Time has felt a little oppressive lately. I have a cold, sore throat, earache, and headache at present. No big deal, but slowing me down. Worse, I still don’t have my Christmas tree. The grandest room in our house is the dining room, and presently it is full of ornament boxes looking for a place to go.
Three years ago, I wrote a blog post called Mark Twain and Plans for December. If you click on the purple word Advent in the Tag section on the right, you will find a link to that blog post.
I reread it today, and while there are similarities, there are many differences. However, one chief point is helpful to remember. Sometimes it is essential to step out, take a breather, hit the pause button to focus on what is central.
Advent is upon us. Christians know it as the four Sundays before Christmas when we prepare for the birth of Jesus, which we celebrate on Christmas day.
There are many fun things to do in the days leading up to Christmas — packages to wrap, cookies to bake, trees to decorate. But take a breather and focus on the coming of the one born in a stable in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Watch and wait — His birth changes everything. Thanks be to God!
Last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent, and it dawned on me yesterday that I better get busy. It helps that it has snowed since yesterday morning, and there is NO WAY that I am going out. I did that yesterday, which was enough for this woman who spent 24 years of her life in South Carolina, and six years in Arizona. As I left the cold of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut behind in 1988, it is taking me a few years to get used to it again. The picture below is what greeted me today.
Below is a picture from my dining room last year:
I am going back to decorating. I hope that you and yours enjoy Advent — and the snow if you have it and like it!
Let me begin by hoping that you and yours have had a blessed Thanksgiving.
In my book, that includes these hopes:
no one choked on a turkey bone
no one got in an accident driving to or from the location of the feast
no one overturned the gravy on great-grandma’s linen tablecloth
if living alone, that you had good food, good music, or a great movie to engage you
the food was both delicious and plentiful
the conversation was engaging
after the meal, you still had room for pie
Since my dear husband’s death earlier this year — I have had many firsts. But I have to say that this Thanksgiving was delightfully happy. My daughter, who lives many states away, is an exquisite baker of pies (she has many talents, but this is the yummiest). The pie that got my attention was baked in a split pie pan. I had no idea that such a pan existed. She baked an apple pie on one side and a cherry pie on the other.
I got to join my brother and his wife for dinner. That was great fun, and I brought home enough for dinner tonight. We went out to a restaurant for dinner, and then they took me to their house to watch the first Christmas movie of the season. When I got home, I was greeted with quite a few messages from friends hoping that I had a good Thanksgiving. Indeed I did.
There is much to be grateful for — and I am, indeed, a very thankful woman.
Some time ago, one of my readers sent me a private message asking if I would discuss whether Pastors, Rabbis, Priests should address current political issues when teaching or preaching to the gathered faithful. Although I know what I think about this, I was curious about my FB friends’ views. So I asked. A wide variety of friends and family commented. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that there were times when responses got a tad heated.
One man whom I’ve known for about forty years said that he left a church because of this very thing. The congregation was always told what they should care about in politics and what actions they should take.
No one likes to be told what to think or how to vote. One person suggested that:
“If it is brought up, it should be done in a way that is not partisan and focuses on the theological/pastoral arguments for a policy in broad terms.”
Many church denominations have an appointed lectionary, which lists the daily and weekly lessons for worship, study, and devotional use. In the Lutheran church, we have a reading from the Old Testament, from the Psalms, from the New Testament, and one of the four Gospels. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Byzantine Christians, Jews, and many denominations have their lectionaries. Those texts teach us the faith – the faith passed down through the generations. If our teachers and preachers expound on those texts faithfully, we will get a rich background in what scripture teaches.
In the Christian church, this coming Sunday is the first in the season of Advent. There are four Sundays in Advent, and they are the start of the new church year. They lead us to Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Of Him, we teach and confess that He is the Son of God, True God and True Man, born of the Virgin Mary.
If we belong to a liturgical church and learn the liturgy and listen to the lessons of scripture and the thoughtful preaching or teaching on the text, we will learn some things about what God loves and what is an abomination to God.
If the only thing a teacher or preacher talks about is politics, we will not learn the fundamental answer of who and whose we are.
The ten commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai talk about how we should live, how we should treat others, what defines our relationship with the creator of the world.
If we learn those things and take those laws of God to heart, then we will grow the vision to see what God expects of us. If we pay attention to the scripture lessons, we won’t need to be told that it is wrong to kill babies. If we pay attention to the scripture lessons, we will know that voting for Hitler is evil.
Some of my friends have been driven away from places of worship. Some of my friends have minimal connection to places of worship. If you have also been burned, I invite you to try again.
Read scripture, find a place to worship God, start listening to what is said, and read from scripture. Start connecting the dots.
Believing in God doesn’t make everything rosy. It doesn’t make us impervious to hardship, illness, sin, or death. The taxman still comes. Work still demands our attention. Sometimes we discover that believing in God will pinch and require us to rethink who we plan to vote for, what proposal we work to get made into law.
