Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year . . .

It seems like just yesterday that we were bidding farewell to 2011 and suddenly 2012 is on its way to the history books.  I've never been much of one for New Year's Eve celebrations and this year is no exception.  I'm sure we'll have lots of food and several friends and their children to come.  The children have especially loved having their own fireworks display, since we live in the country and they aren't illegal out here.  I enjoy one big "aah" show of color and that's enough.  My fun comes in watching the little ones and listening to their squeals of delight.  So, we'll eat too much--again--watch a few fireworks and wake up to watch Mississippi State play Northwestern in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day--with more food. 

We ate Christmas Dinner with weather sirens going off, rain pouring down and tornadoes all around.  Actually, we were in an area between two areas that had devastating winds.  I was busy with last minute preparations when the first siren sounded and my phone scrolled a message to take cover.  Before another warning comes I must find a safe spot in my house. 

The days since then have been mostly sunny and cool and the children have had a good time playing outside.  Jacob has gone with the Petal High School Band to march in the Macy's Parade in Orlando on January 1.  If you are into parades, watch for them.  I've enjoyed a less busy week with plenty of time to knit and watch football.  It's also been fun to read back through Christmas cards and letters and to think of dear friends.  Too soon it will be time to get back into a routine.

Tonight I attempted to check in for a cruise I'm taking beginning next Saturday.  Would you believe that they had spelled Margaret wrong so I have to wait until someone is in the office to find out how to change that?  The trip was put together by a fellow knitter at the shop here in Petal; I invited my two knitter friends from Tennessee, who recruited two others so we have nine going as a group.  All except one (a lady's husband) will be working on projects during our days at sea.  Now, if I can just get signed in and find summer clothes to pack, I'll be fine. 

From time to time I mention books that I am reading and tonight I want to tell you about four particular ones that have been especially good.  Most of you know that I have my favorites--among them Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Augustine, Andrew Purves and Eugene Peterson.  This past year I have read new books, but have also pulled out old favorites to reread and have learned from them all over again.  One such book is Peterson's Leap Over a Wall, probably one of the most influential books on my spiritual growth.  It was a required "text" in a seminary course on Biblical Spirituality and it was during that first reading that I began thinking about wilderness experiences. Those thoughts have served me well over the years.  My friend, Peggy, sent me two books of the four I write about tonight.  The first was Billy Graham's Nearing Home.  My shelves are full of books on aging and I've read most of them, but found that Dr. Graham's insights on growing older were very helpful, both to me as I continue to "dabble" in the aging area and to me as I age.  The second book Peggy sent was The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel, a young pastor in Oklahoma.  It's an intriguing title, don't you think?  It is directed to those of us who profess to believe in God, but act as if we don't.  It is very convicting!  Currently, I'm reading another Peterson book entitled, Eat This Book, a reference to Revelation where the angel gives that instruction.  It's a bit heavier to read that the others, but promises to refocus your reading of the Scripture.  I love having the time to pour over the Scripture in the morning and then be taught by Christian writers as I read their books.  It's not a matter of finding the time; it's all about taking that time. 

This will be a busy week with a holiday and getting ready for the cruise and going to Jackson one day for a doctor's appointment.  Every day is a new day.  Years ago my college piano teacher would quote the beginning of a poem to me--I have never forgotten her or her wisdom.  It begain:  Thank God every day that you have something to do today that must be done. . . Often we don't know what that something is, but God does and promises to be with us each day, in every circumstance.  I am grateful for God's faithfulness.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas . . . and a belated Happy Thanksgiving

All is well here - now.  I hadn't realized how long it had been since my last blog until I pulled up the site to write tonight.  When I was almost through with the message, I hit the wrong key and everything disappeared.  I'm beginning to wonder if someone is trying to tell me something.  Am I really supposed to be typing away instead of getting a good night's sleep because I have drive to a neighboring town to preach in the morning?  Maybe I was too wordy and the computer was slapping my hands.  A pastor who has been a mentor for several years was quick to remind me:  "economy of words." 

I'll briefly bring you up to date.  I spent Thanksgiving in Memphis with my cousin Joan.  We had a wonderful time together, doing as little as possible.  Still we managed to have a delicious dinner with turkey, ham and all the trimmings.  Too many trimmings, if the truth be told.  Meanwhile back at the compound, Tommy and Liz hosted her parents, her brothers, their wives and children.  In the midst of their preparation Tommy and Liz came down with the flu, followed by three of the five children.  It was a pretty miserable day for them.  I was glad to have been safely away from the germs and did fine until a couple of weeks later.

I was visited by some strange stomach ailment that kept me out of commission for about two weeks.  Who knows what that was?  By the time I was up and going again, I was behind with the schedule I had made for myself.  As of today, most of the baking is done, with a few things waiting to be baked on Christmas Eve.  I finished the shopping yesterday--just have to finish wrapping.

More and more I am aware of age and the inevitable--life, as we know it, comes to an end.  I have been deeply saddened by the deaths this year of Bob and Jan Stone, John Marlin and my very special Aunt May.  There have been others as well, but I have so many memories of times spent with those four.  I can see Tom doubled over laughing at yet another Bob Stone joke.  Often I didn't get the joke, but got my kick from watching Tom laugh.  The great comfort comes in knowing that I will see them again and that they are already experiencing what heaven has in store for believers--with my precious Tom.

A special highlight of 2012 was reuniting with college friends at our 50th reunion.  The years between 1962 and 2012 seemed to fade away as we remembered together, told of our children and grandchildren and shared retirement stories.  I also have reconnected with a high school friend who, incidentally, was in the band at Mississippi State with Tom.  I'm looking forward to a face to face visit with her after the first of the year. 

The oncologist reports that the cancer is stable, no increase and no decrease.  I never tire of praising God for His care and the provision He has made of good doctors, caring nurses and the advances in medicine that make the stable report possible.  Friends who stand in the gap with me are special! Cataract surgery in October was successful and I see better than I have in a long time--all except for reading.  Glasses correct that. 

Tomorrow I'm preaching in Lucedale, about 60 miles from here, in the church of a college classmate.  I am excited about sharing the Christmas message and grateful for insights that have been prompted by some of the excellent books I've been reading.  My anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Christ has been heightened this year by intentionally reading the prophets this fall.  I continue to be amazed at the work of the Holy Spirit as I read and study God's word. 

May God's richest blessings rest on you and may you experience the joy that only life in Christ can bring!
Love and blessings,
Pastor Margaret