Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What You Need When The Ride Is Bumpy

A few weeks ago I found something interesting on Dayspring.com. "Letterpress word blocks".   I love ordering from Dayspring ~ they send everything FedEx, shipping is free over $50, and they stand behind their products.   With these letterpress word blocks you can create your own words with different fonts and letter sizes.  We knew just the place to hang the art, so we started talking about what word to create.  I kept coming back to the word trust, and Joel was good with that. 

T. r. u. s. t.  Anyone who reads my blog knows that God has been teaching me a great deal about trust in the past few years.  I am so grateful for His patience as we walk this journey together.  Trusting Him requires letting go....it requires entering His rest... it requires obedience,,,it requires stepping out in faith believing He has a plan for good and not for evil.  To give us a future and a hope.  T.r.u.s.t.
  
The letters arrived just two days after I ordered them. I was excited to put them up but when I opened  the box marked with the "U"  I found a "V" inside!  It made me laugh.....of course there was a V in the U box!  (giggle)   I called Dayspring and within a couple days I had the needed U....no cost to me.

 
When we first connected the letters for hanging I had them all straight across on the bottom.  But as I studied the hanging more and more, it just did not look right.  Yesterday morning as I looked at them on the wall, I said to Joel, "We don't need to trust God if everything is all in line...nice and straight....everything in place.  BUT we do need to exercise our faith and trust God when circumstances  are unpredictable or out of our control."   Oh, yeah.  So we rearranged the letters and now it looks right to us.  Yes.  Trust is required when there is going to be a bumpy ride......when we are not in control.....when our circumstances look impossible.  When storms rage or we walk through the desert.  T.r.u.s.t.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~

"TrUsT in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding...
In all your ways acknowledge Him
and He will make your paths straight..."
Proverbs 3:4,5
 
"In quietness and TrUsT  is your strength"
Isaiah 3o:15b

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to you!  We are still enjoying a beautiful warm Fall here in our corner of the world.  Joel was able to go biking with his friend Jack over at Lanesboro this past Monday.  It is about 2.5 hours from here and then they biked 22 miles and drove home again.  Long day, but the weather was great, the sun was shining, and the trees were so beautiful.  They had a good time, even eating lunch in a boxcar diner.

This biking trail goes through several
towns in SE Minnesota

We have been walking in the afternoons this week since Joel has had such a busy schedule.  I walked on my own Monday on our association paths and last Sunday we walked at the state park again on our way home from church.  Winter will be on us soon enough so we are enjoying the fresh air as often as we can.  In fact, windows were open yesterday and expect to do the same today.  I never quite understand when people don't open their windows....at least in our corner of the world where fresh air is in abundance.

A pathway of leaves
 
Still walking in my pink tennis!

Monday night I found out I was called in to jury duty....and was picked on Tuesday morning for selection.  I was questioned by the prosecution and defendant's lawyer along with 21 others. You can read my amusing post on it HERE.  After answering all their questions they dismissed me.  I was relieved since I was scheduled to have eye laser surgery again on Wednesday and did not want to miss that appointment.  For some reason this time it knocked the stuffing out of me and I have been extra tired and a bit off since.  Still active, but liking naps and early bed. 

It was a year ago we were in CT for the conference on healing.  Our two week adventure was orchestrated by God.....go HERE to read about it.  What a wonderful trip it was!  The days spent in Amish Shipshewana....love the name of that town!  The days at the healing conference ~ awesome!  The cold, rainy, windy day at Niagara Falls...such power in that moving water!  Our marathon day in NYC....so exciting and fun fun fun!  Yep.  I'm still smiling and giving thanks.

Yesterday the news was so disheartening.....shootings at yet another school......officers shot........Canada's shootings.........so. much. violence.  It is tragic, seems to be endless, and is beyond understanding.  It baffles me that so many people are so angry and sick sick sick.  Just need to keep our focus on the One. 

Yesterday Joel brought an extension ladder into the house and climbed up to change out lights and clean the ceiling fan that is about thirty feet up from our main level.  We have a half landing he could put the ladder on.  Joel is not afraid of heights.  In fact he is drawn to them and I sometimes have to beg or threaten to keep him off of really high places!  As I said before, it is the boy-climbing-the-silo that comes out in him.....

The fan and staircase...
clean fan and new lights!

