days. I'm the lay person; they are the professionals, but I have learned that often the patient or the patient's spouse knows more than the professional. As the day wore on, he got calmer, but he never stopped talking to or about people/situations that were only in his head. Tonight I talked with the nurse on duty and impressed upon her the absolute necessity of giving meds on a set schedule at specific intervals. She promised to try to get things straight.

We had a 5:30 Candlelight Communion service at Humboldt. It was beautiful! Afterwards I went back to the hospital and there Tom was, all worked up again. I stayed until after they gave him his bedtime meds, then went to Tommy's to eat some supper. The smell of cookies overcame me as I walked into the kitchen. I had to have one! Then I realized that I had not eaten anything but a package of nabs and some of my cousin's "to die for" cheese straws all day.

I believe that Tom will remain in the hospital through the weekend and then be discharged to a skilled facility where he can receive physical therapy "in house" for a few weeks. He definitely will need some help regaining his balance and strength after this stay in the hospital. We are still taking things one day at a time.

It isn't the Christmas we envisioned, but we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child all the same. He is God's greatest gift to us! Enjoy your day and bless the Lord.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Advent Meditation for December 24, 2009

The First Nowell
Scripture: Luke 4:16-21; Isaiah 61:1-2

This English carol dates from the 17th century and is one of my top three favorites. The words are not so different from other hymns that tell of the angel’s announcement, the shepherds on the hillside, the bright shining star and the birth of the King of Israel, but there is something compelling about the music. I love to hear it; I love to sing it.

The Luke passage is spoken by Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth and is a quote from Isaiah 61. God had appointed Isaiah to bring good news about the coming Messiah and now, in Luke, Jesus speaks as the very one about whom Isaiah had prophesied. Both proclaim salvation!

Words to ponder: Center your thoughts on Christ, the King of Israel, the One who came so that you and I might have abundant life. Consider the abundance you enjoy as a believer and thank God for it.

Many of you have e-mailed or called to see about Tom and to assure us of your prayers. Thank you so much! I did not see the doctor today so don't have any idea about the extent of the illness or just how long they expect to keep Tom. We're taking it one day at a time. I will say that I have never seen him look so weak and helpless--a sight that is difficult at best. He has always been my "knight in shining armor" and is not supposed to be anything but strong. Sitting there with him this afternoon I kept thinking of how many times he has sat by my bed, waiting and praying and sharing his strength with me. Now it's my turn.

Pastor Margaregt

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent Meditation for December 23, 2009

Go, Tell it on the Mountain
Scripture: Luke 2:17; Matthew 28:18-20

This is an African-American spiritual that may be sung in a couple of different contexts. Surely it proclaims the good news of the birth of Jesus Christ using familiar images of shepherds watching their sheep, the holy light that appeared, angels singing and Jesus lying in the manger.

In Luke 2:17, we read that those same shepherds became the first evangelists. Note the refrain that begins the hymn:
Go, tell it on the mountain over the hills and every where;
Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.
These words have an evangelistic thrust, echoing the words of Jesus to the disciples in the Great Commission:
. . . go and make disciples of all nations.

Words to ponder: Where will you go? Who will you tell?

Just a bit of news. Tom was admitted to the hospital tonight with pneumonia. I, rather reluctantly, took him for physical therapy this afternoon and it took all both of us could do to get him there. He kept getting distracted in the midst of the getting ready process and I had to call and tell them we would be late--being late is an absolute no-no for him. I sat in the parking lot and waited because of my concern and when I went inside to meet him, the therapist came out to tell me there had been a problem with his blood pressure. Long story short is, they sent me to the emergency room, many tests were run and pneumonia was discovered. We were both surprised! IV antibiotics were started immediately.

It was hard leaving him there by himself, but he insisted. His balance has been worse lately, as has his cognitive function. He has been so tired that he'd go to sleep in the midst of a conversation and today I had to keep reminding him to eat his sandwich at noon. I know that Parkinson's is degenerative, but the recent symptoms didn't seem to me to be the usual "Oh, the Parkinson's is getting worse" kind. I would have never guessed he might have pneumonia.
Please pray for him. I'll keep you posted.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent Meditation for December 22

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-9

Often left out when we select Christmas hymns for worship, this hymn is one of the oldest of all. Protestants look to Isaiah 11 as the inspiration for the hymn with Jesus being the “shoot” who comes in the lineage of Jesse, father of David. Surely the prophecy in Isaiah 11 should have brought hope and anticipation to the Israelites and surely that same prophecy brings peace and comfort to those who have seen the prophecy fulfilled. The words of verse five echo the one about whom Isaiah 11 is written.

O Saviour, child of Mary, who felt our human woe;
O Saviour, King of glory, who dost our weakness know,
bring us at length, we pray, to the bright courts of heaven
and to the endless day.

Words to ponder: Reread Isaiah 11:1-9. Verses three and four say that Jesus will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. How does your definition of “righteousness” inform your understanding of these verses? “Righteousness” can mean virtue, justice, morality and certainly we would describe God as one with virtue, who exercises justice and who is moral above all others, but “righteousness” referring to God specifically means “the faithfulness with which God acts.”

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent Meditation for December 21, 2009

Good Christian Men, Rejoice
Scripture: Luke 2:11; Psalm 100

This hymn is a Medieval Latin carol sung to a 14th century Germany melody. The words encourage us all to rejoice with our whole being and the melody sets the mood for rejoicing.

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say: Jesus Christ is born today;

It is not at all based on Psalm 100, but its words are suggestive of the mood set by the psalmist when he wrote: Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. What could stir greater joy within our hearts than the celebration of the coming of the Lord Jesus? As a baby? As a Saviour into the world? Into our hearts?

Words to ponder: Meditate on the words of the psalm, thinking particularly of God’s goodness to you and the ways God’s faithfulness has been manifest in your life.

It has been a busy and tiring week for us both. Tom continues to go for physical therapy three times a week and for speech therapy twice a week. He believes the therapy is helping, but I wonder if it is one source of his fatigue. Now he shows signs of having caught whatever had me under the weather. I surely hope it leaves him more quickly than it left me. I still battle the congestion and am taking medicine for cough. Tonight I'm going to bed without it--I'm tired of being sleepy all day long.

Tomorrow is Meredith's fourth birthday and she is READY to celebrate. Her's is the last birthday of the year and it's hard to wait your turn when you're her age. It is so much fun to watch her play with younger sister, Elisa. Mer usually rules the roost, but more and more, Elisa is asserting herself and letting it be known that she may be the youngest, but she won't always be last in line.

We have just said goodbye to a group of carolers from our church. When we opened the front door to say hello, there stood Jake, Sarah and Drew on the front row. (We had already heard Drew through the closed door, being sure that everybody knew that this was his grandmother's house.) It was a fine group of mostly youth and children and it brought back lots of memories of the days when Tom and I stood on peoples' porches to sing rather than being on the inside to listen. I never knew how special it was for carolers to come bring the message of the birth of Christ in song. It's not so bad to have the shoe on the other foot.

If you have been following along with the Advent meditations, I trust that they have inspired you to think about the Scriptures on which they are based and that you have paid more attention to the words of Christmas hymns while you are singing. Some pack a lot of theology in few words. I have been prompted to meditate on the contrast between the baby in a manger, lying on straw, surrounded by animals and the fact that this one of such lowly birth is in fact the Lord of all the earth. Christ, in all His glory, lived a life of humility. Why cannot I do the same?

May your Christmas celebration be one of joy!

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Advent Meditation for Sunday, December 20

In the Bleak Mid-Winter
Scripture: Romans 12:1-3

One morning during worship while we were singing this hymn, the person standing next to me leaned over and said, “This is one depressing hymn.” I smiled back at him and said “Oh, no! I completely disagree.” You see, the bleakness of the evening is overshadowed by the coming of the Christ Child. The angels announced His coming and He was worshipped by those who came and found Him in the manger.

