Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Simple Reminder . . .

  In my quiet time this morning, I was hit with a simple, but oh, so powerful, reminder.  GOD IS IN CHARGE.  A couple of days ago I decided to pray through the psalms, using my prayer list.  Originally, I wanted to use the psalms as ways of adoring God in my prayers, but quickly discovered something more.  There are countless words and phrases that speak about the majesty, the completeness, the goodness of God.  But, the psalms also reveal the inner thoughts of people, the occasions in which they were written and their desperate need of God.  Always, there is the reminder of God's everlasting presence.   

A few weeks ago I was putting together material for an order of worship in which I was preaching.  When I asked for a portion of Psalm 9 to be used as the Call to Worship, the other pastor who was participating questioned the appropriateness.  The psalm is written by one who has been surrounded by his enemies and, in one place, strongly condemns them for their wickedness.  The pastor read the psalm and saw warfare; I read the psalm and saw deliverance and the power of God.  It fit with the Old Testament passage I was preaching and I believe it fits in our lives as we face "enemy" every day. 

Again, reading from The Message, we find these words in Psalm 9:  You took over and made everything right; when I needed you, you were there, taking charge . . . God's a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary druing bad times.  The moment you arrive, you relax; you're never sorry you knocked.  In Psalm 11:  But God hasn't moved to the mountains;; his holy address hasn't changed. 

As I looked at my prayer list, full of requests:  healing for several friends with cancer, friends mourning the passing of spouses, selling our houses in Tennessee, my family, my own health needs, I remembered and prayed each prayer with, "God is in charge."  Knowing, believing those four words gave a peace I cannot describe.  Knowing, believing those words enables one to be strong in the face of circumstances beyond our control, simply because GOD IN IN CHARGE! 

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Merry Month of May . . .

It was a month of celebrations, most of which featured food.  Now, it's time to think about simple things and a smaller waistline!  Fortunately, it's just about time for fresh tomatoes and all the other treats of summer.  All ready Paw Paw's garden stand down the road is open for business, selling squash (lots of squash), cucumbers and green beans, which we missed. 

We began the month by celebrating our friend John's birthday.  It was so many meals ago I can't remember what we served, but I do remember making caramel cake.  Mother's Day Tommy cooked red snapper with a crawfish cream sauce, risotto, salad and chocolate chess pie.  That was followed by his birthday and I prepared a veal dish from some "fancy, smancy" book, spinach fettucine w/ an herb sauce (from my herb garden) and German chocolate cake.  For the end of school, Tommy made a new shrimp dish from a Louisiana cookbook I gave him for his birthday; we celebrated Sarah's birthday w/ grilled steaks; and last night we had venison backstrap with sweet potatoes, green beans almondine and chocolate chip cheesecake for dessert (Sarah's birthday cake choice).  I am stuffed and we're all needing to get back to simple fare. 

Two weeks ago Elisa and I made a visit to the animal shelter so I could adopt a cat.  We decided on a little gray kitten and named her Smokey.  So far, she has been a delightful addidion to my household, but doesn't even blink when I hear mice.  She must have missed the "cats don't like mice" lesson in Kitty Behavior 101.  And, speaking of mice, all out war has been declared!!!  Tommy and Liz have discovered their presence in their laundry room. Their terrier has caught one, Tommy got one in a trap and two have sprung traps and gotten away.  He's been researching on the internet and today is making some contraption to put in the basement under my house.  A good bit of what he was found focused on "humane ways to get rid of mice."  It's too late for that.  I WANT THEM GONE AND WILL GO TO ANY MEANS TO SEND THEM PACKING! 

On the 17th, I preached at the opening worship for our spring Presbytery meeting.  It's always a little daunting to preach for your peers, but the day was a little more difficult because the agenda included dismissing five churches and three ministers to another denomination.  Separation is always hard.  Even in churches, it has feelings of divorce.  Who goes where?  Who gets what?  Who gets the friends?  How do we both adjust to new ways of being?  Several weeks before the meeting, I was sitting in church pondering some of those questions during the organ prelude. Several thoughts came to me:
  • Though the Scripture says: "God so loved the world . . ." we are in a one on one relationship with God.
  •  In the "Lamb's Book of Life," the name of my church is not listed.  My name is there.  I am an individual child of God, not just a member of some earthly boday of people.
  • When we pose the question:  "What will ministry look like apart from these with whom I am accustomed to working?"  we have to respond individually.
  • Just as our relationship, our salvation is personal, so is our obedience and our service. 
  • Yes, we decide as a congregation what we will do about denminational issues, but we are responsible as individuals to God.
I have seen friends and families divided over church issues.  I have seen the decline of ministry of the Church as people have focused on issues, to the exclusion of focusing on Almighty God and striving to follow His wisdom and direction.  It's very sad!  It's also sad when a denomination spends most of its time trying to administrate rather than making disciples, when a people of God are more interested in relevancy than truth.  We have separated ourselves by issues so much that we have neglected to unite as believers in Christ.  Am I pleased with the direction of things?  No, not now, nor have I been for a very long time, but I am determined to stand firm in what I believe God's Word teaches and to be obedient, by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Monday we observe Memorial Day.  Remember to thank a service person for the sacrifice made so that we might remain free.  Have a good one.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's a Good Thing to Hope for Help from God . . .

