Worship for Pentecost – Sunday – June 5, 2022

Acts 2:1-21

1When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ”

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

24How manifold are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
25Yonder is the sea, great and wide, with its swarms too many to number,
living things both small and great.
26There go the ships to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you made for the sport of it.
27All of them look to you
to give them their food in due season.
28You give it to them; they gather it;
you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.
29When you hide your face, they are terrified;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
30You send forth your Spirit, and they are created;
and so you renew the face of the earth.
31May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
O Lord, rejoice in all your works.
32You look at the earth and it trembles;
you touch the mountains and they smoke.
33I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will praise my God while I have my being.
34May these words of mine please God.
I will rejoice in the Lord.
35bBless the Lord, O my soul.
Hallelujah!

Romans 8:14-17

14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 14:8-17 [25-27]

8Philip said to [Jesus,] “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

[25“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”]

The Gospel of our Lord.

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

I don’t care what anyone else may say – I have always believed that digging into the Bible is totally cool. I know from experience that spending time reading the Bible can be both intriguing and just plain awesome.

And reading the Bible with other people is even better! Seriously – I am so not kidding! Sunday school is often the highlight of my work week. And I absolutely – positively love hard questions. Hearing other folk’s thoughts on and interpretations of tricky Bible passages brings me great joy.

And I am constantly amazed how 2 people can hear such different things from the very same Bible passage.

I am intrigued how we can have such different perspectives on what we have read.

Over and over again – I find myself declaring – “Wow – I never thought of that.” Or thinking – “I have read that verse at least 50 times over the years and I never saw that. That’s so cool!” (Or – maybe – every once in a while – “that’s totally bananas . . .” But – I only ever think that every once in a blue moon . . . Pat . . .)

Digging in and engaging with God’s Word is incredibly important because we can learn so much about our God there. We meet our God in the pages of our Bibles. We learn about who our God is. What our God is like. And how other people of faith have experienced God and God’s presence in their lives.

Our God doesn’t have to be a distant stranger to us!

Some verses in the Bible speak to us about God’s love. Think of those powerful verses in Saint Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. [Love] does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; [Love] does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.   [Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

That is the way God loves you!

John 3:16 boldly declares to us that our God is so gloriously merciful and gracious and filled with love that he willingly sacrificed his beloved son for us . . . Think about that . . . Try to really image that!

John 3:16 will really blow your mind if you listen to it with an open mind and heart – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish – but may have eternal life.”

Our God’s grace really is AMAZING! God did that for us!

The 23rd Psalm reminds us of our God’s steadfast faithfulness even when we are faced with the loneliness and heartache of death. God the Father is our Good Shepherd who is with us no matter what! Who is present and walks with us always and forever.

Still other verses like the opening chapters of Genesis and the book of Revelation tell us so beautifully and vividly of our God’s magnificence and mighty power.

I could go on and on about what the Bible has to teach us about our God (and you all know that I HAVE!)

But the point is – we get to know God better as we explore God’s Word.

And over time – many Christians find there are verses and sections of God’s Word that they are particularly drawn to. That they return to again and again.

For me – Psalm 104 is one of those special parts of scripture. I especially love verse 26 – because it speaks such a powerful message to us about our God. A message we all need to know – to absorb and to remember.

Verse 26 of Psalm 104 declares – “There go the ships to and fro – and Leviathan – which you made for the sport of it.”

The NIV translates this verse – “There the ships go to and fro – and Leviathan – which you formed to frolic there.

And the Message translation says this – “Ships plow those waters and Leviathan your pet dragon – romps in them.”

It would be easy to miss if you were zoning out a little bit or reading pretty quickly – but Psalm 104 declares that our God made a pet dragon just for fun!

I love this verse because – it reminds us that although our God is amazing and awesome and powerful and mighty and strong – God can also be whimsical.   Yes – our God is all of those fancy words like omnipresent and omnipotent and triune. AND our God has a playful side too.

Psalm 104 tells us that sometimes – our God does things simply because it is delightful and joyful and whimsical and fun!

Our God values fun and joy and happiness. I mean seriously – a pet dragon – created just for fun?!?!?!?   That seems to me to be a bold declaration of a being who deeply values joyfulness and creativity and happiness and fun.

Yes – our God makes serious demands of us. Our God calls us to be his disciples in this world. To feed and care for those in need. But – there is more to faith and our God than that.   There is joy – laughter – happiness – fun and even whimsy from time to time too.

I encourage you to remember that our God is many things.   God is gracious. God is merciful. God is calling you to do his work in this world. God is very demanding of us and has high expectations.   And our God is fun and joyful and whimsical too!

Our God is many – many things. Truly this is Good News! Amen.

Our Sunny Sunshine

There is a rather significant gap in our sons’ ages.   Currently – Will is 9 and Jack is 18.

When we first learned there would be 2 McFarland offspring in our household – I wondered (and I worried) about this big ole’ gap between the McFarland sons’ ages. I wondered how this would play out in their lives.   How would it work? Would it be awkward or harder for them?

I wondered if our sons would have anything in common. If they would have anything in their lives to bond them together . . .

Thankfully and blessedly – they do have plenty in common. Snakes and toads and Legos and gaming and drawing and playing old-fashioned card and board games too. And they have just enough different interests to keep them teaching one another new and wonderful things!

It turned out to be yet another case of me worrying and brooding about absolutely – positively nothing. (Jason was correct – AGAIN! Sigh . . .)

But nine years is still a pretty big gap between our sons.

I remember thinking (all those years ago now) – wow – when Jack graduates from high school – William will just be finishing up the third grade . . . Jason and I will have a son in college and a son in elementary school! Hmmmm . . .

And that is exactly what our Will did this week. Will McFarland finished up his 3rd grade year. And he rocked it like a rock star!

There was an “End of the School Year Awards Ceremony” on the very last day of the 2021 – 2022 school year and I was thrilled to be able to attend.

(I was so seriously thrilled having 2 surgeries less than two weeks ago didn’t keep this mom from missing Will’s big day! It was also my practice run for Jack’s graduation . . .)