My fondest memory of the hymn comes from my ordination during the Advent Season. Our daughter, Marty, asked what she could do for the ordination and I replied: “write and perform an original version of In the Bleak Midwinter. Christina Rossetti’s words are beautiful and verse four is particularly fitting for an ordination or other service of commitment.

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 can I give Him: Give my heart.

Words to ponder: Ask yourselves the questions: what can you give Him? Can you give your heart?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Advent Meditation

Day 20 – O Come, All Ye Faithful
Scripture: Luke 2:15; Colossians 1:15-23

We also know this Latin carol as Adeste Fidelis, sometimes singing at least one verse in Latin. While it calls the shepherds to come and worship the newborn King, I believe it also calls believers of every time and place to come and adore the baby who is above all Christ the Lord. It is a hymn of praise and adoration, a hymn that compels us to offer our praise.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, identifies Christ with God, the Father. The Colossians passage of today is one of Paul’s hymns of praise. He tells of what we once were without Christ and how we are reconciled to God in Christ; he tells of the hope of the gospel.

Words to ponder: O come, let us adore him . . . In your quiet time, think on the Person of Christ and offer your words of adoration to Him. A guideline for doing this might be to think of a characteristic for the letters of the alphabet and use those words to offer adoration (i.e. Christ, I adore you because you are approachable; you are beautiful; you are compassionate, etc.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent Meditation

Day 19 – Still, Still, Still
Scripture: Isaiah 53:4-6

Both text and melody have Austrian roots; both are simple and leave you singing the words or humming the tune during quiet moments. Some of our Christmas hymns are robust and full of activity: the appearance of the angels, the shepherds rushing off to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus in the manger, but not this one. Hear these words:

Still, still, still, He sleeps this night so chill!
The Virgin’s tender arms enfolding,
Warm and safe the Child are holding.
Still, still, still, He sleeps this night so chill.

Sleep, sleep, sleep, He lies in slumber deep
While angel hosts from heaven come winging,
Sweetest songs of joy are singing.
Sleep, sleep, sleep, He lies in slumber deep.

Words to ponder. This hymn lends itself to contemplation. Its words are simple and portray a natural scene of a newborn nestled in the arms of his mother. It is quiet and peaceful. Contrast the text with that of the Isaiah passage. The sleeping baby is the one who bore our sin and was crushed for our iniquities. The gentle one became our scapegoat.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent Meditation

Day 18 – O Holy Night
Scripture: Jeremiah 31:31-34

What a beautiful hymn this is! The words were written in 1847 by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure at the request of his parish priest. He soon realized that the poem needed to be put to music, so de Roquemaure recruited his friend, Adolphe Charles Adams, to write the music. Is there any one of us who has not thrilled to hear it sung?

The three verses contain the why of Christ’s coming, the story of His birth and the work He came to do, with each exhorting hearers to fall on their knees and praise His holy name.

Words to ponder: Meditate on the words of the hymn and end by praising the Triune God in word and/or song.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord!
Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Advent Meditation

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Scripture: Luke 2:13-14; Isaiah 9:6

One of the most majestic of Christmas hymns is Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Charles Wesley first wrote the words in 1739 and the melody is attributed to Felix Mendelssohn about a hundred years later. It, like other “angel hymns” tells of the announcement of the birth of the newborn King. The angels sing of the good news that God and sinners are reconciled; they sing of the incarnate Deity who was to be God with us. Their message surely is one that prompts us to add our voices of praise to the newborn King.

Words to ponder. Can you articulate what it means to be reconciled to God? Do you picture yourself as one who needs reconciliation with God or as one who has been reconciled? The good news of the gospel is that in Jesus Christ our sins have been forgiven and we have received reconciliation. Glory to the newborn King.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent Meditation

Day 16 – It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Scripture: Isaiah 40:9-11

Written in the mid-eighteen hundreds, this hymn tells of the angel’s message of fulfilled prophecy. Can you not picture the angels bending toward the earth, playing their golden harps, bringing the wonderful news that people had been awaiting? The Israelites had traveled a long, troublesome path. They had received God’s covenant promise and blessing, yet they could not keep their focus. They turned from God and had stumbled in their walk with Him. Their hearts were troubled and they yearned for peace and the angels came on that midnight clear, bringing the message of “Peace on the earth.” They sang, not of an attitude or a feeling, but of the One who was born to be the Prince of Peace—strong with power, but also gentle as a shepherd leading his sheep.

Words to ponder. How do you receive the message of “peace on earth?” Do we want peace at any price? Think about the world with the Prince of Peace ruling in every heart. Can you say, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin in me?”

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent Meditation

Day 15 – Gentle Mary Laid Her Child
Scripture: Luke 1:26-33

It is hard to think of Mary as being anything but “gentle” and surely it is also a word to describe the babe lying in the manger. Words in the first verse express humility: Gentle Mary laid her child lowly in a manger; Such a babe in such a place, can He be the Saviour?

A growing excitement is present in verse two: Angels sang about His birth, Wise men sought and found Him; Heaven’s star shone brightly forth, Glory all around Him. Shepherds saw the wondrous sight, Heard the angels singing; All the plains were lit that night, All the hills were ringing.

Verse three offers the praise due the humble, undefiled babe who is the King of Glory: Son of God, of humble birth, Beautiful the story; Praise His name in all the earth, Hail the King of glory!

Words to ponder: Consider the word “gentle” and the character of a person who is described in this way. Is it a good word for Mary? Where she is concerned, the word seems to imply a quiet, submissive spirit that is dependent on God? Would you describe yourself as “gentle?”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Advent Meditation

Day 14 – Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
Scripture: Revelation 17:14; Luke 2:8

Infant holy, Infant lowly, For His bed a cattle stall,
Oxen lowing, Little knowing Christ the babe is Lord of all.
Swift are winging, Angels singing, Noels ringing,
Tidings bringing; Christ the babe is Lord of all

Flocks were sleeping; Shepherds keeping vigil till the morning new.
Saw the glory, Heard the story, Tidings of a gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, Free from sorrow, Praises voice sing
Greet the morrow: Christ the babe was born for you.

This Polish carol centers on the humble beginnings of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet there is celebration in the air with the angels singing, bringing tidings that Christ the babe is Lord of all. It is a wonder that one who came in such a humble way would, in fact, be the Messiah!

Words to ponder: Had Jesus come with all the royal trappings of a king, would He have been harder or easier to accept? What can we learn from Jesus’ humility?

We have just returned from the living nativity drama at the Presbyterian church here. Tommy is the producer/writer/director, Jacob plays Joseph, Drew is the boy Jesus the kings visit and Sarah is an angel. It was warmer than last night, but still cold. Several questioned the advisability of my being outside with my cough, and it did start raining before it was quite over, but we're all snug and warm now. I'm so glad we went. All mamas and grandmamas want to support their offspring.

I heard the message of hope, the message of peace, and the message of joy throughout the drama, but I wondered just how hopeful, how peaceful and how joyful they must have been when the angel first brought the news of Mary's pregnancy. They had to have been astonished at the news, even afraid, but God brought peace. Joy came with Jesus' birth and today joy comes when He is born in us.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent Meditation for December 12, 2009

Day 13 – Sweet Little Jesus Boy
Scripture: Luke 4:14-21

Sweet little Jesus boy
They made you be born in a manger
Sweet little holy child
We didn't know who you were
Didn't know you'd come to save us
To take our sins away
Our eyes were blind, we could not see
We didn't know who you were

Long time ago
You were born
Born in a manger Lord
Sweet little Jesus boy
The world treats you mean Lord
Treats me mean too
But that's how things are down here
We don't know who you are

You have told us how
We are trying
Master you have shown us how
Even when you were dying
Just seems like we can't do right
Look how we treated you
But please Sir forgive us Lord
We didn't know it was you

Sweet little Jesus boy
Born a long time ago
Sweet little holy child
We didn't know who you were

Words to ponder: As the prophets foretold, Jesus was rejected throughout His life on earth. The song says that people didn’t know who He was and asks for God’s forgiveness. Are there ways in which we continue to reject Jesus?

