Sunday Afternoon Coffee: Blessings

Today was our annual “Sacrificial Sunday” at our church. What that means is that a goal is set, and this year there are four ministries to which we contribute the proceeds of our offering today. The recipients change from year to year.

We set the goal for $20,000. The Sunday morning offering today was $28,000! It’s not a large congregation, and many people are retirement age, so we were delighted to get such a good offering. God has blessed our church over and over again, and I believe part of the reason for that is our willingness to support other ministries, both local and around the world. So that was a blessing this morning.

There are some outstanding teens, young adults, and little kids. at our church. This morning as I entered the women’s restroom, I saw one of my little friends and had a big hug with her when she suddenly quoted a verse. I wish I could remember which verse, because it was so funny. It was along the lines of “Be sure your sin will find you out.” We all got a good laugh over it, and my little friend didn’t seem a bit embarrassed. I always enjoys connecting with the teens and college-age kids. I love their energy, and they’re all very open and willing to chat with an old granny 🙂

This morning we started singing Christmas songs. I always love hearing and singing these wonderful, scripture-filled songs of the season.

Pastor Farr started a series appropriate to the season. Today he talked about Mary, the mother of Jesus. He had a lot of good things to say. The one that has lodged in my mind and heart is the grace that Mary received from God, and how she needed that grace as He came closer to Calvary. Pastor Farr said, “We need to be willing to open our hearts to the grace we may need in the future.” That process may be painful, but, as a favorite song of mine says, “He giveth more grace when the burden grows greater.”

I’ve posted this song before, but I’m posting here again. Please take the time to listen to the story behind the song. You will be blessed!

Sunday Morning Coffee: Happenings

It’s shaping up to be a (normal) busy December. Mike and Janan will have closing on their new house, delivery of their shipping container from the warehouse in New Jersey, and settling back in to their own routine in their own place.

In recent years, I’ve not done well at all with the Christmas card routine. I’m going to try to do better this year, starting tomorrow. I remember how my mother-in-law sat down with her list and her new cards every year on the day after Thanksgiving. I’m pretty sure her cards were the first ones all her acquaintances received!

My Christmas shopping is under way. It’s not nearly as big a job as it used to be. I don’t decorate as much as I used to, either. With all the kids and (most of the) grandkids grown up and on their own, our house is pretty quiet. And that’s fine with me. The rickety old back doesn’t tolerate all that busy-ness very well nowadays.

I do love Christmas music, and have already started to enjoy it. I’m looking forward to a book of arrangements from The Piano Guys that should be coming soon. I’m continuing to enjoy my piano lessons, working on music I never would have tried without having an excellent teacher. Taking lessons and being a part of the Piano by Pictures Academy has rekindled my love of music and broadened my repertoire. Last night, I was playing through my favorite Chopin nocturne, and Terry commented on how much better it is now than when I first started working on it. Warms my heart 🙂 I love this melody. The video, obviously, is NOT me 🙂

All this to-do makes for a wonderful time of year with all the tradition and beauty and amazing food. I love it, but in a whole different way at this point in my life. I tend to value the quietness of the season these days more than I do all the hustle and bustle.

Seasons change. Life changes. Perspectives change. It’s all good.

May you all enjoy this last Sunday in November.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Celebration!

Today, at Calvary Baptist Church in Pottstown, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the church.

The church was an outreach of Calvary Baptist in Lansdale, PA, where E.Robert Jordan was the pastor. I believe Joe DeCandillo was the first pastor. If that’s not correct, I will have more information later today and will change whatever I need to.

We’ve been members at Calvary for about ten years, so we’re kind of the “new kids on the block.” But there are others who have been there since the beginning, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing from them today.

Pastor Jim Spears served as senior pastor for 25 years. He’s going to be there today. Pastor Josh Farr, who was assistant/youth pastor under Pastor Spears’ leadership, has been chosen to take the senior pastor position. Our new assistant pastor is Landers Reeves, who is a convert under Pastor Spears’ ministry. He and his wife have both been great blessings to our church already.

There will be walks down Memory Lane today; there will be a dinner, testimonies, music, and probably slides or videos.

We have grown to love the people, our church family. I’m looking forward to the day. I’m sure it will be a good one!