Will’s elementary school principal is my hero. Mrs. Williams runs her school assemblies with such grace and an efficiency I admire. She and her staff and the teachers kept everything moving with an inspiring precision.   In came the students. There were succinct instructions. (The children listened and followed these instructions. Their parents most certainly did NOT! Seriously – thank you – Thank You – THANK YOU – kind – polite – respectful – courteous – gloriously wonderful Lutherans of Saint Stephen for being so well-mannered in worship.) The awards were given. The classes were dismissed. The parents were dismissed. And it ALL was over in just 25 minutes.

(It would have been wonderful if Mrs. Williams were in charge of the duPont Manual high school graduation . . . oops that was uncalled for!)

Will received Lion’s Pride Awards for academic success and behavior.   But the award he received that really and truly sums up our youngest son was the “Sunshine Award.” The Sunshine Award is for bringing sunshine and joy into the classroom on a regular basis.

Terrible picture – but Will was a blur! He was moving fast. I don’t think he even paused a nano-second!

This is our little guy. William McFarland is bright and sunny and a bringer of joy. Will’s favorite color is orange and in many ways I think this color also captures a bit of his personality. Our Will is generally bright and happy and soooo extroverted (or maybe it is just that both of his parents and his brother are sooooooooooooo introverted!)

Whenever we set off into the world Will always – Always – ALWAYS declares – “Have fun!” And he means it. Off for a walk – he hopes you “have fun.” Off to work – he hopes you “have fun.” Setting off for a doctor’s appointment or a trip to the dentist – he wishes you a silver lining of joy and fun there too. He is delightfully – gloriously optimistic and sunny and just plain bouncy and buoyant. Will McFarland generally has fun wherever he is and makes friends wherever he goes.

We pray this lasts. That the big – cruel – mean – heartless world doesn’t break our sunny boy and turn him into a dark and brooding cynical cynic (like the rest of his family).   Because Will is our light bearer and our joy bringer and our little sunshine all dressed in orange!

And our Will is officially a 4th grader!

His Own Man

Our Jack was born way up north. He came into the world during those gloriously long – hot days of the summer that his mom loves with her whole being. That August the northern lights danced across the dark nighttime Minnesota skies and kept Jason – Jack and me company as we took our first slow walks together as a family of 3.

I remember doing the math. I remember saying to Jason – “Our Jack will graduate from high school in 2022!”

Imagine that . . . 2022. Almost 2 decades away. Jack will be 18 years old. Our tiny baby boy will be all grown-up! And we will be almost 50!!!!!

I wondered what our baby Jack would be like when he was all grown up.   Who our Jack would become . . . What his likes and dislikes and what his passions would be . . . Would he look like Jason or me or would he look like Jack?   Would Jack enter college with a laser focus like me or have a more laissez faire attitude to life?

Becoming a Junior Park Ranger in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. This was a BIG day!

I wondered what our family would be like. Would Jack have a sibling or would this beautiful baby who never – ever seemed to sleep break us and be an only child? Where would our family live? What twists and turns would life hold for our sweet baby and our family as we grew together over the next 18 years . . .

And in a flash and the blink of an eye – I know the answer to many of these questions.

Jack is passionate about animals! Jack loves animals and has his sights firmly set on becoming a veterinarian.   Thankfully – Jack also loves and excels at calculus and biology and chemistry. Math and science are Jack’s jam!

He is also passionate about the baby brother who arrived in his life when Jack was 9. (There is only 1 person on the planet who can mess with Will and that is Jack.   Everyone else gets the evil eye.   And honestly – Jack’s evil eye is kinda scary. It makes you wonder what Jack is plotting behind those dark brown – disapproving eyes . . .   I have always believed it is the quiet – smart ones that need the most watching – btw!)

I love this photo of Jason that Jack took.

Jack loves art and is incredibly creative and talented – but he doesn’t enjoy reading (Sigh – you can’t win them all . . . ) Jack’s black and white film photography is seriously cool.   I love seeing the world through his eyes. I look forward to each new roll of film.

Jack is intelligent. (One of the valedictorians of his graduating class and a full-ride scholarship to college.   Oops – sorry for the really bad brag!   BUT I AM JUST SO PROUD OF OUR BOY!)

Jack is helpful and generous and kind. Jack prepares the Communion and sanctuary for worship every single Sunday morning. He records the worship service and changes the eternal candle and unlocks the doors while I turn on the lights and make the coffee and prep the Sunday school rooms and my sermon. Once Jack leaves for college – I am going to need to leave for church a lot earlier on Sunday mornings! (Or the Lutherans of Saint Stephen will need to form a whole new committee . . .)

Jack is a procrastinator. Perhaps this trait skips a generation in McFarland men – because his beloved Papa is a bit of a procrastinator himself . . . I do not understand this at ALL – but this is very much a part of who our oldest son is.

I think of this picture as “tolerating Mom and her camera . . . “

Jack looks just like – Jack. He has many of his dad’s mannerisms and I find myself laughing when Jack “does a Jason!” (He did inherit dimples in his ears from his quirky mom . . . It was the first thing I noticed about my baby boy on the night he was born.) But Jack simply looks like Jack.

And that sums it up. Jack has grown up to be Jack.

Jack graduated from duPont Manual High School on Friday morning at Freedom Hall.

I sat with Jason and Will and Caitlyn (Jack’s wonderful girlfriend) and Rebecca (Caitlyn’s equally wonderful mom).

“John Stuart McFarland (row 10 – seat 7) – valedictorian” announced his principal as a tall – confident – dignified young man walked across the stage to receive his diploma.

“That’s our son – our boy – all-grown up into a man” – I said to Jason with my eyes (Jason and I have been friends since we were 16 and a couple since we were 18 – like many old married couples – we don’t always need words to have a conversation . . .)

I played Uno with Will (graduations are painfully boring) and let the

memories wash over me in waves . . . Some of them were gentle and others crashed. Tears streamed down my face more than once . . . Our Jack . . . oh my . . . our Jack is all grown up! And it simply took my breath away.

