Sermon Seeds: Harmony

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Last week’s commandment reminded us: It all starts at home. (Honor your parents.)

So this week we begin the journey out the door. And we need to remember: it all starts in the heart.

Our commandment is: don’t murder. The focus in the Old Testament seems narrow and we find Jesus much later attempting to broaden our understanding by telling us no one needs to die, no blood needs to be shed for a murder to take place—it all begins in the heart.

Our judgments of others, our attitudes towards others, matter. These are the seeds of our actions—and Jesus is pretty clear: they can lead us to be guilty of murder.

What’s the answer?

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he answered by summing up all of them: love God supremely (first four) and love your neighbor as yourself (last six).

How do we accomplish those commandments that focus on loving those around us, including the less than lovely or loveable? First, we have to get the ones about loving God supremely.

Starting with no lying, stealing, or murdering is like started to read a novel in the middle; or building the roof before you lay the foundation.

Not the best plan. Not God’s plan.

And once we’ve got the order down, let’s try to live in harmony. Not all our notes will be the same…but we can work together to make something beautiful.

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Meanwhile…While You’re Waiting

It was quiet at the fitness room this morning. I did my workout and was just about to leave when I saw the couple come in. He pushed her in a wheel chair.

This was not the first time I had seen them. Six months earlier I had been visiting my mom and had to use a fitness room on the other side of town while the one close to home was being remodeled. This couple came there to work out too, but she was able to walk in on her own. Her gait was slow and aided by a souped up wheeled walker. Her husband not far from reach.

Husband and wife, in their late eighties, I’m guessing…though people look younger and younger to me all the time. There isn’t an ounce of fat on either of them. I’m sure my wrist is bigger around than his ankle.

He got her settled on a recumbent bike while I was changing my shoes to leave. He disappeared into the bathroom. As I tied my laces I felt a nudge from the Spirit to go and tell the little lady what an inspiration she was to me.

I walked back into the fitness room and found her on her machine. I knelt down beside her.

“Hello, I just wanted to tell you what an inspiration you are to me.” She smiled and looked a bit surprised.

“I come to Green Valley to visit my mom and I was here a while back and saw you working out with your husband. Whenever I feel like giving up or quitting, I close my eyes and I see you and I find the umph to keep going.”

“That’s so sweet. I had no idea.”

“Well that’s why I decided to say something.” Then my eyes began to fill and I felt my throat tightening. “There’s another way you inspire me, too.”

She tilted her head and then reached to lay her hand on my arm. If I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t have known, her touch was so light.

“The way your husband cares for you is so precious. I close my eyes and see my husband, he’s just as caring, and I feel so blessed.”

“Aren’t you a dear.”

“Well, I don’t know about that, but I do know I wanted to tell you how inspirational you are. Have a blessed day.”

I stood, we exchanged smiles, and I walked away. My eyes full of tears.
I dug a tissue out of my pocket as I got into the car. I could hear my husband’s voice as I pulled out of the lot.

Many times we would have conversations in the car on the home from church or other times with friends, where we would talk about how someone’s song blessed us, or how much someone meant to us. And the listener would always respond with, “So, did you tell them?”

This would always result in a follow up note or call, or in recent years: an email, text, or pm on Facebook.

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When I turned out of the lot I was treated to a magnificent sunrise over the mountains. I pulled over and snapped a picture on my phone.

So many songs of praise began to flood my mind. It was a truly an inspirational moment.

Have you had any moments like that lately?

Is there someone who inspires you?

Have you told them?

While you “wait” this Advent rest assured this is something you don’t have to wait to do. And I think it’s pretty safe to say, hearing these kinds of things will mean a lot to that person.

They may need your words of thanks to encourage and inspire them to keep going to.

Who will you call first?

Mother’s Day Gifts

(I wrote this as a gift to my mother for her birthday. I didn’t send it then. So it became her Mother’s Day gift instead.)

 

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Dear Mom,

I hope that you don’t mind that instead of sending you a card with someone else’s words I have chosen to write you a letter. I know that are very few things that you “need” and less that you might tell me you want. So rather than a plant you have to fret over as it dies (through no fault of your own), or a geegaw that you have to dust–not even another owl picture or mug, I’m giving my time and my heart.

Much love, T

Gifts from My Mother

I considered flowers, but decided against, knowing they would just die. What do you get a woman who wants for little when her birthday comes again?

This year I opted for time and thoughts. Perhaps I could put pen to paper and express my gratitude for the gifts she has given me.

You see, this amazing woman has a tendency to blame herself for all the bad that happens in our lives. She will say things like, “Oh, I guess you got that (bad habit or problem) from me.” Or, “That’s my fault, isn’t it?” She’s quick to assume the blame, but I’m not sure she’s aware of how gifted we are because of her.