Sunday Morning Coffee: Changes

I don’t remember exactly when I began to be aware of changing seasons. I do remember playing outside when I was between three and four, and enjoying new boots. I think, though, that my first real awareness of changing seasons started when I entered kindergarten.

Maybe it was the regularity of the school day, the chill in the air as we began learning letters and numbers, playing outside on the playground and feeling the chill on the monkey bars, or the chains of the swings. Mittens became a part of my winter coat, threaded from one sleeve, across the back and into the opposite on a string my mom crocheted. Never lost my mittens 🙂

Outdoor play changed from roller skating to snowball fights and snowmen. We were outdoors a lot, back then. No screens–not even a television until I was eight. Summer was long evenings playing hide and seek or Red Rover; fall was jumping in leaf piles and going Trick-or-Treating; winter was lots of snow, and Christmas, and snow forts and snowmen and snowball fights and sledding. Spring was sheer joy, with rain and flowers and warmer temperatures and leaving heavy jackets and mittens in the closet, enjoying the freedom of running for the sheer joy of it.

We’re experiencing the change of season right now. Today was warm, nearly 70 degrees. We opened up the house and enjoyed the fresh air. Tomorrow it will be much colder, and that’s okay. We’re ready. We’ve had a glorious long October that melted into November and will linger still. It doesn’t get truly cold here until January and February, although some native Pennsylvanians would disagree with me about that. They’re wearing heavy jackets when I’m still happy in just a sweater, if that much. Growing up in Minnesota still affects me, I guess. I don’t start feeling really cold until, as I said, January or February.

Today we celebrated the 13th birthday with our youngest grandchild (I’m writing this on Saturday evening). His voice has changed, he’s getting so tall, and he’s showing a lot of what he will be as an adult. Life changes happen all the time. My grandkids change so much every time I see them. They’re almost all adults now, while in my mind they’re still little kids.

And I’m changing, too. My body isn’t young, and I can no longer participate in things I used to enjoy like volleyball, tetherball, swimming, rollerskating. I was never an athlete, but I got plenty of exercise as a kid. I’ve worked hard all through my marriage, keeping house on a shoestring, rearing my kids, substitute teaching and then teaching full time; going back to school at 50, getting a master’s degree so I could do private practice counseling. I loved teaching. Ioved counseling. I loved all the things I did for the various churches we’ve attended in our 53-year marriage. I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in teaching, music, speaking, running the church kitchen and more. I’ve been blessed to go places I never expected to see, meet wonderful people who have blessed my life, and have friends who go way back. My children are established and happy in their marriages. My grandkids are finding their way, and it’s fun to watch.

All these changes have set me on a rather introspective, nostalgic path. I am content to be in this season of my life. I don’t yearn to have my children still babies or toddlers under my care. I have a husband who still loves me in spite of my faults.

Most of all, as I age I also find more satisfaction in my Bible, in prayer, and in thinking about and learning about my Savior.

I am, by nature, a practical person rather than an emotional person. Oh, I can get quite emotional when the occasion arises, but mostly my life is bounded by order, organization, routine, planning and preparation. With all of that, I love to laugh. I love to see others laugh, and when I can make them do that, it gives me great joy.

There have been days of heartache, days of sorrow and loss, hard times when it seemed the work never ended and there was never enough money. Nights of sleeplessness with sick kids, or worrying about my husband being out on the road on his truck route in icy weather. The illness and deaths of my parents and Terry’s, a normal and expected part of life but never easy, just the same.

The point, I suppose, is that life is to be lived. Live it in joy and strength and hope! Don’t let fear be the driving factor for every decision. Choose faith, hope, and joy.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Thoughts on Pain

I purchased a book some time ago called Gleanings from the Fields. It is a compilation of devotional thoughts by missionary women. I have been blessed so many times as I’ve read their very candid devotionals, Being a missionary is by no means a glamorous calling!

One of things I like about this book is that while there is a list of authors in the front of the book, the names of the writers are not included with their contributions. That bothered me at first. It seemed that each woman should get credit for what she wrote. I quickly realized, though, that it was best not to wonder WHO, but to focus on WHAT!

Today’s writer listed some gems from other renowned missionary women, including Amy Carmichael Betty Stam, and Elizabeth Elliot.