I am starting to organize our photos.....48 years of them starting at Bible College.  I am planning to get them all in order and out of three large plastic tubs and old photo books and into photo boxes....printing a few of our favorites for framing, and continuing in my quest to make photo albums for each of our kids.  I'm on the third right now.  I know that most pictures are digital now, but I am telling you, there is something more intimate about holding a book in your hands and looking at your life in pictures. 

Besides photo organizing and household stuff, the TV, live stream and archived teachings, and lots of praise music on CD and DVD and walking have filled up my spare time this week.  My sight was a bit blurry after the laser so reading was put aside for awhile.  I have been catching up on magazines and trying to read a fiction book I have book staring at for months.  Seriously, I just cannot read fiction anymore.  What is up with that?  So what has been going on in your corner of the world?

Until next time............

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Looking Back: Only God!

Joel and Renee
NYC skyline

It was one year ago we packed our van with everything but the kitchen sink, and headed East for a great adventure in faithful living.  God orchestrated that two week trip from start to finish and just like when He sent the ravens ahead for Elijah, He prepared the way for us with each sunrise.  It was a trip I never thought I would make.  No one did.  Only God.

I have been going back over posts I wrote in October and November 2013 sharing how God walked with us before, during, and after this great journey took place.  Having been homebound for 10 years with very little time spent out in the world, this was beyond our imagination or hope....until Joel was healed overnight, and in response I began my journey forward from nearly 3 decades of chronic illness to wholeness and health.  Only God.

We traveled three thousand miles, stayed in hotels for 14 nights, attended a three day healing conference in CT, spent 10 hours in NYC taking the ferry, commuter train, subway, and walked over 5 miles on our marathon tour.  We also went to Niagara Falls, walked the Appalachian trail and Long Island Beach, visited with our oldest and her family at our SIL's sisters in CT, and took in the beauty of 9 states.  We connected in person with Internet friends in CT and NYC.  Only God.

At  the conference on healing we experienced the power of God's presence in amazing ways.  We felt right at home in the Lutheran-Holy Spirit moving-healing church, and we met so many others who were on the same journey as us.  Only God.

We look back on that time as anointed beyond all we could have "asked for or imagined".  It still makes us smile to reflect on each day ----what we saw, what we experienced, what we learned.  We are so very grateful.

So, where are we today one year later?  Joel is still completely healthy, working part time, biking, and more.  He lives this verse in Nehemiah 8:10  "The joy of the Lord is your (my) strength."  He is always surprised that he is 68 years old, and declares he is getting younger every year!  Retirement is not on his radar.....yet.
My journey has been more of a process.  Healing from Lyme and co-infections came immediately, other health issues have been crockpot style.  I am still healing and expecting "more".  Starting last January around the second anniversary of Joel's overnight healing, I began to experience the presence of God in ways that are still hard to describe.  Looking back on those 4 months of a heavy blanket of Holy Spirit "hugs", I realized that a great deal of inner healing took place.  Physical strength has also continued to increase, and so has my ability to be active in and out of the house.  MCS is a thing of the past.  We have traveled several times for weddings, vacations, and family visits.  With all honesty I share that some things have not yet moved forward with my health.  My  eyes grew worse, requiring laser surgery. A second eye drop I took for just 2 weeks, has affected my heart for now.  The eye migraine I experienced recently was no fun.  BUT as we look back on where I was and where I am, we rejoice.  Only God.

 Our great adventure last October was so delightful, it still makes us smile and laugh right out loud.  Looking back on last year's steps of faith are fueling my beliefs today as I keep my focus on Jesus and my faith in what I cannot yet see.   For myself AND for others!  God is amazing.  He is, as my friend Linny says, a mountain- moving, awe-inspiring, miracle-making GOD!  Our adventure last year says it all.  Only God.  Only God!

"My child, pay attention to what I say
listen carefully to my words
don't lose sight of them..
let them penetrate deep into your heart
For they bring life to those who find them
and healing to their whole body. 
Guard your heart above all else
for it determines the course of your life"
Proverbs 4: 20-23

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Jury Duty


Joel and I both were called to be in the jury pool at the same time, so we have been calling in every Monday to see if our particular panel needed to report.  I was told to report to the court house today by 8:30am and was selected to move into the jury "box" for questioning by the prosecutor and the defendant's lawyer.  This was a domestic abuse criminal trial so questions leaned in that direction as twenty-one of us tried to answer openly and honestly what was presented to us.

Secretly I was hoping to not be chosen since I head back in tomorrow for the second laser surgery on my eye and I did not want to rearrange that appointment.  I need not have worried. 

