Meandering and Puttering and Wandering

I love puttering around in our yard on these long summer evenings.   I have a talent for puttering and a gift for wandering and meandering.

(Puttering is just about the only thing I have the energy for right now as I wait and wait and wait for my stubborn body to respond to treatment.   I continue to be exhausted by the smallest tasks and most basic of activities. Hopefully it will not always be this way. Hopefully the infusions will work. Hopefully I won’t always feel 200 years old! But right now – well right now – puttering is where I find myself.)

Anyway – I love puttering around our yard and flowerbeds and garden.   I take great delight in puttering in our yard. I pull a weed here or there.   I appreciate all of our hard work.   I delight in the glorious array of flowers and plants and lush greenery that greet me when I walk outside our front door.

When we moved into our home almost 10 years ago our flowerbeds were absolutely – positively hideous. They were seriously dated and painfully neglected. They had incredibly ugly – overgrown bushes in them and just a few measly – sad flowers. I am very anti-bush in flowerbeds. They are called “flowerbeds” not “BUSH-beds” and therefore should be filled to overflowing with flowers. The exception being rosebushes. I will permit rosebushes to exist in my flowerbeds – otherwise all bushes are promptly and gleefully kicked to the curb. (If you like bushes in YOUR flowerbeds this is wonderful. I am very – very happy for you and your bushes. I delight in your delight in bushes. I happen to like flowers in my flowerbeds – lots and lots and lots of flowers.)

After a decade of growing – our flowerbeds are everything I hoped they would become when we planted them so many years ago. They overflow with flowers. (I wanted to purchase a new color of coneflower this spring – but Jason and I weren’t sure where we would put them without digging a whole new bed!)

My flowerbeds are a riot of color. They are downright obnoxiously colorful! They attract bees and birds and butterflies and our kitten and me too!

I enjoy our flowerbeds and yard at all times of the day – but evening and dusk are my favorite times of all.

One of the most intriguing things about wandering the yard at dusk is the way the colors of the flowers seem to change right before my eyes.   The yellow – purple – orange – and pink flowers grow more muted. But the white flowers – well the white flowers seem to glow as the sun sets.   White flowers at dusk look downright ethereal. (I love the word “ethereal” and don’t have nearly enough occasions in which to use it!)

I love listening and watching as the world around me shifts and changes and settles in for the night. The birds quiet down just as the insects really kick up their noisy evening chorus.

Fireflies delight and amuse me. So does Craig our kitten. Truly – his antics are hilarious. He likes fireflies too. Craig the Kitten and I make an easily entertained pair!

I asked the firefly to glow – but she declined!

I love listening to and observing Jack and Will. Sometimes they goof around in the yard with Craig and me.   Sometimes they play their own version of croquet or wrestle on the trampoline or do whatever it is that boys do outside on summer evenings. Will and Jack laugh a lot when they are together. It is such a blessing to hear their laughter or simply to hear their voices drifting through the evening air. In spite of their significant age difference Jack and Will enjoy each others’ company. Jason and I give thanks for this – because we know how fraught sibling relationships can be.

Jason spends a fair amount of time in the summer months weeding and watering and fertilizing our raised garden beds. He tends our pepper and tomato plants with great care. I am less garden and more flower – and he is the opposite. We compliment one another wonderfully!

These quiet moments in the yard are moments I treasure. I give thanks for the opportunity to listen to the wind – to listen to my family – to watch the fireflies flicker – to see the colors shift and change in the setting sun. To listen to crickets and mowers and birds. I find I am able to give thanks for both the little blessings and the bigger blessings in life.

Puttering in the yard is truly one of my favorite summer rituals.   I look forward to it all winter long and linger in the moment whenever I am able. I run my fingers over the flowers. I take the time to delight in both the perfect blossoms and the less than perfect blossoms. Both are intriguing in their own ways. I give thanks for this simple ritual. It is all my own. No one else wanders with me (except for the one who is always with me – of course).

What are the simple summer rituals that you delight in? What are the blessings of this season for you?   How are you tending your soul and caring for yourself?

 

 

An Orange Blur in our Garden!

Will’s favorite color in the whole wide world is orange. The littlest McFarland has loved the color orange with a deep and abiding passion since he was old enough to make his preferences known. His shoes are orange. Will’s winter coats and hats are orange. He prefers the orange Starburst candy and the orange Skittles too. His favorite clothing is orange. Will’s school backpack is orange. The quilt on Will’s bed is orange. Will’s favorite planet is Jupiter because it looks orange from Earth.   Will loves pumpkins because they are orange. Will truly cannot understand why Jack would ever get one of those white pumpkins from the pumpkin patch!

Red shoes (we couldn’t find orange) – orange coat – and an orange – red and yellow hat to tie the whole ensemble together!

Will’s eyes are hazel just like his dad’s – but when Will was little he absolutely insisted he had ORANGE eyes (sorta creepy – but he was insistent)!

Will always picks the orange crayon – the orange marker – the orange play dough and the orange water bottle.

When Jason and I see orange we immediately think of our youngest son. Orange is Will’s signature color.

Note the orange shirt . . .

Will also loves cats. Some people are dog people. Some people are cat people (Some people are just not pet people at all). William McFarland is a hardcore cat person.   Will is drawn to cats and they are drawn to him. Jason’s dad (Will’s beloved Papa) and Jason’s Uncle Tom are also cat people. Cats simply love both Bob and Tom. Cats adopt them. It seems Will has inherited this tendency.

Will has been asking for a cat for quite some time – but not just any cat. Nope – Will wanted an orange cat (of course). Will wanted a very orange cat. This summer Will found his very orange cat/kitten while he was visiting his Mimi and Papa.