As you can see, the format has returned to at least a resemblance of what it was, but I'm still not sure what day it is. A little earlier today I looked down at the face of my watch and realized that the date says December 10 and I laughed aloud and said, "I really don't know what day it is." What really matters is that we take time to focus on the coming of Christ, what it means and how it changes our lives forever when we realize that the baby in the manger is the Lord of all the earth. I always close with "words to ponder" to give us all something to make us think as individuals or with our families. Often the words I wrote weeks ago give me the nudge I need to re-examine my own heart.

It was a Corinth day and we're both tired. Labs were drawn and both drugs were administered. Your prayers for higher counts are being answered--mine were up a point or two even having been sick this week. The infusion room today was unusually noisy. There were new patients who talked nervously, almost incessantly; there was a 28 year old mother of a three year old; a couple of other people who are in their first rounds, still waiting to see what their side effects will be and wondering where to find the best wigs and what to take for nausea. Those are the ones I tell Tom try to "outsick" each other. Some days I want to stand in the middle of the room, get everyone's attention and tell them of the hope we have because of our trust in a compassionate, mighty God; the peace we have because of that hope; and the joy that is ours because of that hope and peace. My Advent sermons have called my attention to those gifts and how each depends on the other. So, dear friends, have hope that brings peace and great joy!

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Advent Meditation - Day 13

What Child is This?
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-11

This hauntingly beautiful melody, also known as Greensleeves, is a 16th century English ballad. The words suggest the manger scene, but it could have been based on the visit of the Magi some time after Jesus’ birth. Certainly verse three tells of the gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh and of the praises brought by the earthly kings. What a sight that must have been! There was the simple, unassuming young family sought out by wise men wearing fine clothing and bearing precious gifts. No wonder Herod was suspicious!

Words to ponder: Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Music, pageants, the use of crèches all focus on Christ as a baby, often to the exclusion of realizing and acknowledging the reason for His birth. Think past the manger and the humble beginnings to the time when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Take those thoughts with you when you look into the manger and ask: What Child is This?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Advent Meditations

My apologies for any inconveniences my lack of technical knowledge might have caused. Yesterday I tried to post two meditations at once and this afternoon realized I had repeated one from the day before. Now, tonight I'm trying to post only one and I've lost my pre-sets. Our daughter, Marty, set everything up, formatted it, etc. and, try as I might, I cannot make it return to the former settings. I did call the oncology clinic to check with the nurse this morning and she told me to see our primary care doctor. I called right before noon, told them the problem and they said for me to come in at 1:15. By two, I had been seen and been to get meds. It was the right thing to do! I also learned from the oncology clinic that the CA125 is down another four points. Yea!!

Day 11 – Away in a Manger
Scripture: Luke 2:7; Colossians 2:6-7

Away in a Manger is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, Christmas hymns we learn as children. It may be sung to one of two melodies, either of which is easy to sing and the words paint a beautiful picture of the scene in the manger where Jesus was born. You can close your eyes, see the sleeping baby, hear the cattle and smell the hay. But, it’s the last verse that means the most in our family.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for heaven, to live with
thee there.

For years this was the bedtime prayer I sang to my children. What more could I ask than for Jesus to be near them as they slept and to guide their every step in their waking moments?

Words to ponder: If we ask Jesus to stay close by us forever, we are asking for an intimate relationship with him. Is that what you truly want? How can you draw nearer to the Lord Jesus as the days go by?

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Advent Meditations 10 & 11

Day 9 – Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow
Scripture: Luke 2:8-15

The Scripture reading for today is the account of most of what happened when the angels sang to the shepherds and told them to Rise Up. . . and Follow. The hymn, an African-American spiritual, may not be the most familiar, but it is easy to sing, alternating between unison measures and those sung in harmony as it urges the shepherds and those singing to follow. It’s almost as if the angels are saying, “Don’t just sit there. Get up and go find the baby in the manger.”

Words to ponder: The words of the second verse are: words, If you take good heed to the angel’s words, Rise up shepherd and follow, You'll forget your flocks, you;ll forget your herds, Rise up, shepherd, and follow. Have you ever wondered what happened to the sheep when the shepherds left them? Did the shepherds offer excuses, reasons they couldn’t follow the star to find the manger? Did they simply go as instructed? What would you have done?

Day 10 – In the First Light
Scripture: Philippians 2:5-11

The Christmas song of today may be unfamiliar, but is one of the most beautiful ever written. Sung by Glad on their CD “Acapella,” it tells of the life of Christ from birth until He comes again at His second advent.

In the first light of a new day
No one knew He had arrived
Things continued as they had been
While a new born softly cried.

But the heavens wrapped in wonder
Knew the meaning of His birth
In the weakness of a baby
They knew God had come to earth.

As His mother held him closely,
It was hard to understand
That her baby not yet speaking
Was the Word of God to man.

He would tell them of His kingdom,
But their hearts would not believe
They would hate Him and in anger
They would nail Him to a tree.

But the sadness would be broken
As the song of life arose
And the First born of creation
Would ascend and take his throne.
He has left it to redeem us,
But before His life began
He knew He´d come back not as a baby
But as The Lord of ev´ry man.

Hear the angels as they´re singing
On the morning of His birth
But how much greater will our song be
When He comes again
When He comes again
Hear the angels as they´re singing
On the morning of His birth
But how much greater will our song be
When He comes again to Earth

When He comes to rule the Earth!

These are, indeed, words to ponder. Please take a few minutes to read and meditate on them. Do they not move your heart to praise God for this magnificent gift?

I learned tonight that I forgot to post yesterday. Sorry. I've had a terrible cough and the condition was made worse by the cough syrup I 've been taking. I couldn't remember what day it was, much less keep up with how the days corresponded with the actual day of the month. One thing I know: every day is a good day to praise God for the hope and peace He has brought into our lives--doing it more than once a day doesn't hurt either.

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Advent Meditation - December 7, 2009

Day 9 – Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow
Scripture: Luke 2:8-15

The Scripture reading for today is the account of most of what happened when the angels sang to the shepherds and told them to Rise Up. . . and Follow. The hymn, an African-American spiritual, may not be the most familiar, but it is easy to sing, alternating between unison measures and those sung in harmony as it urges the shepherds and those singing to follow. It’s almost as if the angels are saying, “Don’t just sit there. Get up and go find the baby in the manger.”

Words to ponder: The words of the second verse are: If you take good heed to the angel’s words, Rise up, shepherd and follow, You’ll forget your flocks, you’ll forget your herds, Rise up, shepherd, and follow. Have you ever wondered what happened to the sheep when the shepherds left them? Did the shepherds offer excuses, reasons they couldn’t follow the star to find the manger? Did they simply go as instructed? What would you have done?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Advent Meditation - December 6, 2009
Day 8

Day 8 – Angels We Have Heard on High
Scripture: Luke 2:14

This traditional French carol is a favorite of many. It is bright, uplifting and repeats the message of the angels: Glory to God in the highest. When we think of the announcement brought to the shepherds we often think of loud, joyful songs, possibly heard for miles. The words in this hymn suggest something antiphonal with the angels singing a soft, sweet melody answered by a sound echoed from the mountains. In either case, the song of the angels was the message of “peace on earth.”

Words to ponder: The shepherds in yesterday’s hymn appeared to be afraid when the angels sang; those today are jubilant. Certainly they were startled and unsure of what they were hearing. Put yourself on that hillside. Hear the angels sing the message of peace. What does that mean to you? Remember that peace is not merely the absence of conflict, but peace comes with the Prince of Peace and when we put our trust in Him.