Jason understood. He knew.   Jason has been hanging out with me for over 30 years now. He knew what to expect. He knew there would be tears and lots of reflection. I am BIG on reflection. And prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude. Oh my – yes! (The McFarlands are just thankful I have this blog to hold some of my reflections – it saves them some active listening time. Or not!?!?!?!?!)

I remembered and gave thanks for the memories and the laughter and the joy and the seemingly endless blessings of knowing and loving and sharing this life with my sons and husband have given me. So very many blessings!

And one of Caitlyn’s BIG day too!

I gave thanks for the snakes and toads and Sharpies and piles of laundry and chicken nuggets and apple sauce galore. I gave thanks for the homework (but not the science fair projects – I will always despise those with a white hot fury!) and the backpacks and the lunch boxes and the trips to the bus stop and the school uniforms. I gave thanks for the blue sand and the Wiggles and the Legos and the hoodies and the endless miles driven and walked and rocked and patted.

Quite simply – I gave thanks for the past 18 years with Jack and Jason (and then with our Will). Oh – what a wonderful adventure these years have been.

I wonder what the next 18 will hold . . .

Worship for Sunday, May 29, 2022

Acts 1:1-11

[Luke writes:] 1In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 47

1Clap your hands, all you peoples;
shout to God with a joyful sound.
2For the Lord Most High is to be feared:
a great king over all the earth,
3who subdues the peoples under us,
and the nations under our feet;
4who chooses our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom God loves. 
5God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of the ram’s horn.
6Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our king, sing praises. 
7For God is king of all the earth;
sing praises with a song.
8God reigns over the nations;
God is enthroned on high.
9The nobles of the peoples have gathered as the people of the God of Abraham.  The rulers of the earth belong to God, who is highly exalted.

Ephesians 1:15-23

15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel of Saint Luke 24:44-53

44[Jesus said to the eleven and those with them,] “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

50Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

The Gospel of our Lord.

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

Back in the olden days – when I was in seminary – our professors offered us sage advice along with the ancient Greek – Hebrew – church history – and all of the stuff about the Lutheran Reformation and the Bible they were trying to teach us.

Some of their advice was helpful. “Like – tithe means giving 10% of your income to Jesus.   Everything else is an offering!”

Sometimes it was brilliant. “Don’t have kids! Children are outrageously expensive and messy and generally annoying.”   (This professor was a wise woman who was clearly having a bad day or perhaps a bad year . . .)

Sometimes it was weird. “Never make the sign of the cross with your left hand . . . ”   (Okay – I thought we left those superstitions behind us in the Middle Ages with the black cats and the witches!?!?)

Sometimes their advice was downright profound. DO NOT change ANYTHING your first year in a “new to you” church. Seriously – NOTHING. NOT A SINGLE thing except the pastor’s name.

Your parishioners already distrust and probably dislike you because you are not their beloved former pastor. So – if/when you change anything (and I mean ANYTHING) these seemingly gracious – welcoming – warm – loving Lutheran Christians will turn on you. They will suck out your soul – call you the anti-Christ and blame you for everything from the reduced worship attendance to global warming.

“Change nothing” – declared the Greek and Hebrew professors.   And the history professors and our Old and New Testament professors. “Change nothing” – declared the lunch lady – the faculty secretary and the nice guy who shoveled the deep Minnesota snow.

CHANGE NOTHING . . .

I listened. I took note of their not so subtle advice. I changed very little. BUT I still got into trouble. Because there were a few things I couldn’t change about MYSELF.

You see – I was young. (Yes – seriously – there was a time – long – long ago when I was actually young.)

I was female.

I had a husband who I was very fond of. So – I planned on keeping him!

All 3 of these things were huge changes and they kept getting me into trouble! Over and over again. I heard things like – Pastor Mark never . . . or Pastor Rolf never . . .

Okay – so they never wore skirts or had husbands or waddled around 9 months pregnant or needed maternity leave BUT they were MEN!!!!

It seemed I was the very embodiment of CHANGE!?!?!

In spite of these frustrations – I did and do understand.   I understand change can be difficult to embrace. For most folks – change can be hard.

The disciples experience this in our Gospel reading for today.   Actually – the past few weeks have been nothing but incredibly difficult change after change for them.

First came Jesus’ arrest – trial – conviction and his brutal crucifixion. Just hours later Jesus died and then he was quickly buried before the setting sun marked the start of the Sabbath. And then – on Sunday morning – God the Father raised Jesus from the dead!!!

So much change – their heads must have been spinning. Their lives had been turned upside down and inside out over and over again!

And now – this morning – we learn another shocking CHANGE has rocked their world. The Bible tells us Jesus ascended into heaven right in front of the disciples.   One moment Jesus was standing with them – talking to them and teaching them and the next Jesus was ascending into heaven right before their very eyes!

Talk about a shocking change.

Sure – Jesus had tried to prepare them for this incredible day. But honestly – can you ever be prepared for your Lord and Savior to ascend into heaven right in front of you? (Yeah – probably NOT!)

The disciples stood there with tears in their eyes and sorrow in their hearts as they watched Jesus leaving them until they could no longer see him at all.

Deeply shocked – the disciples continue to stand there gazing into the sky – long after Jesus disappeared from sight. In fact – they stand there for such a long time that two angels of the Lord come and ask them – what they are up to.

Of course – the angels already know why the disciples are standing there staring up at the sky. The angels certainly understand how shocked the disciples were.   After all – the Savior of the world doesn’t ascend into heaven every day.

And – God understands too. That’s why the angels were there. God sent the angels to get the disciples moving. Because the disciples can’t stay there gazing up into heaven forever. They can’t stand there longing for what was – and yearning for what they have lost.   They can’t remain focused on the past.   They have to begin to move forward.

It is time!

The same is true for us. For our Christian community. For Saint Stephen Lutheran Church. It is time. It is time for us to get moving again.

It is time to move forward. Time to accept and embrace the dramatic changes that have come into our lives.

Yes – the Covid-19 pandemic has changed us.   Our Christian community looks very   different these days. Folks are missing from worship and from Sunday school and from our committees and our gatherings and our celebrations.

Yes – our hearts long for what was.   Our hearts long for times that felt rosier and easier. Our hearts long – for the “good old days . . .”