After many – many painfully/annoyingly cute pictures of Will snuggling the adorable orange kitten – and pleas from our sister-in-law and brother-in-law to give the poor homeless kitty a loving home – Jason and I caved.   (The pictures really were adorable.   Will knows how to turn on the charm when he wants to . . . )

Meet Craig the Kitten. Craig is adorable and hilarious and inquisitive and so – so – so very busy and mischievous.

Craig is great company when I am working in the flower beds and in the garden. He stalks ants and fireflies. He plays ball which I didn’t know cats did. He crashes through the hostas and the tomato plants. Last evening he even explored Jason’s ghost pepper plants which I promptly warned him about. Ghost peppers are so HOT = so – so – so HOT I warned him. I hope he listens – but ripe ghost peppers are orange and deceptively pretty . . .

Craig is particularly fond of my miniature sunflowers. And I have to agree with Craig – those miniature sunflowers are adorable and ever so slightly enchanting!

Will does not have orange eyes – but his kitten most certainly does!

I am not really a cat person. But I am definitely a Craig the kitten person! After all – he talks almost as much as I do and he loves to hang out in the garden and yard.

Craig and I are working on the whole kitten/cat and yarn thing though , , ,

We are enjoying Will’s kitten. He is very cute indeed!

 

 

Worship for Sunday, July 18, 2021

Jeremiah 23:1-6

1Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.

5The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.
2The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.
3You restore my soul, O Lord,
and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.
4Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Amen.

Ephesians 2:11-22

11Remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands—12remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

30The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

53When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

The Word of the Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

How often are you just plain tired? Or simply worn out?   Perhaps you sometimes feel downright exhausted by all life keeps sending your way?

There are times when the demands of life can start to feel pretty relentless – even overwhelming – can’t they?

Are any of you gathered here this morning feeling a bit sleepy?

When we lived in northwestern Minnesota – it was easy to tell who my dairy farmers were. As soon as the Lutheran calisthenics of up and down and up and down for the hymns and the confession and the prayer of the day stopped and we settled in for the sermon – they would ALL begin to fall asleep almost immediately.

These farmers were in church because they wanted to be there. They loved Jesus and served our Lord faithfully. Some of them cleaned the church from top to bottom every week.   They served on church council and committees and came to Bible study. But they just could not stay awake for a sermon to save their souls.   They fell asleep week after week – in spite of terrifying looks from their moms and jabs to the ribs from their loving wives.

Wow – being born is EXHAUSTING!

One afternoon – John came to me and said – “Pastor – I just wanted you to know – it isn’t you. Please don’t take it personally. It’s the cows. I fall asleep whenever I sit down in the winter long enough to thaw out.”

And it was true. I watched John and the other dairy farmers. They ALL fell asleep if they sat still someplace warm in the winter long enough to thaw out. It was like thawing out was their emergency shut-off switch.

You may not be farmers coping with the trials of working in freezing cold barns in northern Minnesota in January – but your lives are busy too.

I am sure I am not alone in finding myself short on sleep every once in a while. In fact – I read this week – many Americans are sleep deprived. At least 36% of American adults just don’t get enough sleep. And this can hurt our health and cause serious accidents!

Our kids are sleep deprived too. Over 70% of teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep. An estimated 20% of high school students fall asleep in class on a regular basis because they are exhausted. Not because they are bored!

We aren’t just sleepy – we are working too much too. Americans don’t take vacations and breaks from work. Over the past 50 years – American workers have been taking less and less vacation. In the 1970’s about 80% of US workers took a week long vacation – now that’s fallen to only 50% of us.

Firemen work hard!

We seem to think we have too much to do to take a break. We think our worth as human beings is defined by how busy we are and how much we do.

We “busy-brag” all of the time. We compare to do lists making it very clear the person with the biggest – craziest list wins!

But I wonder? Is this really the best way to live our lives? Is this what our Lord would recommend for us?

In our Gospel reading for this week we learn Jesus and his disciples have been incredibly busy. Everywhere they go huge crowds of desperate people are flocking to them – begging for help. And Jesus helped them. Jesus healed the sick – cast out demons and fed the hungry. All while sharing the Good News of God’s grace – love and mercy.

I cannot imagine how demanding their lives were.   The disciples must have been exhausted.   But rather than scolding them for being tired and telling them to buck-up and get back to work – Jesus suggests they take a break to rest so they can be renewed.

Even Jesus and his disciples needed a break.   Even these faithful saints needed some quiet time away. Their need for rest doesn’t mean they don’t love God or they aren’t really and truly dedicated. Their need for rest isn’t selfish. Rather it was absolutely necessary. They rested so they could be renewed for their work in the world.

Exhausted by the hike . . .

The same is true you. It is not wrong or sinful that you get tired and need to rest.   It is simply a part of being human.

Jesus and the disciples took time to rest and be renewed because they knew God had important work for them to do. Yes – they took a break – but they did not remain apart from the world forever. They didn’t take a permanent vacation from their call to serve. Instead Jesus leads the disciples back into the world after their time of rest and they return to their ministry in earnest – healing – preaching – and teaching.

Each Sunday we gather together to worship – to hear God’s Word – to spend time with our brothers and sisters in Christ – and to gain strength for what is to come. Because we too are called to serve our Lord and his people.

As Christians we are called to go out into the world so others might know the Good News of God’s love.

Lunch was hard work!

But God does not expect us never to get tired or never to need a break. God wants you care for yourself too. And to do this we need to rest.