Dear Friends,
Today is the anniversary of ten years of my ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the PC(USA). I remember almost every detail of that day and I can almost hear the angels singing, Glory to God in the highest. There are so many memorable things about the service and activities surrounding it. I'll share two. Jacob was our only grandchild and he was only three at the time. He sat quietly through worship that morning, then returned for the ordination about two and sat quitely through that. His sweet little face is etched in my mind's scrapbook. The other is that my friend Marilyn was present, but when it came time for the reception, she and her husband did not stay. The ordination meant I had a call and the call was 2200 miles away and being separated from friends is difficult at best. If the truth be known, I would have left with her if I could have. The goodbyes to our church family where we had been for 29 years was sad!
I remember the steps leading to my call to go to seminary; I remember the years of study and the challenges of being in class with men who believed firmly that women should not be ordained; I remember the steps leading to my call to Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church in Sacramento County. I have no doubt that God has had a guiding hand on my life and my cup runneth over with all the blessings we have received. So, if you think you hear and angel or if a star is a bit brighter tonight it's me singing praises and smiling brightly.

Thanks to you who support us with your love and prayers.
Pastor Margaret

Friday, December 04, 2009

Advent Meditation
Day 7 - December 5, 2009

Day 7 – While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
Scripture: Luke 2:8

While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down, and glory shown around.

“Fear not,” said he—for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind—
“glad tidings of great joy I bring to you and all mankind.

“To you, in David’s town this day, is born of David’s line,
the Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, and this shall be the sign;

“The heav’nly babe you there shall find to human view displayed,
all meanly wrapped in swathing bands, and in a manger laid.”

Thus spake the seraph, and forthwith appeared a shining throng
of angels praising God, who thus addressed their joyful song.

“All glory be to God on high, and to the earth be peace;
good will henceforth, from heav’n to men, begin and never cease!”

Words to ponder: Note that as the shepherds watched, one angel came down and spoke words that had been prophesied: born in David’s town and Cborn in David’s line, the Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. Do you wonder if the shepherds knew the prophecy? If so, would it have made them less afraid of the appearance of the angel? Note also that after the announcement, a shining throng sang praises to God. Do you remember how you felt when you first heard about Jesus?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Advent Meditation
December 4, 2009

Day 6 – Angels from the Realms of Glory
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-24: Luke 1:26-38

There is an air of mystery surrounding angels in the Bible. Who exactly are they? What do they do? Why are some given a name and others are nameless beings in groups? Do the popular images marketed today portray an adequate likeness?

The Hebrew word for “angel” means messenger and a search of Biblical references to angels reveals them as “divine messengers.” They were sent by God; they delivered God’s message, sometimes speaking in first person; they prepared the way for God’s people; they made proclamations and announcements. Today’s hymn tells of angels proclaiming the birth of Jesus o’er all the earth. They sang to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth; they prompted the sages (to) leave their contemplations and seek the great Desire of nations; they invite us, one and all to come and worship.

Words to ponder: In Matthew we read of the angel’s message to Joseph and in Luke, the angel’s message to Mary. Is there any doubt that they are indeed “divine messengers?” Their message to us is come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn King.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Advent Meditation
December 3, 2009

Day 5 – Once in Royal David’s City
Scripture: Luke 2:12

Yesterday we read the prophecy that the promised Messiah would be born in the little town of Bethlehem and today we read the fulfillment of that prophecy.

Once in royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby in a manger for his bed;
Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven who is God and Lord of all,
And his shelter was a stable, and his cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly, lived on earth our Saviour holy.

It is a hymn that causes us to think even more of the humble beginnings of Jesus, the King, the Lord of all. How could the King of Kings be so humbled? The words speak of Jesus’ obedience to the Father. They point us to the day when we will bow before Him, not in the lowly stable, but in heaven as He sits at God’s right hand.

Words to Ponder: Turn in a hymnbook and read the words to all the verses. Notice the description of Christ’s humble beginnings and His description as God and Lord of all. Would those humble beginnings have affected your acceptance of Him if you had been present in the stable? How do you see Him now?

Prayer Requests: 1) Over the Thanksgiving holiday our pastor here at 1st Presbyerian and his family were visiting their family in South Carolina. On Thanksgiving Day Susannah, his wife, had a grand mal seizure and a brain tumor was discovered. They returned to Jackson Monday and since then have had multiple tests and doctor visits, finally ending up today with a neurosurgeon in Memphis. I do not know the results of that visit but some sort of treatment will be necessary. They have four children: two sons in their early twenties and boy and girl twins who are about fifteen. Please pray for Susannah's healing, for the medical folks who will be treating her and for the family as they make decisions. 2) Back pain woke me last night and this morning it was worse. I believe it is bone pain, a side effect of the chemo drug being administered. Today I have rested, have taken pain meds and have kept heat on my back. Please pray that the side effects will be lessened and that I may resume my normal routine. God knows our needs--Susannah's and mine. I am confident in His faithfulness!!

Pastor Margaret

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

December 2, 2009

Day 4 – O Little Town of Bethlehem
Scripture: Micah 5:2

The prophet Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, brought both bad news and news that gave hope to God’s people. God had promised that there would always be one from the line of David to sit upon the throne and Micah tells the people of that one to come, one who would not come from the royal city of Jerusalem, but have humble beginnings in the little town of Bethlehem.

The world into which the baby Jesus, the promised Messiah, came was a world of chaos and confusion. It was a world in which God’s people had turned from Him and were stumbling in a world of darkness. Today, as well, we experience chaos and confusion and many do not know that the baby Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah. Some of us wander away from God, seeking to find our own way in the darkness.

Words to ponder: O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.

Hello Friends,
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas all over town--everywhere except our house. I had Dellora get the boxes of Christmas things out of the attic today, but ran out of energy before I did anything with them. After I finish Sunday's bulletin in the morning, I plan to swap the everyday dishes for the Christmas ones, take a peek in the boxes and hang the wreath on the front door. That will at least get things started. Tom has already started the Christmas music.

Some of you were reading last year when I wrote of buying a tablecloth during the after Christmas sales. The short story is that I found it in the store, but didn't immediately put it in my cart because I had real concerns that I would not be here this year. It's a cloth that will fit our table with all three leaves--still not enough room for our family of soon to be 14 when we're all together. I kept going back to look at the tablecloth and finally decided as I put the cloth in my shopping cart that it would be a symbol of hope for me. I said I had hope, but wasn't acting like it. God can and does work miracles. Hope is not wishful thinking for the believer; it is expectation; it is trust in the One who is HOPE. I smiled as I put the cloth on the table for Thanksgiving, and I smiled even more when the nine of us who live here gathered round to enjoy our Thanksgiving feast. Who knew that something as simple as a tablecloth could have such meaning?

May the hope of Jesus bring peace, joy and love to your lives!

Pastor Margaret

Monday, November 30, 2009

December 1, 2009
Advent - Day 3

Day 3 – Silent Night
Scripture: Psalm 19:1-4

Silent Night, one of the most loved and well-known hymns of the season, brings a mental picture of a clear, crisp night when every star in the sky was visible. Such a night would quite naturally turn one’s thoughts to God’s creation. It was a wondrous night to be sure!
Such a night was described in the words of the psalmist in Psalm 19: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

All (was) calm, all (was) bright round yon virgin mother and child, while on a hillside outside of Bethlehem shepherds were startled by an angelic announcement. I wonder. Did Mary and Joseph hear the sound of the angels in the distance? Did the shepherds see the glory of God in the heavens? What did they think when their silent night was interrupted?

Words to ponder: Where is the glory of God most visible to you? Do you see it in the skies, the mountains or on the beach? Do you recognize God’s glory while reading His word? Take a moment and thank God for all the work of his hands.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent Meditations - November 30
Day 2—Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus Scripture: Haggai 2:1-9

Come, Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and
consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.

