Sunday, March 31, 2019

If that's not love, what is?

Have you seen “Fiddler on the Roof”? The other night we went to a production of “Fiddler on the Roof” put on by a group of young people, including a young woman in our church family. As I contemplated what to write in this “email of God’s love,” I thought of the song Golde and Tevye sing, “Do You Love Me?” How does this simple humorous song apply to God’s love?

If you are familiar with the story, you know that Golde and Tevye are a married couple with 5 daughters living in a Jewish village in Russia during the time leading up to the downfall of tsars. In their tradition (another powerful theme in the play!), marriages are arranged by parents, along with the help of a matchmaker. In the song, Tevye says that the first time he and Golde met was on their wedding day and his parents said they would grow to love each other. Now, 25 years later, he wonders if that is true.

Golde’s answer to Tevye’s question (Do you love me?) includes these lines:

For 25 years I’ve washed your clothes,
cooked your meals, cleaned your house,
given you children, milked your cow,
For 25 years I’ve lived with him,
fought with him, starved with him,
25 years my bed is his,
If that’s not love, what is?

Golde and Tevye have been together 25 years without even thinking about whether they love each other. In the song, Golde lists many things she has done for Tevye over the years -- the actions, not the feelings. Then she says, “If that’s not love, what is?” What she does is love, sometimes in spite of her feelings of exasperation, impatience, and disagreement with Tevye -- which we see throughout the play.

So actions are love. What are the actions that show God’s love? Many things come to mind: his creation of the world and giving it to us humans to care for; his gift of his son Jesus; his gift of the Holy Spirit to fill us with his love and make us able to show his love to others; the loving people he has given us who care for us; the many marvels and miracles of what we learn in science, literature, physics, philosophy; and so much more. Through the actions of others -- whether they are aware of it or not -- we receive God’s love. Through our own actions we show God’s love.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley.
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
--Psalm 23

If that’s not love, what is?


What can I pray about for you?

love and blessings,

Mavis
If you would like to send me specific prayer requests and are reading this as an email message, just reply. I will gladly pray with you. If you are reading this in my blog, email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Compassion


A few minutes before I wrote this, my little two year old granddaughter fell down. I was out of the room and heard the fall, then her crying. As I rushed to the kitchen, I heard her mom, my daughter-in-law Ashlee, say, “Oh, Violet!” When I walked in, Ashlee was holding the nearly hysterical baby, who had a little, bleeding cut by her eyebrow. Ashlee was stellar; she stayed calm and told me where some butterfly bandages were, patched up the “boo boo,” comforted Violet, and settled her in to rest. I managed to help with paper towels, getting the bandage, and wherever else I could, but my heart was beating a mile a minute and I was holding back tears. Even when the whole little episode was over, I nearly cried and I felt all shaky. My son Zach said when he walked in near the end of the scene he saw tears in both our eyes.

Thankfully it’s a small cut and Violet will be fine.

As I think back on how I felt seeing this small mishap involving my little granddaughter, I am reminded of God’s compassion for us. Imagine how he feels when we, his children, are hurt or sad. My human heart was greatly touched. Imagine God’s heart. Thank God for his love and compassion.

I will exalt you, my God the King; 
I will praise your name for ever and ever. 
Every day I will praise you 
and extol your name for ever and ever. 

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; 
his greatness no one can fathom. 
One generation commends your works to another; 
they tell of your mighty acts. 

They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— 
and I will meditate on your wonderful works 
They tell of the power of your awesome works— 
and I will proclaim your great deeds. 

They celebrate your abundant goodness 
and joyfully sing of your righteousness. 

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, 
slow to anger and rich in love. 
The Lord is good to all; 
he has compassion on all he has made. 

All your works praise you, Lord; 
your faithful people extol you. 
They tell of the glory of your kingdom 
and speak of your might, 
so that all people may know of your mighty acts 
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, 
and your dominion endures through all generations. 
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises 
and faithful in all he does. 
The Lord upholds all who fall 
and lifts up all who are bowed down. 
The eyes of all look to you, 
and you give them their food at the proper time. 
You open your hand 
and satisfy the desires of every living thing. 

The Lord is righteous in all his ways 
and faithful in all he does. 
The Lord is near to all who call on him, 
to all who call on him in truth. 

He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; 
he hears their cry and saves them. 
The Lord watches over all who love him, 
but all the wicked he will destroy. 


My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. 
Let every creature praise his holy name 
for ever and ever. 
~~Psalm 145 (NIV) 

What can I pray about for you?

love and blessings,

Mavis

If you would like to send me specific prayer requests I will gladly pray with you. If you are reading this in my blog, email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Psalm 46

At a seminar yesterday one of the leaders told us about this website that has a bunch of Psalms put to music. I was interested in that especially because I've been trying to memorize Psalm 46 and not getting very far. Memorizing used to be a snap for me, but no more. The website is called Bifrost.Arts. Here is a link to Psalm 46: https://bifrostartsmusic.bandcamp.com/track/psalm-46-featuring-chelsey-scott. I listened to it a bunch of times and already have gotten further in my memorization. Music really helps!