God wants you to rest and be renewed so you have the energy to go out into the world to share the Good News of God’s love.   Everyone should know what we have the privilege of knowing. Because we know we are the beloved – forgiven – redeemed children of God.

Jesus Christ has given each of you the awesome gifts of forgiveness – everlasting life – and REST. We can all go forth into the world to serve knowing our Lord understands our need to rest and to renew ourselves too.

Christians who work 24 hours a day – 365 days a year are not better Christians – they are tired Christians who need to rest. God wants you to serve him faithfully and to rest and relax too. Truly this is Good News – AMEN.

 

Worship for Sunday, July 11, 2021

Amos 7:7-15

7This is what [the Lord God] showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.”

Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; 9the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

10Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’ ”

12And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

14Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ ”

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 85:8-13

8I will listen to what the Lord God is saying;
for you speak peace to your faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to you.
9Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you,
that your glory may dwell in our land. 
10Steadfast love and faithfulness have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11Faithfulness shall spring up from the earth,
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12The Lord will indeed grant prosperity,
and our land will yield its increase.
13Righteousness shall go before the Lord
and shall prepare for God a pathway.  Amen.

Ephesians 1:3-14

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 6:14-29

14King Herod heard of [the disciples’ preaching,] for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

17For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.”

25Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For me – one of the highlights of being a pastor is the opportunity to chat with and to get to know the Lutherans in my life. I love these conversations. These conversations add to the richness of life. They are blessings for which I give thanks again and again.

The best chats often happen with young Lutherans. The youngest Lutherans are truly our wisest sages.   These Lutherans keep me sharp.   (Okay – they keep me a bit sharper than I would otherwise be.) I learn all sorts of interesting and brilliant things from them. They keep me thinking.

Years ago I had a deeply profound conversation at a funeral with an 8-year-old prophet.

I noticed Stephanie standing in the middle of the fellowship hall with a frown on her face. She was clearly taking it all in. I could tell she was “thinking big thinks” as my William sometimes says.

We had just finished giving God thanks for her great-grandma’s life. And they had been close.   The 2 of them had spent a lot of time together. I wondered what was on her mind and in her heart so I decided to stop by for a chat.

“Well . . .” she said – “I was just wondering why everyone is so sad?”

To which I rather stupidly replied – “We are sad – because your grandma died and we miss her.” I know my answer was stupid because she looked at me like I was a great big idiot. (You have all seen the “idiot-look . . .” Well – that’s how Stephanie looked at me!)

“Hmmm . . .” came her reply – “Don’t they really believe what you told them about Grandma being in heaven with Jesus?   ‘Cause if she really is in heaven with Jesus they should ALL be happy for her. I believe in heaven and Jesus!”

Out of the mouths of babes . . . Stephanie was blunt and to the point.   And she spoke the truth. She spoke of the faith we all profess.

Again and again children come to me and delight and amaze me with their insights on faith and theology and what it means to be Christians in this world.

No obfuscation or dancing around the point with these guys. They tell it like they see it.

At my last church we were debating during a church council meeting about how we should respond to an increased need for food at the local food pantry.

Bobby (who was just 11 or 12 at the time) was hanging out at church with his friend and mentor. And Bobby was listening to our debate and conversation.

Eventually Bobby had enough of all of us – because he cleared his throat and then looked at all of us like we were space aliens and declared – “People are hungry – Jesus said to feed ’em!”

We didn’t tell Bobby he was out of order or he wasn’t on church council or he was just a kid. We listened to the wise prophet in our midst and we voted to “feed ’em!”

Bobby was blunt. Bobby made us profoundly uncomfortable. He made us squirm – big time!

Both Stephanie and Bobby remind me of the Prophet Amos. Because we learn in our first reading for today that Amos is boldly speaking God’s message to the people of Israel and it is making people very uncomfortable.

Amos is making people uncomfortable – because he has been pointing out their sins.

Can’t you just hear Amos’ mom now – “Oh Amos – you know better than to talk like that. You may disagree with the king. You may even criticize the king’s policies at home – but you cannot just go tell everyone what you think about him.”

“Your words – Amos – are making people uncomfortable.”

Amos’ words are making him very unpopular with lots of people.

Even the priest of Bethel scolds Amos. In fact – he tells Amos to get lost – to take his uncomfortable words and just go away. Far – far – FAR away.

But Amos won’t go. And Amos won’t stop sharing his uncomfortable message.  Because Amos is sharing a message from God.  A message they need to hear.  A message we need to hear too.

God wants the people of Israel to know they have gotten lost – they have strayed from what God wants for their lives.

Yes – some of them are very prosperous and wealthy and comfortable and content. But not all of them. They have neighbors who are suffering and going hungry while they turn a blind eye to their misery. They have neighbors who are struggling just to survive.

It must have been so hard to hear Amos’ message.   These people were happy and content.   They liked their lives just as they were. They didn’t want to change anything.

In fact – lots of folks thought Amos was a great – big trouble maker.

Because Amos challenged them to look beyond themselves and their own wants and desires. Amos challenged them to see the humanity of the person down the street who was struggling.

Amos tells us we are called by our God to look beyond ourselves – to reach out and help others. We have been called to feed the hungry. To bring comfort to the hurting and the sick. To lift up the oppressed. To welcome strangers and work for peace in God’s world.

We are called to look beyond our own wants and desires. We are called to remember the forgotten and to stand up for the rejected.

We are all called to make real sacrifices for the greater good. Even if this makes us uncomfortable!

And – you can.

When you donate food to the Fern Creek-Highview United Ministries – you are answering God’s call to feed the hungry.

