Thursday, September 27, 2012

Busy Day, Busy Weekend . . .

 Today is "Paint the Town Red" in Petal.  One of the big time football rivalries between Petal and Oak Grove is being played tonight on our field.  I'm told that ESPN is coming to town and that it is being televised, sponsored by C-Spire, a Mississippi based telecommunications company.  Big game!  So big, that the schools are being dismissed at noon.  Not only are the SEC and the Univ. of Southern Mississippi big around here, but so is high school football.  You can be sure there will a packed house!

However, I won't be in attendance.  Beginning tonight and going through Sunday afternoon there is a spiritual development (for lack of something to call it) retreat being held at a retreat center close to Jackson and I am going.  The Presbytery puts on two a year, but I have resisted going until now.  My prayer is that being on retreat will help me chase away some of the blues I've been feeling lately.  The changes that have taken place since Tom died have been a hard adjustment and the loss of MANY friends and Aunt May during this time keeps me in a fog of sadness.  Even the announcement of the death of Andy Williams yesterday caused sorrow because of all the memories associated with him.  Everything stopped at the Suttle Senior house when Andy's show came on the air.  Everywhere I look, everywhere I turn, I see Tom.  My college 50 year reunion is in a couple of weeks and I am beginning to dread going instead of looking forward as I was for a long time.  Tom and I met and began to date while I was a student there.  The memories are sweet and painful at the same time.  Standing to sing in church Sunday next to Jacob was almost like being next to Tom, especially when I heard this bass voice coming from Jacob.  The good part of all the memories is that the memory of how devastated his body was at the end is fading.  I have fought letting this get me down, but lately I've been slipping lower and lower.  It will be good to be with people who experience the joy of Christ and want to share.  I never want to sound ungrateful, but I have. 

I've also been thinking about my brother a lot and have wondered about him.  It's a long story that doesn't need laying out, but he and I have not had a relationship since we were very young.  I last saw him the year Tom was in Vietnam in 1967-68, but have spoken with him on the phone mainly to keep him in touch with my mother.  After she died in 2003 we lost touch and I have wondered about him.  The source of much information, the computer, revealed when I searched that he died in 2009.  I really didn't know him, but we did have the same parents.  My thoughts have been crowded with "what if's" and a little guilt because I made no effort to contact him on my own. 

When you answer the phone and the person on the other end begins with "Are you sitting down?" you're ususally in for big news.  My brother-in-law and his wife called yesterday to alert me to the fact that it looks like we have a problem with the IRS over Dad Suttle's estate.  The IRS claims that we owe back taxes and I'm standing firm on advice we received and the integrity of Tom!  Papers from a CPA they hired are enroute to both me and my CPA and I'll know more then.  It was hard to contain my anger as I thought of the man Tom hired to be the executor of Dad's estate since we were in California, not Mississippi.  That lawyer mad a big mess of things and the estate itself was not even settled for eight years.  You would think, with all this fuss, that there were millions of dollars involved.  Not so!!!  When nature called about 3:30 this morning, I began thinking about the huge amount of money we aapparently owe and the thoughts ended my sleep.

Later, as I was praying for a sick person on my prayer list, I thought about fear and the verse, "Perfect love casts out fear," suddenly came to mind.  Heretofore, I've focused on my love for God, but after thinking on that, I realized that the verse speaks to God's love for us.  My love in no way is perfect; it wavers; it stumps its toe; falls flat on its face.  But God's love is unconditional, unchanging and eternal.  God's love never depends on what I do or don't do.  God's love is perfect - - - and God who loves me perfectly sent the fear I have of the IRS on its way.  Duh!  I need so many reminders. 

I covet your prayers this weekend.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My favorite time of year . . . has arrived.  At least, it's been my favorite for most of my life.  I like the changing colors in the landscape, the relief from the oppressive heat and humidity, football, getting ready for holiday seasons.  The older I get, however, I am learning to love all seasons equally.  God's handiwork is no less beautiful in the Spring when azaleas bloom, daffodils nod their heads and little chilcren shine in their fresh new Easter clothes.  Summer brings produce, seafood from the gulf, excitement from children at VBS and delightful sounds coming from fun in the pool.  Even sitting around outside, battling mosquitoes, under a porch fan is nice.  (Winter pays us little attention here.) I do not like some of the weather that comes, but one learns to manage!  Even though it is fall, the weather is still hot and will remain so up into November; so will hurricance season. 

Last Monday was another trying day at the cancer clinic.  Many of the problems get pushed off onto the new computer system, but I silently protest that the system is only as good as the people who operate it and I've encountered incompetence once or twice.  After unraveling all the problems, I had a good visit with the doctor who tells me that the scans are stable--still no concern about the elevated CA125 at this point.  The blood pressure continues to be high which results in their having to take it several times per visit and that is a bother.  I'll be sure to discuss it with my primary care doctor when I have a routine visit in about six weeks. 