Here is how the questioning went......."Does anyone know a family member or friend or have you yourself experienced domestic violence/assault?  I was one of two who raised their hands, having had two family members that I know of who have experienced domestic assault.

Another question was, "Have any of you ever had any positive or negative experiences with the police?"  Thinking only of our local police, I raised my hand, responding when asked to explain about a suspect the police were chasing who hid in the attic of our garage.  After the police left the area I spotted him leaving our garage.  Two days later he came back with his friends to intimidate me into not identifying him.  Needless to say, the police we involved.

Then this question came up......"Does anyone have a family member who is a police officer?"  Once again my hand went up!  Our son is a police officer.  I was further questioned on whether this would influence my verdict in this case.  I said no, but when we were asked if any "Joe off the street was a witness and contradicted what the police witness was saying, would I tend to believe the police.  I truthfully had to ponder that, since I have a deep respect for the police.  It led further into what would make a police officer a credible witness. 

Soon another question came to light...."Has anyone experienced violence personally?  I asked for clarification  Domestic assault only?  No, any kind of assault or violence.  My response was another question......" Well is it considered assault when someone threatens to kill your husband, the police have to come in your home to defend and protect you, and the threats continue for a long time....."  I was told that they would consider that an assault.  Okay, then.  I raised my hand.

Then came the question, "Have you ever seen anyone assaulted?  Good grief!  I raised my hand one more time.  Seriously I was getting embarrassed......I told how my son and I observed a man beating up his wife in a vehicle in front of our home which was also the church parking lot.  I then said, "Wow, your questions are bringing up all these memories!"   I then explained that my husband was a pastor and these kind of things just happened.  Didn't they?  (I did not even share all the times we have had to call the police)

Then, (I am not kidding) the lawyer for the defense asked, "Have any of you had to call the police to report violence? "  My response???   "And.......that would be me!"  The potential jurors laughed. 

The final thing that got me removed from duty was when they asked if we knew any of the people on the jury.  I did recognize a man who was in our former church.  I said as much, and the man leaned over to smile at me and said, "Yes, Renee's husband was our pastor for many years!"  Giggle....

So there was no surprise when I was dismissed. 

I told Joel the story and he laughed until tears came and he was still laughing 2 hours later.  This adventure got us talking about all the "interesting" encounters we have had in our ministry....with people threatening Joel's life.......seeing violence occur and trying to stop it........living with a threat on Joel's and our family's life for over six years.......the man hiding in our attic......Joel and sometimes myself being called to more than one crisis involving drugs, alcoholism, violence, murder, abuse, etc.  We began to wonder if all pastors and their families have experienced such events in their lives. 

And I began to ponder writing that book my sister Jan keeps telling me to write....I know how it would begin.......

A funny thing happened on the way to jury duty.....


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to you!    We woke today to gray skies and chilly temperatures, but earlier in the week the days were beautiful and I took several pictures of the view as we walked around our association out here on the edge of town.  This community originated from one farm house and surrounding fields, so there are still two areas where we can see combines moving through the fields and the harvest being brought in. 

A view of the man made pond and grounds of the
original farmstead
 
A view of the river road from the walking path
Just look at the jet lines in the sky....cool!
 
 
Isn't this a cute mailbox?
 
 
Beautiful!
 
Colorful bush on our property
 
Last Sunday after lunch we left for Dubuque Iowa.  Three hours later we arrived at the hotel and conference center where the pastors retreat was taking place.  Dubuque is located on the Mississippi River and among other things, one of the ELCA seminaries is located there.  The weather did not cooperate for anything outdoors....heavy rain prevailed, but we did take the designated Monday afternoon off and visit a downtown bookstore, eat out with friends, and get in a good nap!  There was a speaker who was brought in from Chicago's headquarters that was extremely difficult to listen to or understand.  All head and no heart.  I wrote about it on Thursday.  Our restoration time was found mostly in the worship.  It was based on the Psalms and soothed the soul......and the service on Monday night at Wartburg Seminary was amazing.  There is nothing like a church full of pastors singing.....I could not help but be still just to take it in.  We headed home again Tuesday afternoon, ready for our own beds.  We have stayed in three hotels in two weeks, and I think we are ready to stay home for awhile....

Wednesday afternoon we headed to church for their Fall Festival and Potato Feed.  The meal includes homemade pies too.  This little church had about triple their numbers attend.  I helped with the craft area and enjoyed that very much.
 