When you help cook meals, donate supplies, or visit with the families at the Ronald McDonald House you are reaching out to the sick. You are helping them heal.

When you make offerings to Lutheran World Relief – you are helping to bring comfort to the hurting and the oppressed.

When you give blood – you are answering God’s call to help the injured.

When you donate school supplies to a child in need – you are answering God’s call to help others and to share your blessings.

Use your imagination and make a difference in God’s world.   You have been called. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

(PS – Sorry about all of the pictures of Will.  He has been my perpetual sidekick during the pandemic!)

Acceptance

I have been so very tired for months now. As in really – really exhausted. As in scary tired. As in what is going wrong – tired?!? As in feeling decades older than my chronological age – tired. As in walking around in a fog of fatigue – tired.

The fatigue feels like a weight. It slows down my body and my mind. I feel like I have lost brainpower and IQ points.

There are days when our evening walk feels like a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. (Our neighborhood is flat – very flat – boring flat – flatter than flat!)

Jason and Jack climbed Mount LeConte on our vacation last month.   They never even considered asking me to join them on their adventure – because they knew that I wouldn’t be able to handle the climb. Being left at home hurt my heart and my ego. I did not want to stay home. I wanted to climb the stinking mountain. But we ALL knew I couldn’t!

There are days when I can’t recall simple words. I haven’t had the brain power to read really nerdy books in months now. (Sure – I read for hours almost every single day – but not the super nerdy stuff I used to read.) I don’t retain information like I used to either and I certainly can’t recall information like I once did.

There are evenings when I get so tired that I stumble over my words.   This is exhaustion at a whole new level for me.

At first I was told the changes and demands of living through a global pandemic were taking a toll on everyone.   Nope – I didn’t think so. Then it was the fact that I have an autoimmune disease. Nope – these symptoms don’t match. Then – finally – a doctor actually LISTENED to ME (quite the shocking development for me – anyway!)

Then began a whole new series of tests. Tests – tests – and more tests. Doctors’ visits and a new-to-me specialist.

And then finally some answers . . .

This specialist declared last Thursday that he is my new lifelong friend. “We will be buddies.   We will get to know each other.   You will see me for the rest of your very long life.” – he declared.

I grumpily thought – “I have enough friends – thank you very much . . . ” But then – then – he said – “I can help you feel better. I can help you feel like YOU again.”

So then I thought – “Hi – new life-long friend!   Welcome to my world!”

It turns out that I have a rare disease . . . a second autoimmune disease (stupid body that turns against you and destroys important cells . . .).   I am absorbing this information.   I am mulling it around. I am learning to live with this knowledge.   Acceptance . . . I will get there eventually.

There isn’t a cure. BUT there is a treatment that helps a lot. I shouldn’t always be this tired. I will have more pep in my step and less fog in my brain in the months to come.

But for now I wait . . .

How are you at patience and waiting? How are you at acceptance of limitations? (I stink at all three!)

This weekend was a time of reflection for me. I did some serious thinking and praying too. . .

I am still so ridiculously tired. I cannot do what I long to do. So there weren’t any day long hikes at Perryville or Shaker Village. I can’t go over hill and over dale these days and honestly this frustrates me. There weren’t even any longer hikes at Broad Run Park. My body simply cannot handle hikes like this right now. I would find them not only tiring – but exhausting.

(Much to my dismay I have learned there really is a limit on what I can WILL my body to do. I find this incredibly disappointing and frustrating . . . Stubborn is my middle name – just ask the McFarland men!)

The hills and the mountains are calling – but they will have to wait.   I will have to wait.   Wait until my treatments are further along and my body has had time to recover.

But the weather was perfectly perfect for being outside. I love Kentucky in July.

So – Jason and I went for rambles around Broad Run Park right here in Fern Creek. We tried out paths and trails we had never walked before. We tried out paths and trails – we had ignored previously because they looked too flat and boring. We tried out trails – we had bypassed because they didn’t present any challenge before.

We explored. We explored with open hearts and open eyes and open minds.

I decided to delight in what was right in front of me. To appreciate what I can do – rather than dwelling on what I cannot do. To see the beauty in the moment. To accept that the hills will need to wait for now. But there is beauty all around me – if I look and listen and watch and wait.

We were blessed. Again and again and again we were blessed. We were deeply and abundantly blessed!

Would I rather be climbing mountains? Honestly – yes.

Would I rather be heading over hill and over dale?   Frankly – I would.

These are the places I tend to see and seek God’s presence most easily.

But I am learning to see God in new places too – in places I wasn’t expecting to encounter him – in places I was perhaps a bit too snobby to go before (those flat trails for instance . . .)

We all make assumptions. We all make assumptions – even about our God.

Have you ever looked for God in a place where you might not be expecting to see him? In someone you might not expect?

I encourage you to try looking for God’s presence in someplace unexpected today . . .

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

God Got My Attention!

God got my attention this weekend. Seriously – God GOT my ATTENTION! God got my attention in an “Okay God – I’m listening” – kind of way which honestly doesn’t happen all of the time at my house. Sure – I am a card carrying clergy person – but I am also a regular human being. I live in the real world just like everyone else. I get busy and distracted and lose my focus too. But God put an end to that over the weekend – because this weekend – God got my attention!

Jason and I were out for a walk at Broad Run. Nothing surprising about the elder McFarlands being out for a walk in the woods – but what kept happening was surprising. Really surprising.