And it would be so easy for us to get stuck – sort of like the disciples were – with our eyes and our hearts fixed on what was.   To spend our time wishing for what was.

But we cannot. We are being called into a new future.

Yes – it may be different and feel strange.   Yes – we may need to change?!?!?   We will be asked to adapt and grow.   We will need to be creative – perhaps incredibly creative!

But we do not go into this future alone. We have our Lord and we have one another. We can do this. We can do this together with our Lord. Truly this is Good News! Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worship for Sunday, May 8, 2022

Acts 9:36-43

36Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. 37At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. 38Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” 39So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. 41He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. 42This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

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.

Revelation 7:9-17

9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 10:22-30

22At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

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

I am always knee deep in a book or three. Just this week I read the hauntingly beautiful memoir “What We Wish Were True” by Tallu Quinn. Tallu was a 42 year-old mom – wife – baker of bread – feeder of the hungry – disciple of Jesus – theologian and writer.   Tallu lived – worked – served our Lord and died far – far too young just down Interstate-65 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tallu died this spring of metastatic brain cancer. But as she lived her last months – she graciously and generously shared part of her journey. She wrote of many things. And I continue to think deeply about her words and what she had to teach. She was leaving so much behind. Her children are very young. She was so young. And she was wise.

I was particularly struck by her reflections on heaven. On what she thought it will be like to be reunited with our Lord. On her thoughts about eternal life and spending eternity with our Lord and her heavenly family in Paradise.

Do you think about heaven? Are you curious? Have you pondered eternity and your eternal home?

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I have and I do. I don’t think you can be a pastor for very long and not spend some time thinking about eternity. Walking through the valley of the shadow of death with folks you love over and over again – leads a person to consider what is on the other side.

Sometimes I joke that I hope heaven will be like a great big yarn store with a huge library attached. So – I can finally read and knit as much as I want. But I do know most folks would NOT consider this to be heavenly – just excruciatingly boring!

When I am serious about it – I think heaven will be a whole lot more like it was around Saint Stephen on Easter morning this year.

Think about it . . .

Easter was filled to overflowing with glorious blessings. It was amazing and delightful and beautiful and fun and funny and noisy and just plain awesome. There were smiling – happy Christians everywhere. There was great food and wonderful fellowship. There was an abundance of joy.

Our fellowship hall was filled with chatting – chattering – laughing – celebrating – joyful – joyous Lutherans. Reunions were taking place. Great conversations were happening. There were hugs and jokes and tears of joy.

Both bodies and souls were fed!

There was worship and praise and music and chocolate and celebration!

I – for one – was right where I wanted to be. And I found myself thinking over and over again – “This is so cool! So awesome!   This is the Kingdom of God breaking into our world – into our daily lives! My cup runneth over!”

Heaven is going to be like a really cool church coffee hour!

And I DO think heaven will be filled with boisterous Christians – talking a mile a minute. Heaven will be filled with chatter and laughter and friends hanging out and delighting in each other’s company. Heaven will be just a little bit wild and chaotic sometimes because it will be just so awesomely fun and amazing!

What about you?

Have you ever wondered what heaven will be like?

Do you think about it?

When you think of heaven – do you think of golden streets and Saint Peter waiting for you at the pearly gates?

Do you think of fluffy – puffy white clouds and angels with harps and halos?

Perhaps you think of hanging out with the loved ones you are missing – especially on a day like today.

In our second reading for today – the book of Revelation gives us a small but wonderful glimpse of what heaven is going to be like.

Saint John tells us he saw: “a great multitude that was so big that no one could count everyone – from every nation on the earth – from all tribes and all peoples and all languages.” And they were all standing before the throne of God worshipping the Lord.

He goes on to declare – “they will hunger no more and thirst no more.   The sun will not strike them nor any scorching heat. The Lamb of God will guide them to the springs of the water of life and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Think about that. Let those words really sink in . . .

In heaven there will be so many people that no one can count all of them!   And they will be from every nation on the earth.

In heaven there will be no more hunger and no more thirst and no more suffering and no more pain and no more sorrow. No more tears!

In heaven we will finally – see God – face to face. We will be with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Talk about Paradise!

Oh – how I love these verses from the book of Revelation. When I read these verses – I am always like a kid in a candy store – begging for more please. I want to hear more of these promises from God – because they hold such marvelous hope and promise of the life to come for all of us.

We may have all sorts of unanswered questions about heaven. But we don’t have to wonder about this – heaven will be awesome. Awesome like Easter morning!

Truly this is Good News – AMEN.

Stupendous Science-y Stuff

A teeny – tiny plant growing inside a log!

I read a seriously cool book this spring called – 52 Ways to Walk: the Surprising Science of Walking for Wellness and Joy, One Week at a Time by Annabel Streets. Okay – I readily acknowledge that this particular book might not be everyone’s cup of tea/jam/thing – BUT it is most certainly my kind of book.   I was riveted. I was inspired. I was intrigued. I found the science in the book to be absorbing and the ideas to be deeply compelling.

Amazing – cool – intriguing!

I quoted from this book to the McFarland men over and over and over again. This happened so often – they were likely thrilled once I finally had read its last paragraph and returned it to the library. It is a very – very good read. I already plan to read it again . . .

Ms. Streets confirms through her extensive research what she and I already knew from personal experience – walking outside changes you for the good. Walking in nature changes your brain in positive ways and helps your body too.   The human brain on nature is happier – healthier – fitter – and more likely to stay that way and so is the human body. Walking (especially outside in nature surrounded by God’s great and glorious creation) prevents/eases the symptoms of both heart disease and depression! As well as – diabetes and anxiety. Walking and playing in nature makes you more creative and has been shown to raise kids’ test scores. Walking can help you process emotions. Walking can ease and even heal the back pain caused by all of the sitting we do.   (Our sedentary lives are causing us so much pain – suffering and in far too many cases downright killing us.)

I could and have most certainly been known to go on and On and ON and on and On and ON about all of the truly positive reasons to go for a walk in nature as often as you can. I know I evangelize about walking in nature almost as much as I do about Jesus . . .   (But nature is just so good for us and God made nature and called it GOOD! God is wise. We should probably try listening to God from time to time?!?!?!? See – I can do both. Jesus and nature: they are GOOD!)