I’ve been struggling for a month now to ward off the demons of negative thinking and self-pity. Here’s what Elizabeth Elliot had to say:

“Self-pity is a death that has no resurrection, a sink-hole from which no rescuing hand can drag you, because you have chosen to sink.”

Elizabeth Elliot

None of these other familiar sayings have hit me like this one did: Others have it much worse than I do; at least I’m not bedridden; at least this didn’t happen until I was nearly 70; just pray it through; just trust God.

By the way, NEVER offer someone who is suffering physical or emotional pain advice that starts with “just.” Two problems: You’re minimizing their pain; and you’re implying that they are NOT trusting God or praying enough. Words mean things. The word just in this context suggests that it’s not as bad as it seems, or that you simply aren’t spiritual enough to pray effectively or to trust God. It’s not helpful. Say, instead, that YOU will pray for relief from the pain, or for healing from the pain. See how much better that is? You’re not putting blame on the suffering person.

Back to Elizabeth’s wise words. Self-pity. First, I never considered that I was feeling self-pity. I try not to make my pain the topic of every conversation. It’s boring. And after all, there are plenty of people who have worse pain than I do. (I can say that to myself. Just don’t YOU say it to me 🙂 )

In fact, I even make jokes about it, calling it “old woman’s back” and down-playing it. I’m allowed to do that. YOU are not!

So, accepting the idea that in my mind I’m indulging in self-pity, I have to ponder Elizabeth’s next words: “It is a death that has no resurrection.” Well, that’s harsh, isn’t it? She goes on to say, “It is a sink-hole from which no rescuing hand can drag you!”

Really? But I’d LOVE to be relieved of my pain, even for just one hour!

Sink-holes abound in areas where there has been extensive mining. My husband grew up in Iron River, MI, where there was heavy mining for–you guessed it–iron. Iron County, Iron Mountain, the Iron River for which the town is named. Now and then, a house or a car would simply drop into a huge hole that opened up and swallowed whatever was resting on the thin crust above the hole. Very scary, and often with no warning whatsoever.

I do NOT want to be in a sinkhole!

I’ve read stories in which a drowning person fought his rescuer, in his fear and desperation. Sometimes, in the same way, we tend to fight against the hand that is extended to us in our sink-hole of self pity. Why on earth would we do that? Well, maybe because we kind of enjoy being in that dark, lonely sink-hole. Yeah, we’re kind of weird that way.

Elizabeth’s closing words say it all: You have chosen to sink! Yes, self-pity is a choice.

Dear Father, help me to recognize when I’m dropping into the sink-hole of self-pity. Help me to turn instead to the promise that You are walking this path with me; that You know how many hairs are on my head, and that You know what is best for me. Help me to be thankful: I can still take care of myself and my personal needs. I can walk a little bit. I have a wonderfully comfortable chair, a bed that adjusts to my crooked little body, and above all a husband whose concern for me never wavers, even when I’m a hot mess of irritation and self-pity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And here’s the song that was playing in my head as I woke up this morning:

Sunday Morning Coffee: Blah!

Yup. Blah. I have a bad case of the BLAHs. I’m a grouch.

I felt pretty good when I went to bed last night. My back pain had subsided to tolerable for the first time in several weeks.

Do you remember this book by Judith Viorst:

Change the word day to night and you’ll understand my present mood. I won’t go into gruesome detail. Just take my word for it–my night was ugly. I’m exhausted from it. It wore me out, and kicked my back pain into high gear.

I have an appointment on Tuesday with my pain doctor. Sure hope he has some kind of help for me.

So. Does a Christian have any right to be such a grouch? Shouldn’t we always be happy?

I think perhaps there is an important difference between the words happiness and contentment.

I’m not especially happy right now. I’ll get over it, though, and no one else will have to know my inner grouch. I can do that because I truly have reached a point in my life’s journey at which I can find contentment –not because of my circumstances, but in spite of my circumstances.

Paul said, in Phil. 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

He said that just a short time before he was executed, knowing what was waiting for him here on earth, but looking beyond that to what awaited him in heaven.

In the same chapter, in v. 9, he said: “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

He is telling us to follow his example, and that if we do we will find peace with God. Contentment. Not happiness, necessarily, but contentment.