First of all – Broad Run Park is nifty. It is downright pretty in places. We enjoy the time we spend there. But Broad Run is right here in Louisville. Broad Run is on the edge of a major metro area (for Kentucky anyway).   It is highly accessible to lots and lots of people and most of the trails are actually paved! This means Broad Run is a busy – bustling place almost all of the time. The only times we have been at Broad Run when it wasn’t busy were in January and February. Even then there were some cyclists buzzing around in their sassy riding shorts declaring “on your left” as they whizzed by looking all aerodynamic and zippy-bippy.

This busyness means Broad Run is a place to look at beautiful trees.   There are great wildflowers at Broad Run. We see pretty yellow finches – red-winged black birds – and stunningly beautiful indigo buntings. I can spot a great sky filled with clouds that intrigue and delight me almost anywhere.

But the truly impressive nature sightings tend to happen elsewhere – on other hikes – when we are further from the city.

Not so this weekend. Not so on this particular walk around Broad Run. From the moment we started our walk until the moment we headed home – we encountered beauty and God’s creatures that literally stopped us in our tracks again and again. We were dazzled and awestruck and delighted and amazed!

Right off we spotted two gorgeous yellow finches dining on lavender thistles in a field as we walked by. Then we saw a pair of red-winged black birds followed quickly by a bright blue indigo bunting.

Then – then right on the path basking in the sun was a baby black rat snake. She was all stretched out – completely relaxed and totally at peace with her world and our world too for that matter! We just stood over her and admired her beauty for quite some time. Seriously – she was completely stretched out on the trail sunbathing and she didn’t want to move. I informed her – she needed to pick a safer place to sunbathe. The cyclists who use the path were going to think she was a stick and ride right over her. So – we ushered her into the grass. She didn’t appreciate this at all and shook her tail at us pretending to be a scary venomous snake – but we had seen her head and knew she was just putting a show!

Oh how I wish I had brought my camera with me on this hike – but alas – no camera . . .

Then it was a fluttering butterfly – followed by another shockingly blue indigo bunting. Then as we came out of the woods Jason spotted a deer running through a field.

Look at this stunning spicebush swallowtail butterfly!

I watched a Monarch butterfly flutter around a field of wildflowers for quite some time – delighting in its beauty and delicate elegance.

We decided to follow a trail that meanders along the Floyds Fork River for a bit and we were delighted and amazed by what we saw along the river.   We spotted a heron standing majestically along the shore hunting for its brunch.

We happened upon a huge soft-shelled turtle. I am talking HUGE! It was the size of a hubcap. And NO, it was NOT a hubcap! It had a head and the head moved!!!

The soft shelled turtle we met at Broad Run last summer was a tiny little guy.

Just a bit further along the trail we spied 6 turtles basking in the summer sunshine on a fallen log along the river. They looked like they were incredibly content.

But the best – the coolest – the niftiest moment of our day was when we heard two walkers about 30 feet in front of us gasp and exclaim as they appeared to clutch one another and then jump back about 40 feet!!! This of course got our attention. And wow and I glad they did because right in the middle of the trail was a great big snake! It was a grown-up – 4-foot long black rat snake casually making its way to the river for a spot of fishing.

I have lived with Jason long enough now (and I have been listening to him) so even I knew the snake wasn’t venomous. So I did the craziest thing – I ran towards the snake! Yes – I ran towards a BIG snake!!!

The snake wasn’t in a hurry and we were able to get a really good look at it. It was beautiful in a kinda – sorta strange snake-y way. I am not a “snake person” – but I am a “nature person” big time.   And I am frankly intrigued by God’s creatures and by God’s creation (even snakes).

After our BIG SNAKE sighting – Jason turned to me and said – “Perhaps – we should consider the fact that God might be trying to get our attention this morning . . .”

Our snake this weekend was about a million-zillion times bigger than this little cutie pie!

“Yeah – Jas – I think so!?!” came my slightly stunned – awestruck reply. “I don’t think God is even being subtle this morning. AND I REALLY don’t want to see a copperhead or a rattlesnake next!”

Jason replied – “God would probably just go for an impressive thunderstorm – but you never know!”

Sometimes (okay probably almost all of the time) we get so busy living our lives we don’t even hear or see God’s presence in our lives. And when we pray we tend to spend most of that time telling God what we want God to do (when we bother to talk to God at all).   We all tend to think we would be rather good at the whole “God gig” if he would just give us the chance!

We forget to listen. We forget to take those moments in our lives to seek God’s guidance for our lives. I know that I do.

We forget to live the words of Psalm 46:

“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

I am spending some time this week trying to listen (wow is that challenging . . .). I am spending some time seeking and exploring and being as still as I can be (which means going for walks – I think my brain would melt out my ears if I just had to “to still” for very long!)

I am trying to be a bit more like brave – faithful young Samuel who declared – ” Speak,  Lord, for your servant is listening” when God spoke to him in the night (1 Samuel 3:10).

God always with us. And God is always making his presence in our lives and in our world known – but far too often we just aren’t listening or seeking or looking for him.

Listening for God – seeking God – following God – isn’t easy. It makes us vulnerable – because we might need to admit we aren’t actually in charge (we are so totally NOT in charge). It challenges us to be different than the rest of the world around us. We might sound weird (okay that isn’t new for me!). But who knows what adventures God might be inviting us on – if we are listening?

Have you listened lately? Have you let yourself seek? Have you been vulnerable enough to explore?

What is God up to in your life?

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

 

Worship for Sunday, July 4, 2021

Ezekiel 2:1-5

[A voice] said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you.  And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me.  He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day.  The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.”  Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 123

To you I lift up my eyes,
to you enthroned in the heavens.
As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
  so our eyes look to you, O LORD our God, until you show us your mercy.
Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,
for we have had more than enough of contempt,
too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,
  and of the derision of the proud.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 6:1-13

[Jesus] came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching.

Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For months now we have watched and listened and learned along with the disciples. We were there when Jesus first called his disciples.

We were there when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. And God the Father claimed Jesus as his own beloved son. We watched as the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.

We stood awestruck with the disciples as Jesus cast out demons and healed the sick. We sat terrified in a boat in the middle of a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee. And we were there when Jesus calmed that same raging storm with just 3 simple words. Then last week we were amazed as Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.

Along the way we have heard about God’s will for our lives, and we have learned so much about God’s love – grace – and mercy.

We have watched the disciples grow in faith and understanding. The disciples are different men now. They have been changed by their time with Jesus.

These past months have prepared the disciples for what is coming next. Big changes are coming for the disciples. Jesus is sending them out into the world. Because they too are called to share the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy with the world.

At long last – they are ready to be fishers of men.

Before Jesus sends the disciples out into the world – he gives them important advice. Jesus also gives them authority over unclean spirits. Then finally – when it is time for them to set out – Jesus sends them out in pairs.

But why does Jesus send the disciples out in pairs? Certainly it would make more sense to send each disciple out into the world on his own?

After all – Jesus – himself – said – “the harvest is plentiful – but the laborers are few.” Going solo – the disciples could have covered twice the territory in the same amount of time. It seems like Jesus is wasting precious resources and squandering manpower.

Well – Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He knew living as a follower of God in this world can be incredibly challenging. Jesus knew we would need each other for support. And we are better off – if we have a traveling companion or 122 in this life.

What Jesus did with his disciples reminds me of the Buddy System my Girl Scout Troop always used whenever we ventured forth into the great wide world. Wherever we went and whatever we did – we had a buddy – from the days we were 6-year-old Brownies until we were worldly fifteen-year-old cadettes.

Again and again my buddy was an incredible blessing.

I had a buddy with me when my suitcase fell out of the tent into a mud puddle on the very first day of sleepover camp. She couldn’t make my ENTIRE supply of clothing less wet and muddy – but she was there with me which somehow made it bearable.

It was my buddy who explained that “bug” juice wasn’t actually made from bugs – but was really just plain – old grape kool-ade. (Boy – was I relieved!)

I had a buddy with me the day I summated a real Swiss Alp. Yes – it was a small-ish Swiss Alp – but it was a mountain in Switzerland and we hiked it together.

Sometimes my buddy held my hand. Sometimes my buddy celebrated with me and sometimes she made me braver than I would have been on my own. I quickly learned if we have a buddy – we have support which is something we all need in this life!

I know our all-American pioneer heritage celebrates independence and going it alone in this life – but I just don’t think this is what our God wants for our lives.

Just look at Jesus’ earthly life. As soon as Jesus began his ministry – he called disciples. Jesus surrounded himself with friends and traveling companions. They were an essential part of his support system and they made his life richer and more blessed.

So if – our Lord and Savior – needed traveling companions and a support system – how much more do we need them?

We need each other. Yes – first and foremost we need our God – but we also need that human hand to hold. And loving companionship is one of our church’s greatest blessings to us.

Think about what it means to have brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are part of a family that makes our lives better – richer and more blessed. As brothers and sisters in Christ we share life together. We care for one another. We celebrate – mourn – worship – and work together. And we support and love one another.

When one of us grieves – we share that grief. No one mourns alone in a Christian community – because together we share this heavy burden.

When one of our members celebrates – we celebrate and rejoice together too. The birth of a new baby is made even more blessed by the joy of our brothers and sisters in Christ. A confirmation or graduation or new job is more joyful – because we can all rejoice. When we celebrate God’s blessings together – life is richer for all of us.

Our worship is more worshipful – when we worship our God together. When we worship together it delights God, and it blesses us.

When we work together – we can reach and bless so many more lives than we could on our own. When we work together we are stronger and more powerful and certainly more talented than we are by ourselves. And we have a whole lot more fun.

I cannot image life without my church family. I would not want to know a world without brothers and sisters in Christ. Life is so much richer – so much more blessed – so much more wonderful than it would be on my own.

Jesus wants us to know we are stronger together. We are better together than we are by ourselves. Yes – we may disagree sometimes – that happens in all families. Yes – we may have our struggles and our problems – but without each other we would all be less. Less blessed – less strong – less joyful – less in almost all ways that I can think of.

I thank God for you – I thank God for this church – and I thank God for traveling companions.

This week let us take the time to thank our Lord for the blessing of Christian community. And let us remember when we love – care – support – worship – work and live together we are being who God made us to be. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

A Toad in the Road and other Adventures!

Everyone (I hope) has those things they delight in doing.   Those activities that make them feel more alive – more appreciative – more thankful – more aware.

Walking and hiking and being in nature – surrounded by God’s great and glorious creation is one of those activities for me. I don’t just like or enjoy hiking in nature I absolutely – positively LOVE it.

My soul actually needs green and nature and sunshine and blue skies the way my body needs food and coffee (I mean water) to survive.   Hiking and walking outside feed my soul. They are essential to my life – happiness – and well-being.

When we left for Tennessee this summer – I declared – “I want to walk the Cades Cove Loop. My knees can handle it . . .”

For quite some time there – I wasn’t so sure I was going to be able to do this hike this year. I have struggled all year with joint pain (especially in my knees and shoulders) – nasty muscle spasms and chronic inflammation thanks to a particularly stubborn autoimmune disease flare-up. These wretched symptoms have made hills my nemesis – but the Cades Cove Loop is paved and not so very hilly.

I have these growing in my flower beds at home and they grow wild in Cades Cove.

