Sunday, November 24, 2019

Ruby's grace.



When we camped at Glacier National Park, we had no cell signal except at the office building. One day when I was there, a girl came in to use the bathroom. I would guess she was around 9 or 10, and she had some kind of mental challenge. She made guttural noises but she had some speech and she made it clear to Ruby, the office manager, that she needed to use the bathroom.

The campground had some plumbing issues. When I had used the facilities myself, Ruby told me not to flush it, just let her know when I was done and she would take care of it. They kept a bucket of water near the toilet and had some kind of method for manually making it flush.

The girl went into the bathroom through a doorway in the lobby where I was sitting. She stayed there a very long time and I periodically heard yelling and banging noises. After quite some time, water started spreading out from under the door into the lobby. Ruby came and knocked on the door. “Do you need some help?” No response. She tried again, then said something like, “Just come on out, we will take care of it.” Finally the girl came out and left the building.

Ruby and two other workers got mops, buckets, and rags and managed to get the area cleaned up after quite a bit of work. I said to Ruby, “It’s too bad that girl didn’t have a little more supervision.” Ruby agreed and then, almost in concert, we both said, “But no one knows the whole story.” Then Ruby finished with, “And it’s good they brought her to enjoy the outdoors.”

How kind was that? After all the work the little girl caused, Ruby extended grace. Moments like that give me hope.

How about you? Have you seen interactions between people where the grace of God shines through?​

What can I pray about for you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What is this?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry.
. If you would like to send me specific prayer requests. I will gladly pray with you. Email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Death Decisions on my Mind

That title sounds kind of macabre, but there it is. This morning I listed to this podcast from "Hidden Brain," called "The Ventilator: Life, Death And The Choices We Make At The End." It made me cry. But it wasn't a bad cry. As I was crying, I thought, "I guess this podcast was a 'trigger' for me."

If you listen to it, you'll probably know why it made me cry. It's about a family with a wife/mom who had ALS, Stephanie Rinka. It made me think of my brother Dan, of course, as the mention of ALS always does. This woman had the kind of ALS that starts with your speaking and breathing muscles. It made me thankful again that Dan's had started in his legs and moved up from there.

I thought Shankar Vedantam, the host of the podcast, had a good point that this family's story shows how difficult decisions about how you want to die are. Stephanie and her family spoke about that subject throughout their lives and Stephanie, a nurse who had seen and experienced many different kinds of death, always made the point that she did not want to live without quality of life. When she saw someone living inside a body that didn't function, she told her husband if she ever got to that point, to "just shoot her." But when it came to actually making the decision on the spot, in a kind of crisis, it was not so easy. Listen to the podcast; it's good.

As I think about this family's story, it seems to me that, although they spoke often of not wanting to lose their quality of life, they did not -- from what the story says -- actually talk about or plan for Stephanie's death. When Dan was diagnosed, he and his wife Kathy went to a lawyer and made plans to ensure financial stability for Kathy when he was gone. They faced the fact that Dan was going to die and made all the preparations they could. I think that made a big difference.

It's not easy, though, that's for sure. Coincidentally, this evening in the "Anerica" magazine which I receive in my email, there was another story about a family dealing with ALS, "I was diagnosed with A.L.S. With God’s help, I lived to send my son to Notre Dame." The husband/father has ALS, again the kind that starts with the speaking and breathing muscles, faces the same decisions about getting a feeding tube and a ventilator, and is thankful for having decided to extend his life with both,

One woman says she never wants to live with a non-functioning body, but then decides to do just that, getting a feeding tube first, then a ventilator. Looking back, her family feels the ventilator decision was a wrong one, that caused them all more suffering. A man decides to extend his life so, if possible, he can see his son graduate. He gets a feeding tube and then a ventilator and is still living and has been able to see his son graduate. There are differences, of course, but it still serves to show that the same decisions can turn out wildly different.

Dan decided not to get a ventilator. I know he and Kathy made that decision together and all of us feel it was the right decision. Dan's death was peaceful, as peaceful as it could be anyway. All of my family got to see him one more time before he died. I took several trips to help with his care, and our parents, his wife, kids, grandkids, sister, and many family members and friends visited with and cared for Dan. It was a sad, sad time and we still miss him greatly, yet I am grateful to God for that beautiful time as he was preparing to die. I am grateful that the death of my parents also gave us time to say good bye.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Romans 14:8

Today's devotional from the Jesuit Society (which I receive in my email each morning) had the passage Romans 14:7-12 (New Revised Standard Version).
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister?
For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
Ever since I was a kid, whenever I was asked what my favorite Bible verse was, I would say Romans 14:8, "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s." I've always liked resting in the comfort that I, and those I love, belong to the Lord, whether we're living or dead.