Haggai prophesied about the rebuilding of the temple and in the Scripture for today he tells of the coming of the Messiah whose glory would fill the temple. He reaches all the way back to the time of the Exodus, referring to the time when the glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle. God himself was present with them then; the prophecy tells of the coming presence of the Messiah. What good news! Jesus was the desire of every nation and would bring joy into the hearts who awaited His coming.

Words to ponder: The hymn says the long-expected Jesus would release the people from fears and sins. At times it is easier to accept being set free from our sins than it is to let go of the fears that trouble us. Is that true in your life? Why should we fear when we have the promise of the Triune God? God said that He would never leave us, nor forsake us; Jesus said that He would be with us until the end of the world; the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives brings peace.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Advent begins tomorrow and my topic is The Gift of Hope. Some designate the Sundays as Hope, Peace, Joy and Love; others go with Prophecy, Bethlehem, Shepherds, Angels and both culminate with The Birth of Christ. Either works. The Prophecy certainly is all about Hope. I am posting Day One--still haven't figured out how to give you the illustrated version and I believe I miscounted and have left off one meditation.

The season of Advent is upon us and it is time to turn our thoughts to the first coming of the Lord Jesus. I love the music of Christmas! There just aren’t enough Sundays to sing the wide range of hymns found in our hymbooks. Choirs don’t have enough time to prepare enough music for us to hear. There aren’t enough brass ensembles to accompany the festive music of Christmas Eve. This year I have chosen a few of the hymns of Advent and Christmas as the basis for our meditations. Some may be new to you; others may be old favorites. Some center on prophecy; others tell the story of Christ’s birth; a few give us a more complete picture of prophecy, birth, why Christ came and take us to his second coming. All have a message.

Meditations for each day suggest a Scripture reading, thoughts about the hymn of the day and “words to ponder.” The Scriptures are brief and are intended to give background for the meditations. Only words to hymns that may be unfamiliar are printed, as are some words or verses used for special emphasis so you may find it helpful to keep a hymnbook or other music source handy. “Words to ponder” are just that and are intended to help us think more about what we believe and the words we sing.

God bless you as you read and as you sing with the angels: Glory to God in the highest!

Day 1O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Scripture: Isaiah 7:14

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Song of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Dayspring, and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here:
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife, and discord cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel has always signaled the beginning of the Advent season for me. No words, no melody could focus my attention on the coming of Jesus more than these do.

The words are said to have been written in about the 12th century, but they could easily have been sung by the Israelites in exile upon hearing the message of Isaiah. Jesus is identified as Emmanuel, God with us, in verse one; as Dayspring in verse two and as the Desire of nations in verse three. The pleading of the Israelites is for the promised Messiah to come and rescue them from exile. Even the melody suggests despair in its minor loveliness. But, true to form, hope is expressed in the refrain as people are told to “Rejoice.”

Words to ponder: As we enter this Advent season, may the words of this hymn be our prayer. Only the coming of Emmanuel in the hearts of all people will cause peace to triumph over despair. Then, we can gladly sing, Rejoice!

Pastor Margaregt

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Just a quick update for those of you who keep up with my Corinth trips. Today was the day for a treatment and Tom had a bad night. It was obvious when we got up that he could not make the trip and even more obvious that he could not stay here by himself. We had seen one of his neurologists yesterday and a new pill was prescribed for headaches. After reading the printed information this morning, I recognized several of the symptoms he was having. Bottom line: I called our son's house a little after eight, asked if Jake could come stay with Tom while I was gone and then called the neurology clinic, talked with the nurse and she said to stop the new medication and she would call me back after she talked to the doctor. I went on to Corinth by myself, much to the frustration of Tom. He is better tonight--more like himself and ready to go to Tommy's to celebrate Liz's birthday.

My counts dropped some, especially the hematacrit (sp?) so I had a shot to stimulate red cell growth, got my treatment, came home and took a nap. Hurry up and work, shot! I have finished making fudge frosting for the cake I baked last night and I'm almost ready to celebrate too. It was a beautiful day to drive and I missed having Tom along to enjoy the changes in the scenery. The fields that still had cotton needing to be picked ten days ago, were picked and the stalks cut to the ground. The pear trees still have color. What a wonderful fall this has been!

We are almost ready for dinner tomorrow, though I have a casserole to make, pies to bake and the table isn't quite ready. I'll make rolls if it takes less energy to make them than it would to run to the store and buy some. On the way home today I talked with Marty and Christopher and was reminded of lots of family Thanksgivings we have spent together and how much I miss all of us around the same table. I hope that each of you have the joy of family and friends around you and that you'll make good memories.

If you're interested, look for the first Advent meditation post on Saturday. It will be for Sunday, November 29. Til then, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, November 23, 2009


Yesterday's sermon was good for at least one person in attendance--me! The text was Psalm 15o and the title was "Praise the Lord." I noted in some of my reading that one writer talked about attitude and how much an attitude could be improved by thinking and naming all the things for which we can proclaim: "Praise the Lord."

The day began with Tom getting back in bed after taking his 7 a.m. meds and telling me that he didn't think he could make it to church. That's always a bummer! Later, while we were eating breakfast, the phone rang and I got up to answer, thinking it would be one of the children. It wasn't. It was Ernesto, calling from some research place, wanting to engage me in conversation. I was so mad!! In a very agitated voice I told him that we were on a "do not call" list, what's more it was Sunday and such a call was inappropriate on the Sabbath. To top that off, I noticed when I backing out of the garage that one of the pansy plants I had potted was lying outside the pot like someone had dug it up in the perfect formation of the pot it was in when it came from the nursery. I was already running late so there was no time to do anything but fume. I did tell Tom when I got home that I was gunning for a squirrel--I had found a pecan in the pot last week when I got it ready for the pansies and knew the guilty party.

On the way to Humboldt, I was thinking of the worship service, the Scripture and the sermon and remembered what I'd read. Gratitude wins over complaints every time. My attitude would be improved if instead of thinking about Ernesto and the squirrel, I'd praise God from whom all my blessings flow. It worked almost immediately. That's good. Imagine what a hypocrite I would have been, preaching on praise while grumbling on the inside!

A different sort of thing happened today. I walked into the grocery store behind a lady who walked with a cane. Right inside the door is one of those floor mats designed to clean and dry your feet as you walk over it. The problem was the rubber border around the edge had worn off and the lady caught her cane on it. She could have had a serious fall. On the way out one of the managers spoke as she passed me and I asked if she had a minute. I told her about the mat and she didn't just say "thank you" and tell me she'd see about it. She followed me out of the store so I could show her and she moved the mat. That rarely happens--and I praised the Lord for people who care.

Around your Thanksgiving table this year, take time to let everyone, young and old alike, share at least one way God has blessed them in 2009. A good hearty "Praise the Lord" is a good addition to your holiday feast.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Coming Soon . . .

For the past two years I have had the privilege of writing Advent devotionals for the church where Tom is a member and where we attend when not at Humboldt. The church secretary does a most creative job of taking my material, finding appropriate artwork and formatting the booklet. In 2008 I posted a devotional every day of the Advent season and plan to do the same this year--only we're going to try to use the PDF I was sent and copy it on the blog site. I'll begin posting on November 28 so that those who are interested will have a devotional ready for the first day and will continue through Christmas Eve. At the end of this spot today I'll test and see if the file copies well. Today is only a test.

Yesterday was my birthday and never has so much attention been paid to one person on their birthday. There were many facebook messages, e-mails, phone calls, cards, presents, a special blog written by our daughter's best friend from junior high days. Then, of course, there were the beautiful red roses Tom had delivered and the gourmet meal Tommy & Liz prepared last night. In the afternoon Marty called, put Christopher on the phone and he said two really important words - "day" and "love." I knew he was saying "happy birthday" and "I love you." Meredith was so excited that we were going to be at their house to celebrate that she was beside herself. She gave me the special treat she was given at playschool yesterday and kept reminding me that it was my birthday and giving me hugs. Of course, I never doubt the love of my family and I know I have the most wonderful friends in the world, but yesterday they all outdid themselves! It was quite a day!!

