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