That's the heading for Lamentation 3: 19-32 in The Message.  If you have been a blog follower over the last few years or if you have known me over even more years, you know that Lamentations 3:22-23 have long been special verses to me.  I believe them to be true in every situation.  God's faithfulness never fails and it is what sustains me.  I'll always be indebted to my friend, Helen Sloop Martin, who introduced them to me while we students at Belhaven.  Recently, as I was reading Lamentations I discovered other verses in that chapter that really spoke to my heart.  Let me share the passage with you.

I'll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I've swallowed.
I remember it all--oh, how well I remember--the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there's one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope.

God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up.
They're created new every morning.  How great your faithfulness!
I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over).  He's all I've got left.

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.
It;s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God.
It's a good thing when your'e young to stick it out through the hard times.

When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself.  Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer.  Don't ask questions: Wait for hope to appear.
Don't run from trouble.  Take it full-face.  The "worst" is never the worst.

Why?  Because the Master won't ever walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. 

Who among us has never experienced utter lostness or who cannot remember the feeling of hitting the bottom?  Those feelings of loneliness, despair, grief, pain--whatever they are--cannot compare to the amazing fact of God's love and faithfulness.  Sitting quietly and patiently does not come easy for me.  I want to be "doing" something, searching for a solution, but we are told to enter the silence, bow in prayer and wait for hope to appear.  Such words never cease to reassure me! 

The Presbytery of Mississippi meets Thursday and on the agenda are the petitions of four churches to withdraw from the denomination.  We have a gaping wound in the church and not just in my denomination.
Somehow, somewhere along the way, we have lost our focus.  We are no longer a church united, but a church torn apart by deep divisions.  Still, God is faithful to those who call upon Him, just as God remained faithful to the Israelites in spite of their turning away.  Pray for the Church of Christ around the world.  Pray for me as I bring the message at Morning Worship. 

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Drought Has Ended . . .

It has been so many weeks since I have visited this page that I almost feel as if I need to reintroduce myself.  These have been days and weeks of reflection; days spent in re-evaluation of the past the present and the future.  They have also been days full of activitiy. 
  • Early in April I attended a luncheon at my college alma mater for those who had graduated 50 or more years ago.  Several of my classmates came from both near and far, to reminence about the "good old days."  Now we are eagerly looking forward to Homecoming in October. 
  • I spent some much needed time with the financial advisor who has taken care of us for many years.  He did much to ease my mind.  He had answers for all my questions and simple suggestions to things that had taken up far too much of my brain power.
  • One Wednesday two Jackson friends and I went to New Orleans for the day and had the Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters.  What a treat!!  The company was excellent, the food delicious and the weather perfect.  One can not always say that about New Orleans weather.  More often than not the humidity is oppressive--even for those of us who know humidity up close and personal. 
  • There have been "end of the year" band concerts and pre-school programs.
  • Now, it's May and things are headed quicly toward summer. 
One big issue that took much of my attention is not new.  It's called:  cancer, what I know about it and how it affects me.  In my last blog I mentioned that I had been to the doctor and that it was a so-so visit.  It wasn't particularly encouraging, but it wasn't completely discouraging either.  I have been concerned for months about results of a blood test that measures tumor activity.  My marker has consistently risen.  What I've learned, after having three different oncologists treating me, that different doctors view the results of the test from different perspectives.  Reluctantly, I have accepted that.  For instance, the original oncologist never wanted to see a result over 20; the second doctor was content for it to be under 35, the point at which disease is expected to be present; and my current doctor has a different opinion altogether.  He is not so alarmed at rising numbers by themselves, but factors in scan results and the patients overall condition.  Un
fortunately, I'm programmed by doctor #1 who wanted it under 20 and mine hasn't seen that number in months!  I can't even remember the last time it was under 20 except in December, 2006 when we were surprised to learn that it had dropped to 14.  (Long introduction to an amazing discovery.)  The Friday after I had been in the office and had the "so-so" report the nurse called to rearrange my appointment for May.  Since she had me on the phone I decided to ask her the results of the blood work earlier in the week and she said:  "Mrs. Suttle, the test is normal - 12.5."  Silence, as I picked myself up off the floor.  I could only stutter and ask how that low number could be possible.  Was she sure she had my chart?  Then I said to her: "If that's true, it's a miracle."  She responded, "This is a weekend of miracles."  It was Good Friday. 
Since that conversation, I have thanked God, questioned Him, considered what I know about the disease and finally decided that I'd take it at face value and declare myself cancer free, at least for now.  It is not remission, but the low number is definitely encouraging!

My doctor repeated the number when I saw him on Monday.  It was not a mistake.  Next month I will have the periodic scan, plus the usual blood tests.  We're praying for repeated good results.  Oh, and in addition to that, my blood pressure is lower than it has been in several months.  I cannot thank God enough for this new development.  All I can say is:  To God Be the Glory!!

Pastor Margaret