Sunday, May 24, 2009

For me, barbeque is something you eat. I learned in California, though, that barbeque is something you do. I might say, "We're having cooking out and having barbeque on Memorial Day." A Californian would say, "Come over to my house and we'll barbeque." Different strokes for different folks!

For me, barbeque is pork, but I reluctantly recognize in places like Texas and Kansas that barbeque could be beef--sacrilege.

For me, barbeque is best in West Tennessee around the Memphis area, but admit I've had some tasty ribs at Dreamland in Tuscaloosa and at Archibald's in the Tuscaloosa area. Some sauce is vinegar based as in North Carolina, sweeter in other parts of the country. Some meat is shredded, some is chopped; some is jucier, some is drier. Some ribs are wet; some are cooked dry. We all have our ideas about what is best.

Memphis has the best places to eat barbeque--other than home. There are the famous establishments: The Rondeaveau (spelling is questionable) in an alley off Union Avenue, the original Corkey's on Poplar and a place we recently tried (and loved), Interstate Barbeque on 3rd St. just off I-55; and there are the Mom and Pop neighborhood places where the natives take you. My first barbeque memories are from Aunt May and Uncle Barnard in Southeast Georgia. When they made barbeque, Uncle Barnard would dig a pit for the fire in the back yard, make a rack of small trees and fence wire and put the pig on the rack to cook. We're not talking about a small hole; we're talking about something about 10 ft. x 3 ft. It was a sight to see, an aroma to savor and a taste to remember! Now I rely on son Tommy to make barbeque for me.

There aren't too many foods that Tom likes better than barbequed ribs. Several years back when we were driving back and forth and all around the Southeast, we had a book, Southern Foods, that always traveled with us. In it are chapters on Blue Plate Specials, places where the best homemade biscuits are served, barbeque places and other chapters on just good old Southern cooking. We've eaten in as many places mentioned in the book as we possibly could, including the barbeque "joints." One we recognized by all the dogs out back waiting to be thrown a bone and the long line of people staning out front waiting to get in and another we found by literally following our noses. Oh, the barbeque memories we've made!

If your mouth is watering and you love barbeque like we do, rush right out and buy the latest copy of "Food and Wine" magazine. Our daughter Marty told us about a delicious hamburger recipe she had made from it, I told Tommy and when he was finding the burger recipe, he found a rib recipe that looked good to him. Honestly, I had my doubts. It has glaze made with apple cider vinegar, melted apple jelly and some other things that made me thing it would be too sweet for my taste. Boy, was I wrong! He fixed ribs Friday night to celebrate Sarah Beth's birthday and I have to say, they are the best I've ever had! In fact, they were so good, I have already bought more ribs for the freezer so we'll be ready when he's ready to cook them again.

Enjoy your holiday tomorrow and eat more barbeque!

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, May 21, 2009

For many of us, we define our lives with "whens:" when I grow up; when I go to college; when I get married; when I have children; when they grow up; when they leave the nest; when I retire and on and on we go. One morning we awake with the startling realization that we have about come to the end of our whens. We think they are complete. We have reluctantly reached retirement, with the words ringing in our ears, "Retirement only comes in heaven." Tom and I are convicted that God can and does use us at any age, in any place, if we are submissive to His wisdom and leading. In the two and a half years we have been here, we have continued to ask God to show us how to live, what to do and to give us opportunities for ministry, but I have not always understood God's response. I needed to step back and take a new look at things.

Answers have come in both expected and unexpected ways. The daily care of one another often has been taken for granted, but in these days of less than perfect health, little ways we care and show love have been highlighted as a special kind of ministry--the fulfillment of those vows repeated forty plus years ago.

Sunday the text for my sermon was the passage in Mark where the disciples rebuke the people for bringing little children to Jesus. Jeus replied with indignation saying not only to let them come, but also not to stand in the way of their coming. By the time he took, his touch and his blessing of them Jesus indicated his attitude toward children. Preparation for the sermon got my attention. We have more time in retirement to spend with the little ones in our family. Mark uses the word "embrace" to describe Jesus' touch, a word that in our day might be translated "hug." Our touch, our hugs often display our deep feelings for our grandchildren when words are inadequate or too abstract for their young minds. Jesus blessed the children he took the time to embrace so we need to take time to pray for the children in our lives. Praying for them is not only a blessing for them, but also for us. This is ministry that adds much joy to our days!

There have been opportunities to teach, to share ideas about older adult ministry, to preach and to be active in the work of the Presbytery. Since mid-January I have either taught or preached every Sunday, substituting for a regular teacher and filling a now empty pulpit in Humboldt, a nearby town where I have preached several times. The Committee on Ministry asked me to moderate their Session and the Session has asked me to supply their pulpit for an indefinite period of time.

The first week in June I'm going to meet with the staff and the elder in our church here to discuss getting small group ministry off the ground and sometime soon will do an orientation for the visitation team that is a part of the older adult ministry.

God is answering our prayers for ministry opportunities, all in His time. We just have to let God have our whens. They don't end with retirement like we sometimes think. Please pray for our new opportunities.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mother's Day came and went; I preached, as planned in Humboldt, Tom and I enjoyed a quiet afternoon and then went to Tommy's for a specially prepared dinner. My, was it good! He broiled red snapper in a chardonnay sauce, topped it with crab meat and served it over a bed of spinach. The portions were so big, we brought enough home to have for Monday night supper. Even though I love it, I don't cook much seafood, so I'm happy to have someone else cook it for me. Best of all was being with all of them and hearing from our North Carolina family by phone.