On the other hand, it provides the tools to navigate the twists and turns of life. It places our story in the broader historical tapestry of the children of God. We were created, loved, and called upon to share that love with others. That doesn’t mean it will always be easy. So we start with baby steps:
Start with being kind.
Start with telling the truth.
Start with simple thoughtfulness
Hold the door
Offer a ride
Help someone in need
Invite someone to dinner
When someone asks for prayers, say some. They don’t need to be eloquent – they need to be said.
Read and listen and think about what you can do this day to follow the Lord of Life.
I scrawled the following lines in 2004, about my parents during WWII. They married in 1941 and had six months before my father had to report for duty. Between March 1942 and October 1945, he served under General Patton in four European campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, and Central Europe. In the picture below he was on furlough — shortly before the end of his service.
Six-month reprieve on which to found
War trains to Fort Bragg, Fort Sill.
her train to Temple, Texas. Thick billowing soot
dyes her new yellow dress—black
before she reached you and Camp Hood
tank destroyer center.
Ships passage. You left
for four campaigns: service under
Patton. She waits, like other wives,
and finds your letters home
come ten-days-worth at a time. For you,
rooftop snipers and crooked paintings
rigged to explode. Americans
have crossed the sea.
And still, she waits and fills her days with busy
wartime work —
while where you are
butcher, mortician, and pharmacist tend to triage.
And in the afternoon, a German officer
walks into camp, surrenders weapons, medals:
to keep ahead of Stalin.
Yet more she waits,
ten days of letters come,
and yet, more letters, snipers, and more days
before Fort Bragg and home.
I am always impressed by the many bloggers who write regularly, thoughtfully, and on time. I set out to write two blog posts a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays at approximately 1 p.m. Eastern time. Alas, Today is WEDNESDAY. I was on the road yesterday and was unable to publish a post.
I was dealing with an inheritance of sorts — a medical condition I came by honestly, inherited from my Maternal Grandmother and my Mom. So that no one goes off the deep end with worry, let me say that there is nothing serious going on. I am in fine fettle. The problem is that I inherited their feet. They are not pretty to look at, and they cause a great deal of pain when wearing ordinary shoes.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I moved to Ohio from Arizona. We bought a house built in 1855 in a town with about 6000 people. Occasionally, that means driving to other towns nearby for goods or services. Yesterday I went to Fostoria to see a Podiatrist regarding my great inheritance. He explained the surgery and recovery time should I have my feet fixed. After hearing him out — I am convinced that I do not want to pursue it. However, he was kind enough to do some maintenance so that my feet are much happier than when I arrived at his office.
When I left, I had a lovely drive home — farmland for as far as the eye can see, punctuated by an occasional small town, and a few wispy clouds in a beautiful blue sky. I can’t tell you how the land cheered me. Occasional hills, but mostly flat farmland, freshly mowed or harvested, with some of the staples of farms — barns, silos, equipment, farmhouses, straight rows. It was a lovely conclusion to a worthwhile appointment.
While visiting, I saw a picture in the Tractor Supply Catalog of a Christmas pillow I just had to have. It just spoke to me! But they did not have one in the local store — so I ordered one. Last night, my brother and sister-in-law picked me up at home, and we drove to the next town to pick up that pillow.
They then took me to a German store with an adjoining restaurant that I had never visited before.
That was great fun. I got to have bratwurst and sauerkraut (and alas, veggies), and it was all delicious. Their market was great—all kinds of beers from the old country and all manner of foods. What a terrific evening we had!
Since I wrote this in the wee hours of the morning (sometime after midnight), I hope you will forgive my brevity!
In the United States, there is a conflict going on. One of the bloggers whose posts I follow has dared to weigh in on the current battle over who will be our next President. The few responses that I read were extreme in both directions. I laud her courage.
Donald Trump was a well known public figure for years. But no one expected that he would become President. Now that he is President, the reports of what he has done are quite different, depending on who you listen to and what news you read. I was a grant writer for quite a few years and am a capable researcher. I have heard speeches that President Trump gave and later read news reports of those speeches. Interestingly, some news sources carefully edited what he said to make it appear that he said almost the opposite.
I have heard President Trump compared to Hitler. Since I voted for him in 2016, I don’t have to think too long before I can guess what some people think of me. I have had friends of long-standing unfriend me on social platforms because of posts supporting the President.
Right now, we are waiting to hear the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election. As we all know, the contenders are our current President, Donald J. Trump, elected in 2016; and President Obama’s former Vice President, Joseph R. Biden. Although many news sites quickly pronounced Joe Biden the winner, various election irregularities have led to lawsuits to verify that only legitimately legal votes are counted.
When that is work is complete, we will be able to have faith in the election outcome. Whoever is the winner, we can move on as a country.
Please allow me to offer a pleasant distraction to the current political wrangling that seems unending.
Recently, on October 30th, I wrote A Delightful Getaway about a visit I spent with friends on their farm. For this grieving woman — it was just what the doc ordered. A chance to be with friends, visit some notable sites in the area, kick back and relax.