Thursday night I had a very scary incident which turned out to be an "eye" migraine.  It came on suddenly...the right corner of my vision was all neon blue and white lights which moved and vibrated.  I could not see Joel's face completely or read...words and parts of letters were invisible.  Needless to say, I freaked out by this.  We prayed first and then discussed going to ER.  When we were heading out, it stopped just as suddenly as it had started.  We talked to Holy Spirit and went to bed....I actually slept quite well but woke up pretty anxious.  I put in a call to the eye specialist and he called back at supper to tell me that it was an "eye migraine".  No harm, always benign.  Probably triggered by the laser surgery and others stressors.  He said, "If it happens again, just sit back and enjoy the light show.  It will be over in 20 minutes!"  Okay then.  I cannot say I am quite over the experience.  Darn scary.

Yesterday we went to purchase Halloween candy.  We need to get 7 bags of it to take care of all the kids that come through our neighborhood.  Good grief.  It is not my favorite holiday...ok, it does not even make the list, but I tolerate it.  We avoid TV the week of, and enjoy the little ones as they come to the door trick or treating. 

Today we are heading out in search of pumpkins for the steps of the porch.  Joel is finishing up some painting after repairing the back door trim and I am catching up on ironing.  Truth be told, I like ironing!  Crazy, huh?  There is something about getting rid of all those wrinkles....Joel knows how much I dislike wrinkles....and baggy knees on pants .....giggle....

Tonight we will have pancakes with blueberries, fresh strawberries, and coconut whipping cream...We were able to still get everbearing berries at the Farmer's Market.  Delightful to have fresh picked berries in mid October!

We are watching our usual live stream teachings and TV shows, although we are finding The Mysteries of Laura too crude for our liking.  We will give it another go, before we decide.  Reading has been off the radar this week except for blogs and devotions, etc. What has been going on in your world? 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Seeking Spiritual Whitespace

This past Sunday afternoon through Tuesday noon Joel and I attended the Northeast Iowa Synod pastors retreat in Dubuque Iowa.  It was the first time I went, so I was looking forward to the retreat and meeting some of Joel's colleagues.

My expectation was that we would be engaged in what Bonnie Gray calls "spiritual whitespace"  A time of rest and renewal....in ways that bring you peace and joy and healing. 

There was a speaker from Chicago's ELCA headquarters whose list of accomplishments and degrees took 5 minutes to read!  She lived and breathed academia, and for six hours over 2 days we took in her lectures.  I am not a theologian, but I was not the only one who found her fascination with research and presentation of Jesus as male and female a bit, actually more than a bit unsettling.   For me it was also frustrating and definitely not relaxing.  It was hard work for my brain to stay engaged.  I speak from my heart first and run it through my brain.  She spoke from her brain.

On day two I looked around and observed other rostered pastors, spouses, and staff.  Were any of them waiting for the point to be recognized, and how to apply this information to ourselves and our congregations?  Many had their iPads, tablets, and phones in hand.  Some were checking emails and Facebook (yep), others were taking notes.  I was making an effort to stay focused.

Don't get me wrong, there is a place for this kind of learning, although in all honesty, you could not pay me to sit through it again!  What kept running through my head was the question..."Is this a retreat or continuing education?"  In my opinion, there was nothing restoring or healing about those hours spent on hard chairs. 

In search of spiritual whitespace, I began to look forward to the worship times.  A man named Richard Bruxvoort Colligan led worship with Psalms set to music, using guitar, banjo, and drums.  It was beautiful, as we sang David's songs of lament and praise.  He would engage us in deep breathing, prayer for those on our left and right, and have us sit in silence until it became almost uncomfortable.  In these morning and evening moments, spiritual whitespace existed.  Moments to restore, rest, renew.  Moments to connect with Jesus in intimacy, One on one.   We also attended a service at Wartburg Seminary.  There is nothing like hearing a church filled with pastors singing.  Oh my the power in their voices!  Great food for the soul. 

Reflecting back on these days, I realized that no matter the circumstances, we have the opportunity to seek out and find spiritual whitespace, as we did within the beautiful music, the powerful church service at the Wartburg chapel, and even while swopping stories of our first years of ministry with friends over a meal.  Seek and ye will find.....  God waits patiently for us, in nature, in church, in our living rooms, even in hotel conference rooms.  He longs to give us nourishment for the soul.