Plus I had handled some hills at both Broadrun Park and Joe Creason Park. But then on Saturday came a setback. I slipped and fell. I fell really – really hard onto a wooden floor thanks to a very badly cleaned up spill in a restaurant. I fell so hard I heard everyone in the area gasp. I fell so hard the manager was afraid that we might sue . . . I fell so hard complete strangers asked if I needed medical assistance . . . (What I hope is both a first and a last for me!)

It was humiliating and it hurt. And I knew there would be consequences (my left knee – it is always my left knee!) But I was able to walk/limp away – which honestly felt like a victory.

Thankfully by Wednesday (the day the Cades Cove Loop is closed to all vehicle traffic) I was not only up and walking – I was up for a biggish hike!

This year Jason – Elizabeth – Linda – and I walked the Cades Cove Loop. Bob is still recovering from major back surgery so he and Will opted to stay home and keep the pets company.

Jack and Bella road their bikes (speed demons . . .) – but we oldsters hiked.

It was amazing. We were blessed with a truly perfectly perfect day for our hike through Cades Cove.

The sun was shining!

So beautiful. So peaceful. So lush and green and gorgeous.   So dazzling and lovely and everything I love about nature and hiking!

There were wild flowers galore.

We spotted a soaring eagle carrying breakfast in its talons. We met a turkey. And he stood very still while I took his picture and let me chatter away at him!

There were blooming rhododendron trees.

We lingered by mountain streams and watched the minnows and fish swimming in the crystal clear water.

We listened to the wind blowing through the trees and the meadows.

I watched the clouds. Oh how I love to watch clouds and gaze at the sky.

I looked a moss and ferns and tree bark.

We met a teeny – tiny orange toad in the middle of the road!

I chatted and chattered and Jason listened – because the love of my life is the best listener in the world (he would have to be to be married to me!)

We reminisced about previous trips to “The Cove.”

We gave thanks for God’s creation and for the opportunity to delight in God’s abundant blessings to us.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021 was truly one of the best days of my life.   It wasn’t fancy. We didn’t spend a lot of money or buy more than an iced tea for me and an ice cream cone for Jack. I watched clouds and talked to my husband and walked 10 miles in the mountains.   I will remember and give thanks for this day for a very long time . . .

What makes for a “good and blessed day” in your life?   What memories do you savor? What memories do you delight in and give thanks for?

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

It Has Been 29 Years . . .

I was just 17 years old the first time I went to the Smokey Mountains National Park with the McFarlands. (That was 29 years ago this summer.) Jason and I have our very own 17 year old these days. (That happened so quickly!) And now I have been an official card carrying McFarland for 24 years myself. (That happened rather quickly too!)

It was love at first sight. I was enchanted and dazzled and downright smitten. I was in love with both the McFarland family and the mountains and I still am!

That first trip to Tennessee we climbed Chimney Tops and Laurel Falls. We summited Le Conte. We drove the Cades Cove loop (more than once) and we went to Clingmans Dome. We played mini-golf at Hill Billy Golf (which is sadly no more) and hung out in the Village. We ate at the Apple Barn which way back then was actually out in the country! It was truly a “greatest hits” sort of trip.

In Cades Cove long before my hair turned white . . . but Jason’s very trendy jeans were bleached almost white – very 1992!

I spent the whole trip thinking – “These people are so cool!” “I love their family vacations. This is what I will do when I am the boss of my life. . .”

(It is so kind and generous that they just kept right on inviting me!)

Linda (Jason’s mom) has been going to the Smokey Mountains National Park since she was in kindergarten. She and Bob have been taking Jason and Elizabeth their entire lives. Now Jason and I have been taking Jack and William to Tennessee their entire lives and Elizabeth (Jason’s sister) and John (our seriously awesome brother-in-law) take Nic and Bella (our nephew and niece).

My people . . . my crazy – awesome – beloved – treasured people!

The Smokey Mountains National Park is our special place. The McFarland clan gathers there to be together. We laugh A LOT. We chat and chatter. We tell terrible – seriously goofy jokes. (John tells them.  Then Will attempts to retell them – badly. . .)  We watch the sun rise and the sun set. We hike and we walk. We reminisce and share plans for the future. We amble and some of us (okay – just Jason and me) read and read and read some more. We play in rivers and streams. We admire nature and settle into a slightly slower pace of life.

We open our eyes and our hearts to God’s presence in our lives. We give thanks for the blessing of God’s glorious creation and the blessing of family. We savor life. We make memories. We delight and celebrate. (This year we even curled each others’ hair . . . Covid-19 quarantining left some of us with more hair than others!)

This is perhaps my favorite view of the world. Blue sky spotted through tree branches. It never – ever fails to intrigue and delight me!

What are your treasured family traditions? What do you delight in doing?

What draws you closer to your loved ones and to your Lord?

Are they the same things? Is there overlap?

Now that our lives are starting to resume much more normal patterns can you plan to do something with your loved ones that you ALL love doing?

Don’t get so busy returning to the new “normal” that you forget to see God’s blessings to you. Don’t get so busy you miss the joy and the good stuff!

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

Worship for Sunday, June 27, 2021

Lamentations 3:22-33

22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
23they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

25The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
26It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27It is good for one to bear
the yoke in youth,
28to sit alone in silence
when the Lord has imposed it,
29to put one’s mouth to the dust
(there may yet be hope),
30to give one’s cheek to the smiter,
and be filled with insults.