I like the chorus at the end a lot. Be still. And know. That I. Am God. The image I see is someone sitting still, with their head down, singing slowly and quietly: Be still. And know. That I. Am God. Over and over. Then slowly, as her heart is filled with that love, her head lifts and her singing becomes more melodic. She even gets up and skips a little. Be still and know-ow that I. Am God. Then, Be still and know-ow-ow that I am God. Then she is joined by others and they all sing together. Be still, and know, that I, am God.

Psalm 46


For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging,

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Abide.

Thank God that Christ’s love abides.

Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.” A couple of old words there! I enjoy learning the old words from hymns. I’ve always been fascinated by words. I looked up references and definitions of “abide.” Stay, dwell, persist, survive, remain. Apparently there are several Hebrew words in the Bible that were translated into “abide” and each of them has a bit of a different meaning. In newer translations, “abide” is not used at all.

I think my closest associations are “stay,” “persist,” and ‘live.” The Lord abides with me. His love abides. Christ abides in me and I abide in him. You can buy t-shirts that say “Nevertheless, she persisted,” made popular in the women’s movement. I think it’s a great quote. I was just thinking we could have t-shirts saying, “Nevertheless, Christ abides.” or “Nevertheless, Christ’s love abides,” or “Nevertheless, I abide in Christ.” Abide is a good old word.


I am feeling a little melancholy today (melancholy is a good word, too, isn’t it?). It is my Mom’s birthday. She would be 87. She died in 2017, just 2½ months after my dad died. Thinking of her also makes me think of Dad and of my brother Dan, who died 12 years ago. I am grateful for the deep, heart-touching memories. I read through the things I put in my blog about my mom, including the eulogy I gave here.

The word abide is a good one to meditate on when remembering our loved ones who are no longer with us, and our own mortality. When my father died, I could not get the song out of my head that went, “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.” I could not imagine life without my dad. The song rang true -- it was because God lives I knew I could face the future without my dad, and then my mom. Although my loved ones are gone, Christ’s love abides.

I don’t have a lot to say today. I just want to share the goodness of knowing that God’s love abides.

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love,
just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
~John 15:9,10 (New King James Version)

What can I pray about for you?

love and blessings,

Mavis

If you would like to send me specific prayer requests email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

God says no.

I have started listening to my friend Paul Vander Klay's videos. I mostly listen via his podcast rather than watch the videos on YouTube. Paul started making videos in response to Jordan Peterson's videos and books. I don't know much about Jordan Peterson yet, but besides discussing Peterson,  Paul interviews people who follow him. Paul interviews "regular people," not celebrities. There are many times where amazing things happen.

One of those times, for me, is in the video below (starting at 28:24). Paul is talking with a man named Jeff. The whole interview is great. They talk about C.S. Lewis and many things. At this point in the video, Jeff asks Paul to talk about death. Paul's sister died very unexpectedly recently, and Jeff's father, an alcoholic, passed away recently, too.

Take the time to listen. My favorite part is about 20 minutes starting at this point, 28:24.



So many things.

"Death is an unacceptable end to the story."

"Jesus got up, and we get to get up, too."

"The bodies have been stacking up in the ground for thousands of years, and the Jesus story is that's not the end. The door has been kicked open."

"When Jesus confronts the grave, he looks at it all, and God says No. This is not how my story is going to end."

"Why am I not an atheist? I couldn't stand it if I were because I can't stand to watch the suffering of this world and everything that people have lost and suffer and think that is the end. No. No."

"The kinds of suffering that you saw in your father's life will be turned to glory. And I don't know how. But I do have inklings" that is true. "I see that God can use suffering with meaning and make glory. Suffering plus meaning makes glory. What that means is there is hope for those who lie in the grave. And I am not going to live in the world without that hope."

"Our works follow us. I believe what the apostle Paul says, that we do not labor in vain. And I believe that Jesus did not labor in vain. On one hand, yes, I grieve my sister. On the other hand, I know that my Redeemer lives and I know I will see my sister"

"When it comes to doing a funeral for someone for whom you don't know what the testimony of their life indicates in terms of their participation in the age to come, all I can say is, my God is good, and he will do what is right."

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Ask and it shall be given, and some of my favorite people.

https://jesuitprayer.org/march-14-2019/.

I like this article/meditation not only for what it says, but it also mentions some of my favorite people, Father Greg Boyle, SJ, and Wendell Berry. (Augustine's great, too, but I don't "know" him as well.)

The verse (ask and it will be given you and so on) always reminds me of the song based on that verse, "Seek Ye First," I have many good memories of singing that with old friends and family. 