I know when I go for walks in nature something happens in my soul.   The best way to describe it is – my soul sings or hums or gently laughs. I relax into myself. I am more content. More myself. My eyes are more open. (Perhaps because I want to see everything around me. Nature is far more beautiful and interesting than a strip mall or a traffic jam on Bardstown Road or anything they are selling at the mall.) I am able to be just a bit more mindful. To give thanks for the blessings of the day – the moment – my life. To see both the little things and sometimes some of the bigger things too.

I am often able to delight in the moment. To be content. To let go.   To appreciate beauty as I happen upon it. To listen.

Scientists and researchers tell me why this happens. They study the brains and the bodies of people on nature and on walking. This science-y stuff and research is very cool! And I know I agree with these folks because I feel better in nature.   I am happier on a walk in a green space. I smile more. I am delighted and joyful and content. I am both more peaceful and more energized.   And one of the best things is – it lasts – the joys and the blessings linger.

After happily mucking around in the river for hours on Saturday afternoon – the McFarland men took me for a walk around a few of the trails at Broadrun Park before we headed home for the day. They went because Jason and Doug the Dog are always happy to go for a walk. Jack and Will went because- well – they have met me!

Seriously – if I had simply walked from the river to the car – my family would have been deeply concerned about my well-being!   “What’s wrong with Kerri/Mom looks?!?!?” would most certainly have been exchanged between the McFarland men – if I hadn’t declared that we were going for at least a short walk. I didn’t want to worry them – so we went for a walk!

And what a wonderful walk it was. It was filled with blessings.

It is (finally) spring here in Fern Creek, Kentucky and it is lovely.   Really – really outstandingly lovely.

There were delicate wildflowers everywhere I turned. White and yellow and pink and lavender and purple wildflowers.

There were whole fields of wildflowers. This field of wildflowers smelled heavenly! I was mesmerized and delighted and thrilled by its beauty.

The birds are singing. And clearly there are baby birds being born and keeping their parents busy keeping their bellies full.

The grass is green and lush and glossy.

We spotted our first tiger swallowtail butterfly of the season – always exciting. It even landed on me! Seriously – it landed right on me and lingered there for a bit. I was so transfixed that I didn’t even think of trying to take a picture. I just stood very – very still (filled with awe) and took in the beauty of the moment.

The sky and the clouds did cool things too and our sons chatted and chattered and updated us on their lives and their thoughts and their thinking of thinks (even more cool).

I had so many God sightings on Saturday I lost track of all of them! So many blessings – so much joy – so much for which I am truly thankful.

How have you experienced God’s blessings recently?   Where have you seen God’s presence lately?

Pinch and Punch’s Cousins

Our Will’s 3rd grade class has been learning all about crayfish – because they have their own little herd of classroom-crayfish. Actually – they have 9 totally – gloriously – awesomely amazing crayfish.

The class has named 2 of the crayfish Pinch and Punch. Pinch and Punch are their 2 crayfish with only one claw per crayfish. Apparently – the class can’t tell the other 7 apart well enough to name them . . .

Here are some of the cool things the class has learned about crayfish so far (as shared by Will): Crayfish are nocturnal. Crayfish have 8 legs (at first the class thought they had 10 legs). Crayfish have hard-ish shells. Crayfish molt these shells as they grow.   “Molting” is sort of like snakes shedding their skin. Crayfish will eat one another when they aren’t protected by their hard shells.   (Will was very matter of fact about crayfish cannibalism and did not find it particularly disturbing or off-putting or gross.)

Naturally – we have been learning and hearing a lot about crayfish too.   (We do not hear about crayfish quite as much as we hear about planes – his current interest/passion/single-minded obsession of the moment – but we still hear about crayfish a lot!)

Note – he is holding a fishing net in his right hand and a plane in his left hand!  He is also just barely pretending to be patient with his mom and her camera!?!?!?!

On Friday afternoon William brought home the following essay written ever so carefully in his very best 3rd-grade printing:

“I enjoyed having crayfish in this room and heres why!   First, I think that crayfish are cute.   Second, they can scare me some times.   Next, they are very shy. Last, i’m sureprized that they have not pinched yet.   I’m happy that we got the caryfish, they are amasing!”

(Will earned a 10/10 – an Outstanding and a smiley face for this spectacular essay – just saying!)

Will’s classroom crayfish had his heart longing for a trip to the river where he hoped to find some wild crayfish roaming the shores in their natural habitat.

Our sweet boy asked on Friday evening if – “We could go to the river to look for crayfish – snakes – frogs and fish – this weekend?”

“Yes!” – was our immediate answer – “Yes – we can! Yes – we will go to the river. Yes – we would love to take you on a creature exploration expedition!”

(Jason and I may have high-fived and first-bumped one another and whoo-hooed a few times when Will wasn’t paying attention! Yes – he IS one of US!!!! He not only eats – but loves lentil tacos and he wants to spent his Saturday mucking around in NATURE. The boy is starting to speak fluent McFarland! Next stop is an intriguing ancient language . . . )

Saturday was glorious! It was a perfectly – perfect kind of day for exploring along and even IN the river. So – we prepared and packed for a creature exploration expedition. Waterproof shoes – nets – towels – water bottles – snacks (because Will told us we were going to be there a VERY long time) – a knitting project (mine) – a super-duper nerdy book (Jason’s) – camera – 4 excited McFarlands and 1 incredibly goofy dog.

We were off seeking crawdads – oops – I mean crayfish. (I grew up calling crayfish – crawdads.)   Apparently – crayfish have multiple aliases. They are also known as crawfish – craydids – crawdaddies – crawdads – freshwater lobsters – mountain lobsters – rock lobsters – mudbugs and yabbies!)

Lots of people call them yummy too! Because when I did a little googling – the first thing that popped up was their nutritional information and I am not talking about what to feed your pet crayfish . . .

Anyway – our crayfish expedition was going to be strictly catch – observe and release. All we hoped to do was spend some time visiting with a few crayfish and perhaps convincing them to allow us to take their pictures. We are way more into photo-shooting animals in our family . . .