In August a couplce of friends and I started a sewing group at the church.  One of them crochets, the other does needlepoint.  Since our initial meeting, much has developed and several have decided to join our efforts to  use our interests and abilities to beautify our worship space and to reach out to others.  This afternoon is our second time together and I'm anxious to see who comes and what the next step will be.  There will be some crochet instruction for those who want and I may sit in on that just so I can learn how to "finish" the edges of some of my knit pieces.  As "Piecemakers" we are an intergenerational group, formed for service and fellowship.

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I purchased a new phone this past week.  It was time for me to upgrade both my phone and my technical abilities.  Good luck with that!  My new Smartphone provides a larger screen and keypad, which help greatly.  All the features seem a bit of a luxury for a retired person, but I am already enjoying getting e-mails and FB posts on it.  Now, if I could figure out how to answer when it rings! 

Reading in Hebrews 6 yesterday prompted me to consider once again the necessity of daily feasting on God's word.  The writer tells of the promise made to Abraham, the importance of the promise and the fact that it is God who guarantees the promise.  I thought:  "I know that."  However reading the promise, reflecting on how it affects me, and clinging to the knowledge that God guarantees it was like feasting at a table spread with all my favorite foods.  Just as we need food to nourish us for our physical journey, so much more is there a need for spiritual food for life in Christ.  That nourishment comes from regularly reading and meditating on God's word.  Food is not a one time intake--not for the body and not for the spirit.  Feasting on God's promises provides what we need to live and thrive in this journey called life. 

Pastor Margaret

Friday, September 14, 2012

Struggling forward . . .

When I reflect on the week of August 27 it is easy to be a bit overwhelmed.  The trip to the doctor, high blood pressure, watching two whole days of nothing but the Weather Channel, learning of Aunt May's passing, spending hours on the phone trying to find a flight that would get me to Georgia in time for her service, dealing with the sore throat and cough all added up to a crowded, frustrating few days.  I had to reconcile myself with the fact that Aunt May's service would go on without me, but, bless Marty; she and her whole family packed up and drove down to be there.  The "virus" I had got worse by the day and I finally went to my primary care doc last week.  He prescribed the usual Z Pack and some high powered cough medicine.  Throat is better, but still is sore and I only take the cough medicine when coughing keeps me up at night.  The narcotic in it makes me have wierd dreams and saps my already depleted energy. 

The really bright spot of the last two weeks was preaching in a small church about an hour away from Hattiesburg.  What a beautiful place of worship!  It reminded my of the Lutheran church I attended with Aunt May and family and when I went to Sunday dinner with family of friends who took me over there, I was reminded of Aunt May again.  The table was spread with Southern summer favorites:  baked ham, corn pudding, butter beans with okra cooked on top, fried okra, candied sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, grape salad, cornbread and at least a half dozen desserts.  Worshiping there, being with new friends around the table was a vivd reminder that we are family in the Body of Christ. 

When I returned to Jackson the day after Labor Day to try again for a treatment, my blood pressure remained high and there was again some question about whether I could be treated.  After waiting and retaking it three times, it was declared safe.  Of course, one is supposed to relax between takes in hopes the pressure will decrease, but sitting only serves to stewing over how high or low it will be on the next take.  I am scheduled to go again Monday for scans, a doctor visit and another treatment.  In times like this, I call to mind Paul's statement about the sufficiency of God.  I can do nothing in my own strength!

I have been rereading Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation.   It's one of those books from my "backporch" quiet times that God used to lead me to seminary and beyond.  Merton writes, in chpter three, of the circumtances, the events, large or small that are but seeds planted by God.  Whether or not they grow and bear fruit for the kingdom depends on how they are nourished--at least that's my interpretation of his writing.  We are quick to say, "Everything happens for a reason," but how often do we use those "things," how often do we commit them to God and ask that He might use them to grow us and use us?  Use doesn't necessarily follow.  Use depends on our relationship with God. 

Recently, some special new friends received a cancer diagnosis for the husband.  We were all saddened by the news and frightened for them as they faced tests, results, treatment options, etc.  I don't have the latest report at this writing, but do know that preliminary findings are good.  God has used "illness seeds" planted in my life as a patient and as a caregiver to respond to others.  In this particular instance I asked God how to respond as a friend to their specific needs.  The answer was almost instantaneous:  Be the "friend" like so many of yours have been through the years.  Often, I thank God for faithful friends and the ways they have lightened our load, for their prayers, for their sacrifices for us.  This week my prayer has been that I might learn to be such a friend to others.  Make me more like Jesus, every day, in every way. 

Pastor Margaret