Tom had a visit with his neurologist on Monday. Again he was cautioned about his weight and the dangers of his losing more muscle mass and getting too weak. There is also a matter of his lowered blood pressure. Too bad I can't transfer both weight and blood pressure to him! He is going to start another round of speech therapy and begin physical therapy next Monday. Hopefully, a little help with exercise will increase his energy level. He also has a follow up with the neurologist who administered the Botox injections. I think they have helped some; Tom isn't so sure.

In the midst of your Thanksgiving preparations, remember to thank God for every blessing--those that are obvious and those that are not. Most importantly, thank God for all things whether we consider them blessings or not. He can and does use the events in our lives for His glory and our good.

(The test to see whether or not I can copy from the PDF file is next. You should see the cover of the booklet. Everything else begins Saturday night, the 28th.)

Pastor Margaret

The test didn't work. I'll have to do some more research to see what I'm missing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Praise the Lord!

After getting off to a bumpy start with a new chemo regimen last month, we seem to be back on track. I was more than a little concerned when the chemo drug sent my white count too low for treatment after only two doses and much more than a little concerned when my body reacted adversely to the shots to stimulate white blood cell growth. I wondered if we were reaching the point when I would have to choose whether to keep trying or discontinue treatment entirely. The doctor reassured us two weeks ago, adjusted the schedule ,laid out a new plan and we started again. Today was treatment two of the second set.

People have asked how they could pray specifically and my response has been: pray that the tumor marker goes down and the white and red blood cell counts go up. Today we learned that both white and red counts are a bit up from two weeks ago and that the tumor marker is down a little more than fourteen points since the end of September. When the nurse handed me the report I could not stop the smile that was coming from my toes to my face, nor the tears of joy and gratitude. I immediately called both of our children, then asked Tom, why me?

I have never questioned or blamed God for this cancer. My why me question is wonder at the amazing way God continues to answer prayers and keep me alive and mostly well! Cancer kills. It shows no respecter of persons; we cannot understand why some are healed, some go into remission, some live and continue to fight and others die. I may question the disease or different people's responses to treatment, and at times I get discouraged and really mad at the disease, but there is one constant in my life that I will never question: God is faithful and I am kept by His care. I sort of settle down into the comfort of that knowledge, then a little excitement rouses me and I remember the old saying: Please be patient. God isn't finished with me yet! Look out world.

Join us as we praise God for answered prayers!

Pastor Margaregt

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans--and others--I Remember Today

We hung our flag yesterday afternoon in honor of all the veterans who have served our country. Have you remembered to say "thank you" to the veterans you know? Depending on your age, it's possible you don't know any or aren't sure who has served and who hasn't. The first Sunday closest to Veterans Day that we spent in California is one I will never forget. There was a time in the service when veterans were recognized and honored for their commitment and they were asked to come forward and stand across the front. It is a large santuary, seating around 1400 people and that day it was pretty full. I remember sitting in wonder as hundreds of people stood and came forward. Some walked briskly, some came more slowly; there were both men and women; all walked proudly and held their heads high. It seemed as if more stood in the front than were left seated in the pews. A chill ran up and down my spine and tears filled my eyes.

My mother's only brother was career Army and twenty five years after he retired, he still answered the phone , "Colonel Carter." He was military to the core, the family hero and we never tired of his stories of places he served and lived in his thiry three years on active duty. His retirement came as the Vietnam conflict was gathering steam, but he was ready to go if sent. I remember him today.

Tom's brother, David, was an Army doctor for twenty plus years. Though he never saw combat, he touched the lives of many young men preparing to serve in his years at West Point Military Academy and others in his service at Walter Reed Hospital, in Korea to the troops still on duty there and later at the Pentagon. David trained as a pediatrician, with a specialty in adolescent medicine. Who could have known such training would prepare him to care for our soldiers? I remember him today.

Then there is the special veteran with whom I share my life--Tom. The Army was a big part of our life when we married. Knowing that he would soon be sent to Vietnam, we planned a really quick wedding and took off for Ft. Sill, OK. Five months later he has on his way. Tom was an artillery officer, serving as a liasion with the 1st Infantry Division. He saw plenty of combat and although he has shared some stories, there are many more things that he never talks about. Sometimes when the effects of Tom's illness get to me, I picture him in his most military posture or in his dress blues and I know that on his inside he retains that posture. I remember him today and have already said "thank you" once. Before the day is over I'll tell him again.

Today I also remember those who are on active duty, both in battle and those out of harm's way. I think of those whose names I will never know and I think especially of Jeri and Martin's son on a second tour of duty and Kathy's husband recently deployed. I think of spouses and children waiting for a word; I think of spouses and children whose loved ones will never come home. I think of those veterans who have come home bearing scars either physical or emotional. All have paid or are paying a price so that you and I might enjoy freedom.

Along with expressing thanks to our veterans today, pray for peace--not just the absence of conflict, but for the presence of the one whose name is Peace. Pray that the Prince of Peace would be triumphant in the world.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Not Much--I Thought

There isn't much to report on our end--no major changes, no crisis for either of us, not much really. But then that makes me wonder if God ever tires of hearing our praises or utterances of thanks for the ordinary things. We don't seem to tire of presenting God with our requests. This has been a wonderful week in every way!

Worship on Sunday was special with people of all ages participating. The sun was shining outside and the warmth of God's Spirit filled the sanctuary. God's people came to worship and to reaffirm their commitment to Him and to His ministry.

On Monday we celebrated Elisa's second birthday. It seems like just yesterday that we welcomed her into the world and I could honestly say that about each of the grandchildren. When I look at them I remember "Red Sails in the Sunset" from "Fiddler on the Roof." I attended a luncheon where that was sung shortly after Marty's birth and I cried openly when the song asked, "Where has my little girl gone?" I wanted to hold her forever and I have in my heart. The years pass so quickly and I continue to ask that question. Elisa loved her birthday and we all laughed a lot watching her opening presents, expressing innocent wonder with the contents of each one.

We have been able to get necessary chores done this week, both at home and otherwise. This has been the most beautiful of all falls spent in this part of the country! Every tree we see is more beautiful than the one we have just seen. The ghinkos and the maples are especially nice. Of course, the ghinkos remind me of our Mississippi home and those thoughts ignite lots of memories. The best part of all is having Tom beside me to share both the present and the memories.

Throughout the week I have said many "thank yous" and offered silent praise for the opportunity to continue in ministry; for the people who have adopted us in our temporary church; for healthy, delightful grandchildren--and the eighth one on the way; for their parents, our children who are more special than they realize; for the beauty of the earth; for Tom who can end my sentences and shares everything with me; for cards and letters, phone calls and e-mails; unexpected flowers delivered this afternoon.

No, I don't think God ever tires of our words of thanks and praise. He is an amazing God, the author of every good and perfect gift.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Good News!

A trip to Corinth to see the oncologist yesterday dispelled some of the apprehensions we have had in the last two weeks. He did not express much concern over my intolerance of the chemo dose, nor over the reaction to the Neupogen shots which he had discontinued. He put me on a new treatment schedule, saying that it's not unusual to have to experiment with the schedule before finding the right one for a particular patient. So, I restarted yesterday and will go back in two weeks, thus eliminating the week when I only had chemo. If my white counts go down again, he will reduce the amount of Neupogen given. He was not surprised with the symptoms I experienced following the shots; I was since I had not reacted that way the last time I had it three years ago. The good news is that we're back on track!

Sarah and Drew have been here playing in the yard this morning. Finally, we have sunshine again! Just hope it holds for them to get in some trick or treating tonight. Marty reports that it is rainy and nasty in Raleigh. She made Christopher the cutest bear costume and if I can figure how to move one or two from her e-mail to my photo page, I'll share later.