Will was soooooooo excited and honestly so was I.   I love – Love – LOVE hanging out with my people in nature.   I love exploring and listening and wandering and watching and observing and immersing myself in God’s creation.

Sometimes I observe nature. Sometimes I observe Will observing nature . . . Both delight me and bless me and fill my heart with joy.

We spent hours exploring along the river. Will saw snakes – but opted NOT to catch them this time. Will caught many minnows/fish in his net.   The lad is very persistent.

And then – Will found “Crayfish Cove.” You won’t find it marked on many (okay ANY) maps – but our family won’t be forgetting the location of Crayfish Cove anything soon.   Because our delighted boy netted crayfish after crayfish after crayfish from the shores of this spectacular spot along Floyds Fork River.

Wisely keeping a watchful eye on those pinching – pinch-y – claws!

It was a crayfish bonanza. An abundance and a plentitude!

William was thrilled and so were his oddball parents. Will had been hoping and dreaming and longing for such a moment and it happened. His fishing net was kinda-sorta full of crayfish. Not 153 fish/crayfish like in our Gospel reading for Sunday (John 21:11) – but our Will felt deeply – richly and abundantly blessed all the same.

Will caught crayfish and we ALL admired his haul.

And then – after about the 3,000th crayfish – Will declared that he had caught – observed – and released his crayfish-limit for the day. He was ready for his next adventure.

But before heading home – both Will’s mom and Doug the Dog needed to be taken for a walk around Broadrun Park. Doug and I get antsy and tend to annoy the people around us if we aren’t taken for regular/frequent walks.

Water shoes were exchanged for hiking/walking shoes. (This provided quite a lot of entertainment . . . How many McFarland men does it take to get just one 9-year-old boy and his wet feet into dry socks and shoes? Three!??!?   Especially when the mom doesn’t help and insists on taking pictures of the hilarious process.)

Hilarious!

The sun was shining. Nature was beautiful. Our family was together. The crayfish were intriguing. And the blessings were flowing. This is how our family does sabbath. This is how we set aside time for God and rest and the sacred in our busy – bustling – daily lives.

How do you do sabbath? How do you set aside time for God and rest? How do you make room for the sacred in your daily lives?

Worship for Sunday, May 1, 2022

Acts 9:1-6 [7-20]

1Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” [7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus,20and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

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.

Revelation 5:11-14

11Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 21:1-19

1After [he appeared to his followers in Jerusalem,] Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

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

Were you one of those wonderfully fearless – unflappable kids when you were little? One of those dazzling little wonders who didn’t let anything or anyone get in their way.

Or perhaps you were a bit more like me? Were there things that gave you pause? Were there things that scared you? Did you have fears and concerns about the world around you?

What were you afraid of when you were little?

I was profoundly afraid of spelling tests and the creepy clown picture that hung on my bedroom wall for years. I was afraid of snakes and heights. I was also absolutely – positively terrified of the monsters I knew lived under my bed and in the crawlspace in my bedroom closet.

I knew – as soon as darkness descended upon the earth – huge – creepy – monstrous monsters with long – silent – slithery arms and sharp – grabby claws would ooze and creep and crawl out of their hiding places under my bed and from the crawlspace to GET me. And I really – really – really did not want them to get me.

The only things that would protect me from these wretchedly awful creatures of doom and despair were bright light and blankets. Plenty of light and a multitude of blankets were how I battled these evil creatures night after night. For years – I slept in a room lit up like an airport runway and under a layer of blankets so thick a polar explorer would have been cozy.

And – it worked! Because here I stand – pushing 50 – and those crawl space monsters haven’t gotten me yet!

But seriously – as I have grown much – much older – I am less afraid of some monsters. I know the only creatures lurking under my bed are some dust bunnies and our kitten Ash.   And yet there are still some scary things that frighten me and keep me up at night. Problems like pandemics and poverty are even scarier than spelling tests and that creepy clown picture.

After all – I am only one person. My resources and talents are limited. What can I do to battle a problem as big as hunger? How can I help bring peace to our troubled world?

It is easy to declare that problems like hunger and poverty are just too big and that we are too small. It is so easy to give up when confronting big problems.

Yet – we all know surrender isn’t the best choice. We know that we shouldn’t hide from these big – intimidating concerns.

A tower of TP for FCHUM taller than an 8-year-old!

But we can also acknowledge being afraid of big problems is natural. Even the disciples were afraid.

The Bible tells us after Jesus died the disciples all went into hiding.   Their problems just seemed too big and too scary to face so they hid in a locked room.

While the disciples were hiding – Jesus came by for a visit. One moment – it was just the terrified – heartbroken disciples in that locked room and the next Jesus was there with them.

First Jesus wished them peace and then he said to them – “as the Father has sent me – so I send you.” Jesus calls them to continue the work they had started with him. Jesus wants them to get out into the world to share and show God’s love. Jesus knows they are afraid – but Jesus also knows there is important work to be done.

In today’s Gospel reading – the disciples aren’t hiding anymore.   But they haven’t gotten to back to their work as fishers of people yet either. Instead they are fishing for fish.

Donations for FCHUM

So – after they have breakfast – Jesus gives Peter a big push to get him moving again. Jesus asks Peter – “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter tells Jesus – “Yes – Lord – you know I love you.” Then Jesus tells Peter – “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus then asks Peter a second time if Peter loves him – and again – Peter declares – “yes – Lord you know I love you.” And Jesus says to Peter – “tend my sheep.”

Then a third time Jesus asks Peter the very same question – “Do you love me?” And Peter again answers – “yes Lord – you know everything – you know I love you.” And Jesus responds – “feed my sheep.”

Peter’s feelings are clearly hurt that Jesus would ask him if he loved him over and over again. But Jesus isn’t being needy or strangely co-dependent. Rather – Jesus is making an important point. If Peter really loves Jesus – then he will care for God’s people.

Peter’s actions can be a powerful reflection of his love for Jesus.

Those bags are full of litter!