It seems that given the current political climate, it would be nice to offer my readers a pleasant distraction. So, I would like to share a book with you published in 2004. It is called House Calls and Hitching Posts Stories from Dr. Elton Lehman’s career among the Amish, as told to Dorcas Sharp Hoover, 2004.
Ohio has many Amish and Mennonites, and many live in the parts of Ohio beloved by my parents. My Dad had family in the Dover/New Philadelphia area and generally loved any excuse to head in that general direction. I’ve often been to see Earnest “Mooney” Warther’s carved trains at the Warther Museum and Gardens in Dover.
But most of all, my parents loved, as do I, the rolling hills of Ohio’s Amish country. All the town names in that neck of the woods are old friends: Wilmot, Winesburg, Berlin, Trail, Charm, Sugarcreek, Strasburg, Stone Creek, Millersburg, Walnut Creek, Apple Creek, and not far away, the little town of Sherrodsville. Sherrodsville holds a special place in my heart as that is where my dear Mama entered the world.
Should you ever go to see that part of Ohio, be careful driving down Amish country roads.
Remember that there may be a horse and buggy just over the next hill.
This book tells about a doctor who served the Amish around Mount Eaton, Ohio, for his entire career. He and his wife decided to build a medical office. He was beloved by them because he respected their beliefs, often making house calls to deliver babies or dealing with horrible farming accidents. Dr. Lehman would deliver more than 6,300 babies before “retiring.”
Let me give you a small taste of the book from chapter 2 — A Country Boy Come Home:
“A ministry awaited Dr. Lehman. The plain people needed doctors who understood and respected their convictions for living simple, separated lives. If the young physician’s first calls were any indication of the future, his life as a country doctor would be far more unconventional and exciting than he had ever imagined.”
“As a general practitioner, the young doctor imagined delivering a few babies each year in the nearby hospital delivery room. He certainly never thought of delivering a baby in his Jeep at a stoplight, or delivering twins by the light of a kerosene lantern in an Amish bedroom. He could see himself stitching lacerations — but gunshot wounds? The thought never crossed his mind.”
Have you ever soaked a wound in kerosene? Well, all of his Amish patients did. The good doctor was sure that it would be full of infection when he looked at the injury a week later. It also went against everything that Dr. Lehman had learned in medical school. But the kerosene did just what the Amish said it would do; it killed all the germs. The wound was healing nicely.
Many of the true stories told in this book are amazingly heartwarming, but some are crushingly heartbreaking. Dr. Lehman received many accolades for his work, but his life was a ministry of service to his patients.
This book is still available for purchase in many different formats. I think I can guarantee that you won’t want to put it down.
On October thirty-first, 1517, Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the Castle Church’s door at Wittenberg, Germany, to voice his concern and objection to some of the church’s practices. He chose the day because the faithful would be attending church the following day and see what he had written.
November first is when the church celebrates All Saints’ Day, which is when my story starts. When I woke up on November first, I grabbed the coffee mug appropriate to the day. It was a mug adorned with a picture of Martin Luther’s wife, Katarina von Bora Luther. It seemed a worthy choice.
When my Mom was born, she was called Katie and named Kathryn after Martin Luther’s wife, Katarina von Bora Luther. So, thinking of my dear Mom, who died more than a decade ago, it cheered me to drink my morning coffee in a mug portraying her namesake. I didn’t have a lot of time to dawdle over breakfast, but I managed a few cups of coffee before heading out to church.
When I was getting ready for church, I thought I would wear my Grandmother’s gold cross necklace. I think my Grandpa bought her the necklace. I am cheered whenever I look at it because my Mother was no biblical or theological slouch. Her Father, a Lutheran Pastor, made sure she studied the Bible and theology. My Grandmother let her baby daughter cut her teeth on that cross necklace. There is a pretty floral pattern on the front of the cross, and on the back are tiny dents where my dear Mom did her teething. My Mother, both literally, and figurately, cut her teeth on the cross. How fitting is that?
This morning, I was to play for worship. I chose prelude and postlude music, and on Saturday went over to practice the pipe organ. Unfortunately, I discovered that the organ had many ciphers — notes that were stuck and sounded without anyone pressing them. So I ended up having to play the piano for worship.
I was initially quite pleased to be playing for this service because it has always struck me as a festive day — the saints of God. The redeemed, gone home to the Lord. The hymns were very familiar, and as I played, I read the words that the congregation was singing. But then the words hit too close to home. Thinking of my husband, who died earlier this year, it felt as if the flood gates opened. As I played, the tears began streaming down my face while I followed the words of the hymns.
I don’t know how other people experience grief. With me, it often seems as if a sunny and happy day can turn on a dime. That is what happened as I played for worship this last All Saints’ Sunday.
I often pray that God will grant me many more years on this earth, as there are some promises I would like to have time to fulfill and so that I may watch my grandchildren grow up. That being said, God’s time is different than our time. So let me echo my Dad’s words to my dear Mom.