I have two siblings. They will have to share their perspective on their own time because this is just about what I am thank-full to have received from my mother.

From a very young age, I knew my mother wanted me to succeed. She wouldn’t let met settle for less than my best. Okay the downside is that I became a bit of a procrastinating perfectionist, but I am getting better. She would groan when I waited to the last minute to start whatever project was being required of me, but knowing how to use that last minute burst of creative energy has saved my butt on more than one occasion.

Whenever kwe moved to a new town, Mom always sought out the church with what seemed to have the best choir. From this I received the awareness of the importance of praise and worship. Church never seemed to be about the dogma, theology, tradition, or practice. We were in church to praise God by lifting our voices in song.

Additionally, these churches also had strong programs for children and teens. Looking back, I can see that this was also a gift. Mom was surrounding us with godly teaching and wise mentors, without cramming spiritual nurture down our throats. It was like placing all the food on a buffet and allowing us to choose what we wanted…and when.

Mom was involved in community theater and at one point got me involved in a production. I never felt the bug bite, but I was hooked. Being on stage became very natural to me. As I grew and realized my call to preaching and teaching ministry and I was well-prepared to feel comfortable in front groups of people. Add to this: my husband and I met and fell in love during a drama production in college, and you might begin to see why I truly appreciate this gift.

There was always a crossword puzzle to be worked when cooking and cleaning was done. It became the obvious gift as we were growing up and each one brought many expression of thanks. Mom was always working with words and hungering after knowledge. She had her personal research library right beside her chair and she seemed to delight with each opportunity to dig for some answer. My love for learning seems to be a direct result of this. One time in Sunday School a teacher asked one of my daughters what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her reply, “A student like Mommy.” I could say the same.

But her love for words didn’t stop there. Many nights my siblings and I would be shuffled off to bed just as the Scrabble board was being set for a game between her and Dad. She tells the story that she started playing while I was in her belly–I was pre-ordained to love the game. I’m not so sure about that, but I know that I have a love for words, and also the strategy that goes with winning that game. One of the greatest joys in my life these days is the times Mom and I spend stretching our brains for hours and days playing Scrabble and laughing together. Honestly, I don’t think I get enough.

Growing up I didn’t appreciate my mother’s organized and patterned lifestyle. I often complained that it cramped my style. Truth be told, She held up a standard that I never felt I could measure up to. Her house was always clean. Our clothes were laundered and pressed. We were well fed. Like many, we may have wished for more, but we always had what we needed. Being able to distinguish between wants and needs may not sound like much of a gift, but it has carried me through some sparse times with a deeper appreciation for what I have, which has resulted in deeper peace, trust, and ultimately joy.

I was recently asked to lead a Bible study for widows. I agreed, but wondered how I could identify with them. What could I bring? Though clearly not the same, I have known grief and loss, and I have seen the amazing example of courage and perseverance in my mom. I watched her draw from resources I didn’t know she had as she walked with my dad through his battle with cancer. I was amazed by her strength when he died. When she struck out on her own and moved to Arizona, traveled around the world, and then bought a house, I wondered briefly if perhaps aliens had abducted the woman who raised me. In the back of my mind I could hear the refrain of the song from the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” I ain’t down yet! In my life I’ve only had a few opportunities to unpack parts of this gift, but I know that this courageous and strong woman’s example will serve me well long into my future.

I could go on and on, but perhaps I’ll save some things for the next time I need to send a gift. As I was trying to figure out how to close this, I remembered a time as a teenager when I was exasperated by something Mom wanted me to do or some opinion she held–the specifics elude me, but they aren’t the crux of the story. What I remember clearly is how I stomped away with a sigh and a slam of the garage door. I went out to where my dad was working. I rolled my eyes and questioned quite dramatically, “How do you put up with her?”

My dad laid down his tools and calmly, but sternly replied, “That woman is your mother and you will show her respect.”

I didn’t get it, but I did it–or at least I tried. Years have come and gone since that scene in the garage. Respect may have started out because of position/role, but it has clearly transitioned into a deep appreciation for who this woman is and how much she has gifted my life.

And this I know with every fiber of my being, I love her more and more each day.

Thank you for blessing my life in so many, many ways.

xo, T.

How Long Does Love Last?

The total number of days between Saturday, February 17th, 1979 and Monday, February 17th, 2014 is 12,784 days.

This is equal to exactly 34 years and 12 months.

This does not include the end date, so it’s accurate if you’re measuring your age in days, or the total days between the start and end date. But if you want the duration of an event that includes both the starting date and the ending date, then it would actually be 12,785 days.

12,784 days is equal to 1826 weeks and 2 days.

The total time span from 1979-02-17 to 2014-02-17 is 306,816 hours.

This is equivalent to 18,408,960 minutes.