And soon – Peter is doing just that. Peter spent the rest of his life sharing the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy. Peter fed the hungry. He cared for the sick. He helped widows and orphans. He even raised two people from the dead. Peter spent the rest of his earthly life feeding and loving and caring for Jesus’ beloved people.

Peter made a difference. He helped make the world a more loving – gracious place. He shared God’s love with others. He answered Jesus’ call.

The same is true for us. Jesus calls us to feed his sheep – to spread the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy – and to help make the world a more loving place.

And so – I ask you – how will you share God’s love? How will you feed Jesus’ sheep?

There are as many ways to serve as there are people who are called to serve.

* When you donate blood – you are feeding Jesus’ sheep.

* When you send a card to someone who needs encouragement or when you pray for the folks on our prayer list – you are loving Jesus’ children.

* When you make a donation to the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries Food Pantry – you are feeding Jesus’ sheep.

* When you volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House or when you speak words of love and kindness – you are loving God’s children.

* When you help with worship – Vacation Bible School or Sunday school – you are answering Jesus’ call to you to feed his sheep.

* When you make a donation to Lutheran World Relief – you are feeding Jesus’ sheep.

We may not be able to end poverty or feed everyone in the world – but we can make a powerful difference.

No matter what your interests – no matter what your gifts and talents – no matter what your financial resources are – there is a way for you to feed and care for Jesus’ beloved children. We can share God’s love. Truly this is Good News – AMEN.

Our 3-Ring Circus

But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth,
 and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of every human being. – Job 12:7-10

There were sooooo many outtakes of this photo!

We are big on learning and experimenting and giving things a whirl at our house. Jason and I encourage at-home science experiments – messy art projects and forts in the living room.   The Legos (and the yarn) – well – those are almost everywhere around here!

I joke our house is decorated in early modern Lego with yarn-y accents. But honestly – that isn’t much of a joke.

Messy messes don’t phase me at all. Kids and chaos and all that come with it – clean up (most of the time).   And if it doesn’t – well then – we have a lasting memory and a story to tell. I am proud of the fact our dining room table has acrylic paint dots and stray Sharpie marker marks on it (even after a serious scrubbing with hot – soapy water and a hand-knit washcloth).   The paracord stuck WAY up in the tree out in our backyard makes me smile every time I see it.

The exploding baking soda volcanoes – dyeing experiments – painting – goo – slime – elephant toothpaste – rockets – beads – beans – paracord – forts – duct tape – PVC pipe – boards – models – the messes and the barely controlled chaos are some of the things that make up our weekends and our evenings.

Trying things – giving things a whirl and experimenting are an important part of who we are. I try to have a – “why not?” and a “sure – let’s give it a go!” attitude.

But our home isn’t a free-for-all. There are definite limits. We clean up after our experiments and artistic endeavors. I am BIG on organization.   I may have paint in my hair and embroidery on my jeans – but my paint is stored neatly in bins by color and so is my embroidery floss . . .

And both Jason and I are BIG on reading and research. This helps in so many ways.

And wow have I been reading and researching a lot lately – because we have entered completely new territory for our family! And with it has come some seriously intense experimentation and chaos and goofiness and messy messes . . .

Our latest endeavor is pets.

Note the dog is ON the couch . . . sigh . . . some battles were lost immediately. Pick your battles – Kerri – pick your battles . . .

Yes – we have had pets before. We have raised adorably goofy golden retriever puppies into beautiful dogs.   Zoë and Katherine were even respectably (if not impeccably) trained dogs. Okay – Zoë did eat an entire HOT pizza out of the oven where I left it warming when Jack was a toddler and Katherine was so stubborn it made our brains ache! But still . . . for the most part – Zoë and Katherine weren’t too annoying to us or the rest of the world.   Their behavior was not generally shocking or shameful.

But now – we are exploring new territory. We are tilling new soil. We are venturing into places we have never gone before. Because we have added not 1 but 2 shelter/rescue pets to our family. And WOW – are rescue pets different creatures!?!?!? Shelter pets are a whole different story. Both Doug and Gracie came to us with significant baggage.

Gracie is our silent pet – our stealth cat. We rarely see her or hear from her. But – at least – our Gracie has moved out of Will’s closet (significant progress) and into the basement. Gracie will now sit and sleep in the middle of a room on a comfy nest (she particularly likes sleeping on the boys’ backpacks) – but she does not like our company yet. She tends to walk away from me on silent feet with wary eyes.

She prefers life under tables and away from me . . .

Gracie does like Jason . . . At night – after everyone else goes to bed Gracie comes upstairs. And then Gracie and Jason hang out together in Jason’s office. Gracie will even allow Jason to pet her. (Why yes – Will – Jack and I are massively jealous!)

Jack did catch Gracie purring contentedly last evening – BUT – she was all by herself in her favorite spot in the basement. Gracie purrs and meows for Jason too . . . Gracie clearly knows Jason is the quietest – least obnoxious member of our clan and finds his steadiness reassuring (we all do actually).

“Go away crazy camera lady – GO AWAY!” – I can read Gracie’s mind.

Gracie still avoids Doug the dog and Ash the kitten and the crazy chaos that is the main floor of our house when we are all hustling and bustling around during the day and evening. But – slowly – Slowly – SLOWLY our sad – grieving cat is adjusting to her new home and her new people. We tell Gracie we love her and we are here for her – but we are also well aware Gracie needs her space. We are letting Gracie be Gracie. We read this is the wisest – kindest – most loving way to care for a sad – traumatized – grieving cat.

Gracie is the epitome of low maintenance!

We are Doug the Dog’s 3rd family. And so far – we have discovered he is sweet and smart (very) and terrified of cameras and anything with a motor. Trash trucks and UPS trucks and BUSES are super-duper scary!

Doug hates car rides. Our Doug is very – Very – VERY afraid once he leaves home – he may not be allowed to return home. If we walk by our house on a walk – Doug does everything in his power to try to GO BACK HOME IMMEDIATELY! Wow – does this dog have some abandonment issues (not surprising after being dumped by 2 other families).

Doug is a blank slate when it comes to training. A total formless void. We have made a start of it – but this dude absolutely – positively loses his mind when he sees/hears/smells another dog. This makes for interesting walks and he can’t be in our backyard when our neighbors’ dogs are in their yards – because I value my garden and   flower beds and sanity!