I'm glad for a relaxing Saturday. We had somewhere to go or something to do every day this past week and that makes me tired. Tuesday we spent the day at an older adult outing at the Presbytery camp about 1 1/2 hours from here, got home about three, then went out again at five to a Parkinson's support group meeting for another 2 1/2 hours. It rained all day, but fortunately we rode on the church bus to the camp and left the driving to Tommy. Wednesday we had window coverings installed in the living and dining rooms. A good church friend had made them and we enjoyed visiting with her and her husband who came to do the installation. Tom had his Botox injections Thursday afternoon. The neurologist had suggested putting them around the eyebrow area to help with the squinting and facial movements there. He must have injected him fifteen or twenty times--I lost count. Tom said it didn't particularly hurt, he has had no reactions or sorness and I think I already see some improvement. Yesterday, late in the day, I was dozing on the couch, the doorbell rang and there stood the man bringing Tom's new lift chair. With our new additions, I have rearranged a bit of furniture and have a little more to do to get things just right. The rest of today might not be so relaxing after all. Still there's lots of SEC football on TV and it might be more enticing than getting the house straight again.

Tomorrow is Commitment Sunday at Humboldt when pledges for the coming year will be brought. I keep calling it Celebration Sunday. Actually, it is both. We commit our gifts because of the covenantal commitment God made with us, because of the new covenant in Jesus Christ; and we celebrate God's promise, God's gifts and then share the Lord's Supper together. That is always a celebration!! It will be a good day. I hope your worship will be blessed.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Let's Hear It for Technology

A young friend of ours is doing her student teaching in Perth, Australia. One morning last week I answered the phone and there she was calling to say "hello." Two things about her call struck me.

Time and space was first. I had just finished my morning coffee and it was bedtime in Perth. She sounded as if she was right next door, yet is on the other side of the world. Modern technology allows us to keep up with each other, not only by telephone, but also by e-mail, Facebook, blogs, etc. How can this be? I will never understand how these things work, just take for granted that they will.

The second thing came from the conversation itself. Though Lala, our friend, is having an experience of a lifetime, she misses the familiar things of home and fall in West Tennessee. It's spring in Australia and Thanksgiving is unique to the United States. She misses fall color, the costumes of Halloween and looking forward to Thanksgiving with family and friends--not to mention Alabama football.

Our conversation made me think of just how much we take for granted, things both great and small. We enter a dark room, flip the light switch and expect to have light. Fall approaches and we expect to see leaves changing color; we anticipate a winning season for a favorite football team; we carefully plan how we'll spend our holidays. We take tomorrow for granted, but there is no guarantee.

Recently, I have been reminded once again of that very fact and of the uncertainty and fragility of life. That can lead to dread and fear of tomorrow. What I know is there needs to be a balance between the two. It is unreal, ignorant really, to march through life never thinking about tomorrow and it's downright morbid and unnatural to focus on the "what ifs" of tomorrow to such an extent that we live in constant fear. Trusting God, knowing that God is in charge is the answer. Talk to God about your fears. Life is uncertain; tomorrow might reveal news we don't want to hear or usher in some monumental crisis. In such times we need to cling to the promises of God, particularly, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" and "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Faith replaces fear.

Rather than take tomorrow for granted, be grateful for it. Thank God for His promise to be present with you; celebrate the seasons of life, the seasons of the year; express your love for your family often; stay in touch with friends; be submissive to who God wants you to be each day of your life. Be an active participant in your life!

I started out thinking about modern technology and how it keeps us close to each other; I close thinking about prayer and how it keeps us close to God.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, October 22, 2009


The journey since I last wrote has continued to take us on a winding path and also on a path full of potholes. I don't have to tell you about potholes. They are annoying and can be really hard on tires. There have been some places where we've lived that it seemed that potholes were never fixed. You just learned where they were and tried to avoid them as best you could. In other places, crews were out fixing them as soon as one occured--or so it seemed. You can learn to live with potholes, try avoiding them or be really grateful your tax dollars are at work to fix them.

Potholes in the journey of life are much the same. You can learn to live with them and try to avoid them or you do have the option of asking your heavenly Father to fill them as only He can. I guess you might say that this week I've dealt with all three approaches.

We hit on pothole number one last Friday learning that the neutrophil count was too low for treatment and encountered a slight problem in how I would get the necessary shots. I would need one that day and one a day Monday through Friday of this week. Monday and Friday would be taken care of because I had to go to the clinic in Corinth for lab work and I'd just take the shots there. By Monday one of my oncology nurses had located a pharmacy in Jackson that would sell me three shots and a Session member in the Humboldt church found me nurses to administer the injections. Pothole filled.

The second hole was brought on by the medicine itself. It caused severe back pain that rendered sleep almost impossible. Pain medication dulled it some, but made me nauseated, so anti-nausea drugs were prescribed. After the third shot on Tuesday, I was one sick puppy, complete with fever and chills. A call to the clinic Wednesday morning resulted in a quick trip to Corinth for more labs and to be seen by the nurse practioner. Who could take us on such short notice? I called a friend in our Thursday Bible study and she didn't even hestitate--just said, "Ill be there in fifteen minutes." After a bag of fluids that included more anti-nausea meds and vitamins we were on our way home. Another pothole filled.

Incidentally, the shots were discontinued. The white count has risen some and today I have felt much better. There may be bigger potholes in the road ahead. If the chemo takes such a quick hit at my cell counts and I cannot tolerate the drug that remedies that problem, the hole can become too big to fill, but for now the holes are full and the path continues, winding as it is.

God has me by the hand, leading me around the curves, helping me avoid potholes when I can, teaching me how to live with them when I can't and He will keep them filled so I can drive across them. Please pray that I can tolerate the treatments and that my cell counts will not drop.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What's Next?

This morning I think I know how the Israelites must have felt when they had no food nor water, grumbled, then relied on God's provision when all else failed. Yesterday we encountered yet one more bump in the road in this journey of treating my cancer--a neutrophil count too low to receive the chemo. I was/am not happy! In the midst of learning a few weeks ago that treatment would have to resume, hope loomed bigger than life itself: hope that is founded in a faithful God; and hope that the new treatment would straighten out some of the crooked paths in the journey. The hope in God's care and healing is as constant as ever, even if I do wonder a bit more about what's around the next bend and why I'm being led there. But, the hope in the treatment has diminished. How like the Israelites! Do I just trust completely when all else fails?

Briefly, this is the story. A treatment cycle consists of three sets of infusions, given a week apart. The first and the third includes both the non-chemo drug that is supposed to cut off blood supply to the tumors; the chemo drug is given all three times. After two infusions of chemo my blood counts took a tumble and the ones most important to receiving chemo fell to unsafe levels, meaning I could not get the third infusion yesterday and had to start shots to boost my white count. There was also a warning about the platelet count. I had thought that the chemo drug this go around was more gentle on the system. The nurses said, "Maybe so, but your system is already compromised by all the chemo you have had in the past." Not exactly words I wanted to hear.

Immediately, questions began to nag at me. Does this mean I've reached the point where being treated is worse than waiting on the disease to take over my body? Will I have to choose between quality of life and quantity sooner, rather than later? Am I depending more on the manna than the God who provides it? What does this mean to everyday life?

When I left the clinic yesterday one of the nurses was trying to find a way for me to get my daily shots next week without having to drive to Corinth everyday. In the past, I have had the option of administering the shots myself or going to the clinic and, chicken that I am, chose to have Tom give them to me. This day in time, that's not possible: #1-he can no longer do that and #2-the insurance companies have created such a nightmare that criteria for payment dictates how the drug is administered. The answer to the question regarding everyday life, at least for next week, is to arrange trips to drive to Corinth Monday and Friday for labs and shots and maybe everyday for shots. Answers to the other questions are not as easy.