First memory: There was a cute, precocious little girl in my church who loved this song. She picked it whenever we asked for favorites. I loved watching her joyfully sing.

Second memory: We were visiting my husband's family in Fremont, MI, and went to church with them. They sang this song and on the last verse I sang the descant (I think this is the only song where I can do that). My niece, around 7 or 8 at the time, told her mom, "Aunt Mavis is singing different words!" :)


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Are we all to be murdered in our beds?

Thank God that he loves us so much, our certain, always-to-be-counted-on, never-failing hope is in him.

The question, “Are we all to be murdered in our beds?” has become a Moon family joke. We say it when we hear a knock on the door or for any other excuse we can come up with. It comes from a scene in the BBC’s miniseries version of Pride & Prejudice, linked here. That film is a favorite of ours, and we find the character of Mrs. Bennet extremely silly and funny -- as anyone would! It strikes us as quite hilarious that when she hears an unexpected knock on the door in the middle of the night, her reaction is to screech the question if they all will be murdered in their beds!

Mrs. Bennet’s reaction is absurd, of course, but we do often worry, and even despair, about what will happen in the future. I know I sometimes have the feeling there is no hope, and I think we all do. And there are definitely times that our fear can seem absurd to others or -- especially looking back -- absurd even to ourselves.

There are many times in the Bible when people express despair or having no hope. Like this in Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
   How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
   and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Or, as I noted briefly in last week’s email, in Lamentations where there are verses and verses of hopelessness. There are many other depictions of hopelessness and despair in the Bible. Even the disciples, after Jesus was crucified and before they saw him resurrected, displayed hopeless feelings -- things did not turn out as they expected.

You, like me, have probably heard ministers or others explain that the word “hope,” when it’s used in the Bible, is almost the opposite of the way we use it in our common speaking. We say things like “I hope I get this particular present” or “I hope we have ice cream for dessert” or “I hope John will be there,” and so on. We use it almost like a wish -- we hope for something we wish will come true, but we really have no idea whether it will or not.

In the Bible, though, hope is not a wish, not an uncertainty. It is a certainty. It is something we can hold on to -- more like a lifesaver, or lifebuoy, thrown out to a drowning person. When we say our hope is in Christ, it means we know Christ is there for us, we know he loves us. There is no wishing or uncertainty involved.

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
   to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
   for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:25, 26)

Of course, doubt happens. Sometimes we do feel uncertain, sometimes we do wonder if God is there. Doubt is normal and part of our journey of faith. Like the man with the sick child in Mark, we sometimes pray, “Lord I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-25). In spite of that doubt, hope is certain.

Thank God that he loves us so much, our certain, always-to-be-counted-on, never-failing hope is in him.

What can I pray about for you?

love and blessings,

Mavis

If you would like to send me specific prayer requests I will gladly pray with you. If you are reading this in my blog, email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Facebook Faith

Life is difficult. It is not fair. This fact remains: God loves you.

I like Facebook for many reasons - keeping up with my friends and family, seeing their photos and sharing mine, sharing links to interesting articles - but typically, Facebook reminds me of those newsletters people used to send with their Christmas cards. Nearly always only good news: “We bought a new house,” “Susie got a scholarship,” “Little Johnny is speaking full sentences at one year old,” “Alice can speak 3 languages and play 5 instruments.” You didn’t often see news about all the messy stuff going on in everyone’s lives. Same with Facebook -- sometimes you see prayer requests and heartfelt stories, but mostly your news feed is full of wonderful things happening to wonderful people.

For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about this and wondering if I have inadvertently been sending the message that because God loves you, I think your life will be problem-free and wonderful, like the updates we see in Facebook. Afraid not, BUT the message I do mean to send is, because God loves you, God will always be with you -- whatever happens. Messy, good, wonderful, horrible, scary, hopeful, seemingly hopeless, whether it feels like you’re in a beautiful dream or a terrible nightmare, God is with you and he loves you.

Many of you know the Bible story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel. In it, 3 friends get thrown into a “fiery furnace” to be killed because they would not obey the king’s orders to bow down to an idol. After they were thrown into the fire:

Astonished, King Nebuchadnezzar stood up in terror, and asked his advisors, “Didn’t we throw three men into the fire, bound firmly with ropes?”
In reply they told the king, “Yes, your majesty.”
“Look!” he told them, “I see four men walking untied and unharmed in the middle of the fire, and the appearance of the fourth resembles a divine being.” (Daniel 3:24,25)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego emerged from the fire with “no effect on their bodies—not a hair on their head was singed, their clothes were not burned, and they did not smell of fire.” (Daniel 3:27) As in this story, Jesus is beside you even in the depths of despair.

In this particular story, Jesus prevents harm to the 3 men. In our lives (and the lives we read of in the Bible), that does not always happen. Harm does happen. Life is difficult. It is not fair. The fact remains: God loves you.

Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:26)