Note my serious face – Doug the dog and I were having a heart to heart and Jack found in amusing.

I have informed Douglas more than once that I am in fact “the boss of him!” But after 14 days – his thoughts on this are “Hmmmm . . .   but I am CUTE.” “So are my sons! But we still made/make them behave themselves. NO MONSTERS ALLOWED!” – is my response to this line.

And Ash – our spoiled – diva of a kitten – well – the lion hasn’t laid down with the lamb at our house yet. The fur still flies when Ash pushes Gracie too far. But Ash doesn’t puff up like a giant puffer fish anymore whenever she sees Doug the dog and she has returned to napping in her hammock in the sun and lounging on the back of her favorite chair – and generally bossing me around loudly.

I have stopped asking Jason “what were we thinking?!?!?!” Every 15 minutes (now I only do this once an hour . . .)

What were we thinking . . .

If nothing else Jack will have some street-cred with the other pre-veterinary medicine majors at Morehead State. What self-respecting pre-vet major could come from a home that wasn’t a total zoo/three ring circus?!?!?!? So – I suppose we are just doing our parental duty as people raising a future veterinarian. I just hope and pray Jack doesn’t decide to go into exotic animal care. I don’t think I am up to a tiger or a python or a polar bear!

What a goof!

But seriously – we are all slowly beginning to get along and to trust one another and to build relationships and we are all learning a lot.

PS I don’t care how sad or how cute the ????? is. Besides I can’t hear you over our barking dog and the hissing cats and the sound of my brand-new pet-hair collecting dust buster!

Making a Mess – Just for Kicks . . .

I have been fascinated with art and artists and making art and crafting and craftspeople for as long as I can remember. I enjoy almost all art – but I especially love folk art.

I love art with bold colors. (Monet is undeniably lovely but not really my cup of tea . . . Just a bit too pastel . . .) I love whimsical art. Art that surprises. Art with a twist. Art that isn’t an exact representation of the world as it is – but rather as the artist sees the world (or perhaps even wishes it were) really draws me in.

When we visit Valladolid, Mexico – the docents at the folk-art museum there quickly begin to recognize the quirky lady with the knitting needles and yarn from Louisville, Kentucky who just keeps coming back over and Over and OVER again. If you ever find yourself in Valladolid – Casa de los Venados (House of the Deer) should be on your trip agenda. It is so totally amazing!

Anyway . . . I love art the way some people love their I-phones.   I find it mesmerizing. It draws me in. It captivates me.

I always wanted to make art. But my childhood home was an odd place. It wasn’t the sort of place where one made art or messes or did whimsical things. Messes were not welcome or tolerated. I learned from a very early age to color literally and metaphorically inside the perfectly straight – rigid lines VERY carefully. Orderliness and perfectionism were worshipped even more than Jesus. (And Jesus was a really big deal.   My parents raised not 1 but 2 pastors!)

Perfect was the only acceptable result of anything – even art projects. And well – I was no Rembrandt or Michelangelo. Nor would I ever be. So – I quit making art.

I did other things I enjoyed. I read. I knit.   I occasionally experimented with beading. I gardened. Eventually – I embroidered.

I pretended that I didn’t want to make art. And everything I did make was all very neat and orderly and tidy.   I colored inside someone else’s lines.   It was safer and easier that way.

Except the flowerbeds – my favorite flowerbeds are chaotic and overflowing with color and plants. Flowers planted in neat little or long rows bore me. I delight in chaotic swirls of growth – the way nature does it. My flowerbeds have always been wild masses of flowers and greenery.

But recently – well – recently – my brain and my fingers got restless. Coloring inside the lines wasn’t working for me anymore. I love to knit. I will always be a knitter – but suddenly – shockingly I realized knitting simply wasn’t enough!?!?!?!   It was too neat. Too orderly. Too linear.   I needed another creative outlet . . .

I was craving something messier. More colorful. Less confining.

Trying new things isn’t easy for me. But I decided to be brave. To ignore my childhood programming. I decided to play. To have fun. To make messes. To throw caution to the wind and to make some art.   No judgment. I just gave it a whirl. I tried something new to me.

I bought paint and some canvases. I dug the boys’ paint brushes and palates out of the craft zone in the basement.

And I started painting.

I am having a blast. I am just playing around – having fun – making messes and chaos and letting color happen on canvas with paint. I am goofing off. I get paint in my hair and on my hands and elbows. Doug the dog keeps me company and Ash the kitten has walked through my wet – paint-filled palate twice now – but this is about having fun and being creative.   Besides – I am giving painting outside the lines a try these days. Often – WAY outside the lines!

My paintings will certainly never make it onto a museum’s walls.   I will never have a gallery showing.   No one (other than Will – Jack and Jason) will encourage me to hang my paintings on their living room walls. I won’t be quitting my career to pursue my art.

But . . .

Making art is fun. Playing is incredibly important for everyone. Trying new things is just plain good for us. Unstructured play makes us smarter and more creative and less likely to be a narcissist (seriously research backs this up – I read a lot!). Even/especially really old-ish people like me benefit and grow from play and being creative.   Scientists and researchers say learning new thing as we age helps with memory function and staves off dementia!

But it also does great things for our hearts and our souls!   Trying new things that we enjoy brings happiness and discovery and delight and joy and growth. These are such glorious blessings.

So – have you tried anything new lately? Have you done anything just for fun? Have you played? Have you experimented? Have you given anything a whirl just for kicks?

It isn’t about being the best or rocking it like a rock star (but maybe your dream was to BE A ROCK STAR?!?!?) It is about allowing yourself to discover new things – to explore – to try – to fail with a laugh or a sigh – to have fun and simply to delight in being alive.

Was there something you always wanted to do when you were a kid – but couldn’t do? Or perhaps it was something you loved doing when you were a kid and stopped doing for some reason. Can you give it a whirl now? If you think you can’t give it a go – is that really – honestly true?

I think of this as sabbath for our souls. We ALL need to rest and to delight and to be creative and to do things just because they are fun!