You can also convert 12,784 days to 1,104,537,600 seconds.

I have been married more of my life than not.

I don’t think in terms of me, for I am we.

To say that my life has been blessed doesn’t even come close to how I feel. No one thought this marriage would last. No one counted on his fierce loyalty and commitment to commitment…or my keen awareness that while he is not perfect, he is perfect for me.

We have 35 years of memories and few pictures to go along with them. We have punchlines, but don’t remember the jokes. We have favorite places and lots of favorite foods. Two beautiful and amazing daughters and four delightful grandchildren.

And we have hopes and dreams for the future. Plans that include less work, more enjoyment, and a warmer place to call home.

We recognize that each day is a gift.

At the end of our wedding ceremony, we each took a red rose from a vase on the altar table and gave them to our mothers. Then we sang Henry Mancini’s song, “Sometimes.” Actually, I sang because Nelson got pretty choked up. It didn’t sound as good as Julie Andrew, but you’ll get the gist:

Then as now, I am aware that there are many people who have aided us in this journey, cared for us, prayed for us and with us. Thank you. You mean so very much to us.

And now to quote one of my favorite professors, and dear friend, who often quotes Dag Hammarskjold, “For all that has been–Thanks! To all that will be–Yes!” God bless you all.

He’s Outside the Box


Getting ready for Bible study/translation this morning, I was again caught in the prayer of Paul for the Philippians:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Phil. 2:14-21, NIV)


Okay, here’s my quick thoughts on this: Paul is prayer seems to give the dimensions of a box. As I pondered this, I was rudely transported back to high school geometry class–the seedbed of so many nightmares. One positive thing I did gain from that class was the encouragement to consider the multi-dimensions of things: life isn’t one dimensional, flat. Paul seems to be trying to get the Philippians to realize this same thing about God.

No sooner has he drawn them a box, then he goes on to clearly point out how God is outside the box. There is no box that can contain him. He is the God who is exceedingly abundantly about all we could ask or imagine. Wow!

When my girls were little, they could spend hours playing in empty boxes, especially empty appliance boxes. My grandchildren must have inherited the same gene. There is so much that can be done with a box. So many worlds that one can create with a little imagination.

My girls outgrew playing in boxes. The same will probably happen with the grandkids. And that’s okay. Life is meant to be lived outside the refrigerator box.


God wants us to outgrow the childish boxes we may have kept in him, too. What would happen if you let him out of the box? How would your spiritual life change if you allowed him to be bigger than you’ve imagined him to be? How deep, high, and wide is your experience of his love?


I’m going to play–live–outside the box today. I’m not sure what it will look like…but I’m willing to look. How about you?

What do I want for Valentine’s Day?

I read a tweet this morning that made me think…and write. The tweet asked the question: What do you hope to receive for Valentine’s Day? So I started thinking…
-I will wake up and my husband will have left for work already (because he’s such a responsible person that he’s working overtime), but before he goes he will take the dogs out and then feed them so that they will let me sleep in.
-I will be able to spend time studying the Word, studying from different devotionals and doing Greek word study.
-I will connect with friends and family through emails, tweets, and messages.
-I will clean in my house and then go to my favorite coffee shop and sip some wonderful concoction while I write inspirationally.
-I will pick the red-haired wonder child up from school and enjoy energetic conversation with him til he runs off to play with his little buddy.
-It may even be warm enough today to break out my bike and get a short ride in!

I can’t think of anything else that I need. I’m not even aware of anything else that I want. I’m not the kind of girl who needs the usual candy, flowers, or cards. I’m not into jewelery. And I’m working too hard to lose weight to want to go out for a carb and calorie laden meal. My level of contentment and satisfaction with life should be quite a relief to my hub!

It reminds me of God’s truth: The Lord is my Shepherd. I have everything thing that I need. (Psalm 23)

I pray that on this day when we are inundated with thoughts of love that you will be encouraged in heart and united in love. Great big hugs and Hershey kisses.


Day 19 Mema’s Gratitude

I pick the red-headed-wonder-child up from school on Mondays. Here was a our conversation in the car on the way to my house:
Mema: Hi Buddy.
RHWC: Hi Mema. How’s was your day?
M: It was good, Buddy, how about yours?
RHWC: It was excelentamundo.
M: Wow, that sounds like a special kind of day.
We talked then about some of the more challenging stuff he’s learning–he loves the challenge. Then we talked about Pilgrims and Indians and Math. Then he said:
RHWC: Mema, I hope you live for at least fifty more years.
M: That’s a lot of years, Buddy.
RHWC: Yeah, I know. But I want you around forever.
M: Thanks, Buddy. I hope I have a lot of years, but however many I have–each day is a treasure when I’m with you.
RHWC: For me too, Mema.

My heart just needed that dose of love.