I can remember being aware of the possible death of those I love from when I was quite small. Did you think about that as a child? I remember way back when my little sister and I shared a bed, I used to get quite crabby with her for "hogging my side," but I would make sure that I said "I love you" to her before we went to sleep -- just in case she or I died overnight. I wanted to make sure the last thing I said was nice, and no matter what, she would know I loved her.

Now, the verse still gives me comfort. Life is more complicated. There are more and more things I don't understand. I can think and think, read and read, discuss and discuss, learn and learn, but still I cannot comprehend or understand why such sad or horrible things happen. BUT, "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s." I'll rest in the Lord.


Monday, November 4, 2019

A Primer - a poem about Michigan

A Primer


I remember Michigan fondly as the place I go
to be in Michigan. The right hand of America
waving from maps or the left
pressing into clay a mold to take home
from kindergarten to Mother. I lived in Michigan
forty-three years. The state bird
is a chained factory gate. The state flower
is Lake Superior, which sounds egotistical
though it is merely cold and deep as truth.
A Midwesterner can use the word “truth,”
can sincerely use the word “sincere.”
In truth the Midwest is not mid or west.
When I go back to Michigan I drive through Ohio.
There is off I-75 in Ohio a mosque, so life
goes corn corn corn mosque, I wave at Islam,
which we’re not getting along with
on account of the Towers as I pass.
Then Ohio goes corn corn corn
billboard, goodbye, Islam. You never forget
how to be from Michigan when you’re from Michigan.
It’s like riding a bike of ice and fly fishing.
The Upper Peninsula is a spare state
in case Michigan goes flat. I live now
in Virginia, which has no backup plan
but is named the same as my mother,
I live in my mother again, which is creepy
but so is what the skin under my chin is doing,
suddenly there’s a pouch like marsupials
are needed. The state joy is spring.
“Osiris, we beseech thee, rise and give us baseball”
is how we might sound were we Egyptian in April,
when February hasn’t ended. February
is thirteen months long in Michigan.
We are a people who by February
want to kill the sky for being so gray
and angry at us. “What did we do?”
is the state motto. There’s a day in May
when we’re all tumblers, gymnastics
is everywhere, and daffodils are asked
by young men to be their wives. When a man elopes
with a daffodil, you know where he’s from.
In this way I have given you a primer.
Let us all be from somewhere.
Let us tell each other everything we can.

Published in the print edition of the May 19, 2008, issue.



Saturday, November 2, 2019

Shepherdly Love

Last week I wrote about God’s maternal love, the love he shows us that is like a mother’s love, “a wise, capable, strong, patient, kind, no-nonsense, deeply loving mother.” It started me thinking of other metaphors for God’s love, and the first one that came to mind was the image of a shepherd, his “shepherdly” love.

There are so many verses about Jesus as a shepherd, I could write about them for weeks! The first one I thought of -- and probably you did, too -- is Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” A few others:
  • in John 10: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
  • in 1 Peter 2: “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
  • in Luke 12: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
  • in Isaiah 40: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixaby
Years ago I heard a sermon about Psalm 23. The minister noted how at first the psalmist is writing about the Lord his shepherd in 3rd person, using “he”:

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.
Then, when he starts talking about the dark valley, the psalmist switches to 2nd person, using “you”:
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.
The minister said you could imagine this as if from a little boy’s perspective, on a train ride with his dad. First the boy is a few seats away, perhaps on a different car than his father, talking about his dad to another passenger, saying, “he does this, and that, and that.” Then the train goes through a tunnel. Everything gets dark. The boy hurries to his dad’s seat and says to him, “YOU do this and that and that.” When it gets dark and scary, the child needs the reassurance and closeness of his father.

It’s easy to imagine this from the perspective of sheep or lambs, too. Trotting along on the green grass at the shore of the smooth waters of a stream, feeling good (“feelin’ groovy...”), confident, walking ahead of the shepherd. Then they go into a valley. High hills block the sun. It’s dark and cold, the sheep cannot see what might be ahead. Now the sheep draw closer to the shepherd, perhaps walking beside or behind the shepherd, making sure they see his rod and staff.

Like a shepherd, God guides us. In times of trouble, when we are scared or unsure of the future, we want to be close to God, to listen for his footsteps, see his rod ahead of us, like Gandalf leading the way through the dark mines of Moria (“The Lord of the Rings,” by J.R.R. Tolkien).

Like a shepherd, Jesus cares for us, nourishes us, knows us, loves us. May you be filled with the shepherdly love of God, now and forever.
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.
Mines of Moria by Gellihana-art
PS - If you would like to read more about Jesus’ Jewish culture and the Bible from a Hebraic perspective, check out Lois Tverberg’s blog, "Our Rabbi Jesus, His Jewish Life & Teaching," https://ourrabbijesus.com/. She has also written several books -- links in the blog. I thought this was an excellent article, “Discipleship: What Sheep Can Teach Us,” Lois Tverberg, January 14, 2013. There are many more.