Yesterday was a meeting of Presbytery, held in Memphis, of course. It seems most meetings end up being in Memphis. During the afternoon part of the meeting I noticed a man that looked a little familiar. It helped that he was sitting with a man who had been identified as the pastor of the West Memphis church. When the meeting was over I stretched to see his name tag and sure enough, I knew him. He and I were in youth group together. He had a head full of white hair and I thought how much older he looked. He told me he wouldn't have recognized me if I had not spoken to him first. Do I not realize that I have aged as well? How do I explain all this white hair on my head?

We often do not see ourselves as others see us. I first began to realize that others saw aging changes in me when grown people said, "Yes or no maam" to me. That was years ago. I din't think I looked old enough to merit being called a "Maam." Most people around here call me "Miss Margaret" and I've wondered if that's an age thing. Finally, I realized that it's cultural. Still, it's hard to look in the mirror and see wrinkles, a double chin, snow white hair and lots of extra weight. Fortunately, we can rely on the words Samuel told Jesse when he went to anoint a king to succeed Saul: Man looks on the outside; God looks on the heart.

Tom has been pushing himself lately to exercise and walk a little bit each day. We know he needs to maintain some muscle strength or he is more prone to fall. Both of us got a little exercise today working in the yard. When I got up he suggested that we go to IHOP so I could feast on one of their strawberry specials and then to a nursery he had seen advertised on TV. I had bulletin information to finish for Sunday first, but we did make it to IHOP for lunch and to buy some plants afterward. Our ground has really been too wet to set anything out and more rain is predicted for tomorrow, but we came home and got at least half of what we bought in the ground. I was anxious to get the lantana out so it would grow, bloom and attract the butterflies and hummingbirds. Tonight we both have tired muscles.

It's been a good week with family, seeing an old friend, digging in the dirt. God continues to bless us and we are glad.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mother's Day is Sunday and I'm preaching in Humboldt. That's where my focus is though I did remember three special moms I wanted to let know just exactly how special they are: Aunt May, who has been a mother to me in many ways; Marty, our daughter and Liz, our daughter-in-law. Marty and Liz together have given us seven beautiful grandchildren and their gifts to us are immeasurable.

Aunt May now lives in a retirment home--not her choice, but she, as she always has, accepts the arrangement and goes on with life. I have no doubt that she brings encouragement and sunshine into the lives of others who live there. She probably doesn't even realize the effect she has on other people. I do. She was a stabilizing influence on me when I was a child and by taking me into her family she gave me a "sister" who I dearly love. During the ups and downs of our health issues her voice remains in my head and gives me counsel. The values I learned in her home remain with me as well. The love she exhibited when my uncle was ill, the care she gave him are an inspiration to me as I live with Tom in his illness.

As I prepare to preach Sunday I am mindful that Mother's Day, though significant, is not a religious holiday, but a Hallmark one. My conviction is that a worship service honors God and that God's Word should be preached. For me, a way to say something about mothers and also be faithful to my convictions is to take a look at Hannah, how she prayed before Samuel was born, how she prayed when he was born and how she continued to pray for him as a faithful Jewish mother. For some background material I turned to one of my favorite Old Testament commentators, a seminary professor who made the Scripture come alive.

In Dr. Davis's commentary on I Samuel, he writes some about barreness, mentioning the women in the Covenant story (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, the mother of Samson and of course, Elizabeth in the New Testament) who were at one point barren, but then went on to produce men who were great leaders in Biblical history. This statement really struck me: God's tendency is to make our total inability his starting point.

Whether we are praying for a child to be conceived, a relationship to be restored, a job to be found or an illness to be cured, God can work when we can do nothing. It's easy to shove that truth back into the dark corners of our brain while we go through the motions of everyday living. Little did I know when I began to reread Hannah's story (one of my favorites) and prepare for Sunday that God would send me my own special message! I have no ability to cure the illnesses that we have, but God is at work in both of us. We don't know the end of our story, but we have every confidence in the One who is writing it.

I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day with those you love.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, May 01, 2009

The last post began with the words: Today is my kind of day. I can say the same about today, but wouldn't mean the same thing. Today's weather is rainy and stormy. No, my pleasure in today has to do with our visit to the oncologist in Corinth. It had been five weeks since my last visit and I wasn't sure what to expect.

Scans had indicated that the disease was still present, but had not progressed and that I had irritation in my lungs caused by the chemo. Dr. Reed put me on medication for the lung problem and said he would let my body rest and recheck my blood work in four or five weeks. Well, the meds have helped my lungs and I feel much better. Still, we never know what's inside and knew that my CA125 had actually risen, rather than fallen following the last treatment. Today we learned that it has gone down and heard those "hoped for" words: We're going to continue to let your body rest and hold off treatment. Tom and I could only say a thank you to God and smile a lot. We didn't hear the remission words we would have liked, but we were happy with what we heard.

Many, many thanks for your prayers and support. God just keeps on providing for our everyday needs and certainly for all of those which are not so "everyday."

As I write I'm thinking of the 200 or so women who are assembling at this very moment for a weekend retreat at Woodleaf Conference Grounds in Northern California. The last time I was there was 2006 when I had been asked to speak on "Through the Wilderness." Even though I knew when I went for the weekend that I had an elevated CA125, I had no way of knowing that I would hear news within the next couple of weeks that would radically change our lives forever. Preparing for that retreat was one of God's ways to prepare me for what happened next on our journey. I knew then and I know now that God is faithful and never leaves me nor does He forsake me. As long as I draw breath I will continue to proclaim that faithfulness and tell of God's provision.

Pastor Margaret