I had two thoughts in some sleepless hours before driving to Corinth. We need to specifically pray for my blood counts. I reread the information sheets on the two drugs I'm taking and a warning light went off in my head when I read common side effects of the chemo. I determined then that blood levels would be a specific prayer request. Little did I know I'd need an answer to that prayer so soon! The second thought contains a bit of irony. For the almost three years we've lived here we've been making regular trips to Corinth, Mississippi. What some of you may not know is that Corinth was the site of some important battles fought during the War Between the States. In fact, some of the economy of the region rests on tourism, which in turn is based on that time of conflict in our country. Isn't it a bit ironic that my battle with cancer is headquartered in Corinth? Oh, well! Maybe you have to be a Southerner to be touched by the significance.

Meanwhile, I've gotten sidetracked from completing my sermon for tomorrow, a message that will include God's pattern for giving, God's provision for His people and God's promise when we respond. May your worship of our unfailing God be blessed!

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Tom and I took a stroll down memory lane this weekend, though my memories possibly are a bit more pronounced than his. We spent about four hours Friday at the Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame Museum and still didn't see it all. In addition to the permanent displays, there were two special exhibits on the life and career of Brenda Lee and one on the Hank Williams family. I think I read every word and listened to every song in the Brenda Lee room, all the time reliving my teenage years when she was really coming into her own. By the time we got to the Williams exhibit, we were tired, needed lunch and to get back to the hotel for some rest before our big night out.

What I didn't remember was how smeared the lines were between rock n' roll, bluegrass, country, gospel and even cowboy. Rock and roll stars and country stars sang each other's songs, giving them their own particular twist. Seeing Carl Perkins' blue suede shoes brought back memories of weekends when we would gather at friends' houses, stuff ourselves with chips and dip and dance until curfew. Hearing Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey made me think of Saturday afternoon matinees, complete with the weekly serials. A quarter would get you into the movie, buy popcorn and a coke and you'd still get change! Those are just a few of the things we remembered.

The best, most comfortable and satisfying memory has to do with my introduction to country music. The happiest years of my childhood were spent living as a part of Aunt May and Uncle Barnard's family. Saturday was a big day at our house. We would spend the morning cleaning house, getting in wood (both for heat and the cookstove) and keeping the dishes washed while Aunt May did the weekly baking. After lunch all six of us (2 adults and 4 children) would take our places in the red Ford pickup and head to town. Aunt May went to the grocery, Uncle Barnard always had somebody to talk to, the two little ones would hang out with one parent or the other and Julia and I would walk to the drug store for an ice cream cone. At night, after all was made ready for Sunday, Uncle Barnard would turn on the radio, tune into the "Grand Ole Opry" and we'd go to sleep with the sounds of laugher, banjos and people telling their stories in song. What a memory! Wandering through the museum made those Saturday night memories come alive. I could almost hear Uncle Barnard's footsteps in the hall.

Friday night was two hours of solid toe tapping, leg slapping, hand clapping melody and stories. We had a great time!! Word of advice: if you ever go, include in your ticket the fee to be picked up at your hotel. We're glad we did.

Our memory lane trip on Saturday was in the area of academia or self help. The Parkinson's symposium presented by the neurology department at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine could not have been better. It falls among our memories because we have attended once before and because some of the information presented underscores things we have already learned/experienced. Current research encourages hope in all who are affected by this terrible disease.

Another memory to be satisfied was to have been a stop at the Loveless Cafe, a favorite place of ours where we have been going for about twenty years. Well, we did stop at the Loveless, being admitted by a highway patrol officer directing traffic in and out of the parking lot. There were so many people there it looked like a fireant hill that had just been disturbed! We were told the wait for a table was two hours. No way! We walked over to the little store, bought a couple of pounds of bacon and went somewhere else. That was a disappointment.

This morning I hurredly dressed and went to church in Humboldt. Someone else was preaching so I slid into my seat just as things were starting. After the service I enjoyed visiting with folks, but an old memory crept up. Someone mentioned a couple they hadn't seen in church recently and one lady said that the gentleman couldn't get used to a woman preacher. Two people standing beside me were shocked: one said he'd never heard that and the other was embarassed that the statement had been made in front of me. Later, I assured her that I was not offended--and I'm not. I remember the twelve young men who walked out of preaching class when one of the three women students were on the schedule; I remember the church staff person who announced that someone needed to visit Mr. X and that the preacher who wore a skirt should not come (I went anyway); I remember the dear lady who wanted to meet me even though she let me know she didn't approve of women in ordained ministry (she later changed her mind). If I only reflect on the first part of the memory, I am saddened, but if my reflections include the resolutions of some of those situations, I am encouraged. God chooses people to serve in different places, in different ways. Whether we are male or female, Southerner or Northerner, black or white, the same Spirit is at work in our hearts and we all can be of service and in service with we submit to that Spirit.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

God's Paintbrush

Evidence of fall abounded on our trip to Corinth today. Bradford pears, sweet gums and sumac have begun their slow transformation from green to red to burgundy; soybean leaves are more yellow than green; some cotton stands in the fields, stripped of leaves, just waiting for the ground to dry out enough to get the heavy pickers in the fields. Other cotton has yet to be defoliated so both leaves and the beautiful white balls on which so much of our economy rests are seen. Dead corn stalks remain, row after row, also waiting for the ground to dry out enough to get equipment in the fields to turn it under. Even the dogwood in our front yard has tinges of pink, every leaf a promise of the red that is to come. To everything there is a season and everything is beautiful in its time.

The treatment last Friday was tolerated very well, though I think I felt the effects of the flu shot for about 24 hours. Sunday afternoon and night I slept so much and so hard, Tom said he had to touch me to be sure I was still breathing, but by Monday morning I was back to normal and resumed regular activities. Today I only had one drug and was in and out of the infusion room in less than an hour. Wow! That was great. What's even greater is I feel fine!!! Shopping for groceries once were home again was the tiring event of the day, but we took a deep breath, rested our feet and went to Wenesday night supper and Bible study in Humbolt. It was the pause that refreshed.

Presently, I'm washing a load of clothes, getting ready to pack for a trip to Nashville. Saturday, the Neurology Department at the Vanderbilt Medical Center is presenting its 11th annual symposium on Parkinson's Disease. We attended in 2007, but had to miss last year so we're looking forward to this one. They always present the latest information available and give ample opportunity to ask questions. We decided we'd make a little mini-vacation of it and spend two nights there rather than one. We'll play things by ear, except for Saturday and eating at one of our all time favorite restaurants on the way home and reservations at the Grand Ole Opry Friday night.

I am more than half finished writing Advent Meditations for this year and again, having a wonderful time with them. If you'd like me to publish them on the blog site, please either e-mail me or add a comment at the end of the post and I will if enough are interested. The other exciting thing I'm doing--in addition to being at Humboldt--is teaching Joshua in a PW circle. We start Monday. I hope FOPC women haven't spoiled me. Their response always added fuel to the study and their insights taught me much more than I taught ever them. In the list of things I miss about ministry at FOPC is the complete relationship I had with the women!

Time to put clothes in the dryer. Years ago Tom's mother had a combination washer/dryer. It took up very little space in the kitchen, but one load of clothes could take hours to complete. Imagine what it was like waiting on diapers to wash and dry! But since my options were either going to the laudromat on Saturday or to Mom's I didn't complain. The only good thing I remember about the combination machine was not having that added step of transfer--spoken like a lazy person. Funny how things from the past crop up! I'd best head to the laundry room, separate things and get on with the drying process. Mom went from a wringer washer, to the front loader and hanging things outside, to the combination to a washer and dryer that sat side by side. That was progress. I wonder what she would think now of all our even more modern conveniences.

What was beautiful about your day today? Be grateful!

Pastor Margaret