What can I pray about for you?

love and blessings,
Mavis

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What is this?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry..
. If you would like to send me specific prayer requests. I will gladly pray with you. Email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Discipleship as a Shepherd

I like the way this article talks about discipleship. I (and I think many of us) tend to think of "doing" discipleship as telling people about Jesus. This author says:
I used to think that Jesus’ command to make disciples simply meant teaching people certain beliefs about God, helping them to accept Christ as Lord, and then educating them in doctrinal truth later on. 
Though all these are important, this way of defining discipleship showed that I, like many westerners, approached the gospel primarily as information.
Not just teaching, not just passing along information, but involving transformation.
God’s goal isn’t to simply fill the world with people who believe the right things. It is to fill the world with people who shine with the brilliance of Christ.
Not just trying to get people into the doors of the church, but walking alongside people as we learn to follow Jesus, to hear his voice and go where he wants us to go, "[living] transparently before others, humbly teaching them the way of Christ."

https://ourrabbijesus.com/articles/discipleship-not-fences-but-following-shepherd/

Discipleship: What Sheep Can Teach Us

I used to think that Jesus’ command to make disciples simply meant teaching people certain beliefs about God, helping them to accept Christ as Lord, and then educating them in doctrinal truth later on.
goatsThough all these are important, this way of defining discipleship showed that I, like many westerners, approached the gospel primarily as information. Unfortunately, such an approach tends to produce efforts at evangelism that are thinly disguised power grabs. We try hard to foist our belief system onto others, debating with people until they declare our way the best.
An eastern view of discipleship seems far more in keeping with the gospel. The eastern view encompasses the understanding that Jesus died for our sins and that belonging to him involves repenting and receiving him as Lord. But it also recognizes that Jesus lived transparently in front of his disciples in order to teach them how to live. They, in turn, were to live transparently before others, humbly teaching them the way of Christ.
This approach involves not just information but transformation. God’s goal isn’t to simply fill the world with people who believe the right things. It is to fill the world with people who shine with the brilliance of Christ.
sheep in pen smlShepherding in Israel is a wonderful metaphor for of this kind of discipleship. In many countries, sheep spend their lives in fenced-in pastures where they spend most of their time grazing and milling about. Many Christians seem to think that the great commission is a matter of getting sheep “into the pen” —inviting people to accept Christ, the high point of their spiritual lives.
In Israel, however, where grass has difficulty growing in the arid soil, sheep must know their shepherd, following him obediently from pasture to pasture. There, shepherding is a much more active task.
Judith Fain is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Durham. As part of her studies, she spends several months each year in Israel. One day while walking on a road near Bethlehem, Judith watched as three shepherds converged with their separate flocks of sheep. The three men hailed each other and then stopped to talk. While they were conversing, their sheep intermingled, melting into one big flock.
Following ShepherdWondering how the three shepherds would ever be able to identify their own sheep, Judith waited until the men were ready to say their goodbyes. She watched, fascinated, as each of the shepherds called out to his sheep. At the sound of their shepherd’s voice, like magic, the sheep separated again into three flocks. Apparently some things in Israel haven’t changed for thousands of years.
Just like these sheep, what distinguishes us is not so much the “pen” we inhabit, but the shepherd we follow. Some sheep come running as soon as their shepherd calls, but some struggle to obey his lead, going astray whenever temptation strikes. It takes a lot more energy to follow a wandering shepherd than to be cooped up in a pen!
But we are called to be disciples of a Rabbi who is always on the move, one who wants us to go with him, making disciples to the ends of the earth. We need to learn how to recognize his voice, to go where he wants us to go, and to serve and imitate him so that we can share his good news with the world.
Many of us see disciple-making as something that only happens at the “fence.” We view our primary job as getting people into the fold. But a lot of sheep are inside the fence, but just milling about munching on grass. They need to be brought closer to Christ by becoming his true disciples.
And what about people who aren’t at all interested in Jesus, or those who are downright angry or hostile toward the church? How are we supposed to relate to them? Perhaps the solution is to live transparently around everyone regardless of their faith or lack of it. We can share openly and sensitively about our own struggles and what Christ is doing in our lives without worrying so much about where people are, relative to the “fence.” Then every bit of our lives will become a source of witness, no matter who our friends are.
shepherdSometimes we’ll open the gate and let someone in. But just as often we may find ourselves helping other believers become more effective disciples. In the process, we will discover ourselves being discipled as well. The key is to stay close to Jesus, living transparently as we seek to follow our rabbi.
—  A couple favorite excerpts from Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus (Zondervan, 2009)