We live in these bodies of clay. We lug them around with us everywhere, and when they function properly, our mood often matches our physical well-being. When the body begins to fail us, however, it is way too easy to fall into the grumps and make everyone around us miserable. You’d think no one else ever suffered physical dysfunction!

The words to an old song are playing in my head this morning: “When your body suffers pain, and your health you can’t regain. . . . .”

Sunday Morning Coffee: Gratitude

Sometimes it’s hard to be thankful, isn’t it? I mean, really, I’m supposed to be thankful that my lower back is aging faster than the whole rest of my body? Huh.

I’m part of the first wave of baby-boomers that followed the soldiers and sailors who returned from WWII.

Boomers were born from 1946 to 1964. In 2021, our numbers were 21.16% of America’s population, second only fractionally to the Millennials (1981-1996) at 21.75%.

As we age, we develop conditions that require medical care, putting a huge burden on doctors and other medical professionals who were not expecting to be geriatric specialists 🙂

We are a goldmine for those who sell snake-oil remedies for all that ails us. Products that are supposed to do everything from melting fat to erasing wrinkles abound, especially on the internet. Beware of clickbait. It will suck you right in.

We are also targets for scammers who want to relieve us of our savings/investments, and our pocket change too, if they can. Everyone from politicians to outright con artists are standing in line with their hands out, appealing to our sentiments to take our money away from us. Think of all those pictures and videos of starving little children and puppies. What we need to find out is how much of our donations actually reach those who need them, and how much goes into the pockets of the producers of such ads. Be careful who you trust.

Well. I’ve come a little distance from back pain, haven’t I? And from gratitude. There is an answer, though, and it’s not difficult.

The Bible does say: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (I Thess. 5:18). The thing is, no matter what we are enduring, what we are experiencing, we can–and should–always be thankful to God for His grace and mercy toward us. Death itself holds no fear for one who is focused on the Savior and knows that his last breath will take him to the Presence of God!

The process, of course, can be hard. It can be long. It can take us places to which we do not wish to go. But when we keep our eyes, hearts, and minds focused on Him, we will find the grace and peace to endure.

Here’s a song my mother loved:

Sunday Morning Coffee: Prayer

Praying is a comfort to the heart, soul, and mind. I find myself talking to the Lord many times throughout the day. Sometimes, it’s just a quick “Thank You” for such beautiful weather; or for a tasty treat that won’t show up on the scale. Does God care about such little things? Oh, yes, indeed He does! He loves to give us gifts (James 1:17).

This week, I’ve prayed specifically about something rather important. Last night, I got the answer I hoped for. I won’t say any more about that specific need, except to say that I fell asleep with this song in my head:

Sunday Afternoon Tea: The Wonderful and the Awful

What’s wonderful is that our second son, Ken, is here. So, so good to see him! He’ll be here for a week. He and Mike are off on a jaunt to Philly to see a friend of Ken’s. They’ll have a great time, just the two of them, on the way down and back, as they catch up with each other.

So, what could be awful? Not the weather–it’s been great lately 🙂

I stood up from my recliner last night to head to bed, and got a jarring jolt of nasty pain. It was completely unexpected. I’ve been doing quite well since my last injections a couple of months ago. Sigh.

I had to just stand and wait for several minutes while things settled down and I felt I could walk. Terry brought me my walker. When it’s bad like this, just getting into bed is a trial. Once I’m there, and have taken my meds, I can relax. I turned on the vibration in my adjustable mattress and focused on releasing tension. Surprising how hard that can be. I know how to use breathing to focus and relax. And while that was going on, I talked to the Lord.

I’ve known for a long time that prayer is simply talking with God. I’m still learning about that, though. Just having a conversation with Him is a wonderful way to relax. Talking and then pausing to listen as He brings scripture to mind that comforts and encourages me during these times is such a blessing. I don’t always remember the references, but here are a few of the whispers I heard last night:

If God sees a little sparrow fall, then surely He will care for you.

His thoughts for me are for good, and not for evil; thoughts to give me a hope and a future.

His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

I can do (bear, endure) ALL things through Christ Who strengthens me.

Joy comes in the morning.

In everything give thanks!

He gives me the peace that passes understanding.

I am sheltered under His wings!

There was more, and I think I drifted off to sleep being thankful for all the zillions of verses I’ve memorized over the years.