31For the Lord will not
reject forever.
32Although he causes grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve anyone.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 30

1I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have lifted me up
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.
2O Lord my God, I cried out to you,
and you restored me to health.
3You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead;
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.
4Sing praise to the Lord, all you faithful;
give thanks in holy remembrance. 
5God’s wrath is short; God’s favor lasts a lifetime.
Weeping spends the night, but joy comes in the morning.
6While I felt secure, I said,
“I shall never be disturbed.
7You, Lord, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”
Then you hid your face, and I was filled with fear.
8I cried to you, O Lord;
I pleaded with my Lord, saying,
9“What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
10Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me;
O Lord, be my helper.”
11You have turned my wailing into dancing;
you have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
12Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.  Amen.

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

7Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

8I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something—11now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 5:21-43

21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.  25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32He looked all around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Love . . . love is such an incredibly strange emotion – isn’t it?

Yes – love is one of life’s greatest blessings. Love brings us massive amounts of joy and happiness.   Love can give our lives purpose and meaning. Love is a delight and a joy!

Sometimes love leads us to take great big risks.

Love makes us incredibly vulnerable. And we all know love can break our hearts too.

And love . . . well – sometimes love makes us downright nuts.   Seriously – as nutty as a pecan tree in September! (You harvest pecans in September. I looked it up!)

I think this is especially true of the love we feel for the little ones in our lives – whether they be our children – grandchildren – nieces and nephews – younger siblings – or our sisters and brothers in Christ. We want to protect the little ones in our lives – because we love them so very much. And we will go to great lengths to do just this.

Several years ago while our family was on vacation in the Smokey Mountains – I was reminded of just how far I will go to protect the children I love.

On this particular morning – Jason’s mom made bacon for breakfast.   Bacon smells so yummy.   Apparently – black bears think so too.

I know this for a fact because on this bacon-y morning I looked up from pouring myself a cup of coffee and saw a HUGE black bear standing at our front door. Our front door was designed to showcase the mountain views. It was not designed to keep out hungry bears. Our front door was all glass – with an easy to open French door handle. And I knew the door was unlocked.

The HUGE black bear made it abundantly clear – he was planning to join us for breakfast. He was working on the handle like a pro. He totally knew what he was doing.

My mind began racing. “The children. The children must be protected from the HUGE bear!” So what did I do . . .? Well I did what any loving – devoted – deeply committed mom would do in that situation. I looked Jason square in the eye and I boldly declared “That bear is trying to get into the house and the door is unlocked!!!!!!!”

And then I jumped right behind Jason and let Jason lock the door!

(I used to tell Jack and Will I would throw myself in front of a bus to save them. But now we ALL know the truth. I would throw Jason in front of a bear to save them!)

These were the 4 precious people Jason saved that morning!

When you love someone – you want to keep them safe. And you will go to great lengths to protect them.

Our Gospel reading for today told us about a man named Jairus.   He was a ruler of the local synagogue.   He was highly respected. And he was a man of power and influence.

But what really mattered was Jairus was a dad. And his beloved daughter was really sick. With each passing day she grew sicker and sicker.

Then one day – he started to hear rumors about Jesus. This Jesus was doing amazing miracles in God’s name.   Jesus was healing the sick and casting out demons.

Then Jairus heard the best news of all – Jesus was coming to his town.

So Jairus was waiting for Jesus when his boat came ashore. The very moment – Jesus stepped out of the boat – Jairus fell at Jesus’ feet. Jairus lay there – begging for help for his daughter. Jairus did not care what it looked like or what people thought of him.   His love was greater than his pride.   His only thoughts were of getting help for his child.

Jairus cries out to Jesus – “My daughter is dying. Come and lay your hands on her – so that she may be made well, and live.”

Then Jairus took Jesus by the arm and led him as quickly as he could toward his home.

But there was a huge crowd of people. The people followed Jesus so closely – it was human gridlock.

Caught in the middle of that huge crowd Jairus must have felt such despair. He knew the longer they were delayed the more likely it was his daughter would die before he and Jesus could get to her.

And that delay did prove to be horribly costly. Messengers came with heartbreaking news. His daughter was dead.

They were too late. Now there was no need to hurry. Now there was no need to bother Jesus. There was nothing more anyone could do but weep and grieve and cry out in pain and anguish.

But Jesus completely ignored the news. Jesus went to Jairus’ house anyway.

At Jairus’ house the mourning had already begun. The flute players and the mourners were there.   Everyone was weeping and wailing for the little girl.

Seeing all of this happening around him – Jesus asked “What’s all the commotion about? Why are all of you weeping and wailing? Why do you mourn? The little girl is not dead – she is asleep.”

After hearing Jesus – the people laughed at Jesus. They laughed because they knew the little girl was dead.   They knew the difference between a nap and death. They laughed, because Jesus sounded so crazy.

Rather than arguing with the people who have laughed at him – Jesus and her heartbroken parents go into the little girl’s room. Jesus approaches her still body, takes her by the hand and speaks to her. “Talitha koum – Little girl, get up.” And she does just that. She rises from her death bed as if she were getting up from a nap.

Make no mistake about it – Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.   She had died.

When Jesus calls this little girl forth from death into life – we see the depth of God’s love for his beloved children. And we catch a glimpse of the future and of God’s promises in action in our world. God’s promise to each of you is death is not forever.

Jesus conquered eternal death on the cross.

Jesus lives and because Jesus lives you too shall live. Yes – we must all experience the pain and sorrow of death – but we have a promise made to us by the risen Lord. Jesus Christ has promised each of you that he has conquered death.

This promise is for you. Just as Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead – you too will be raised to share in eternal life with God.

And that my brothers and sisters in Christ – is very Good News – indeed. AMEN.