Why Do We Have the Church?

Jesus said to his disciples: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” Matthew 18:20

I grew up going to church with my family every Sunday. My parents were members of a  Finnish Lutheran Church that was part of an association of Finnish churches. During the summer we sometimes attended the annual church convention. People from across the United States came to a host church and were housed by the local church members. Guest speakers came from Finland.

The convention lasted four days. Each morning we listened to two sermons and then had a community lunch that was organized by the host church. In the afternoon two more sermons. Then a community dinner followed by two more sermons.

I was sheltered from many things. Young people in the church did not go to movies or attend dances. For several years my family did not have a television. It was legalism, but I gained a foundation of faith. I knew that I, like all humans, was a sinner. I asked Jesus to be my Savior.

When I went to the University of Michigan I became involved in Intervarsity and joined the Reformed Church. Through participation in Intervarsity and the church I was able to sort through the legalism—my faith was refined and grew stronger.

I met my husband in the young adult ministry of the Reformed Church. After we were married we chose to become members of the Evangelical Free Church.

It is true that the Church is not perfect. It is made up of sinners who need to confess their sins regularly and repent. The Church is a spiritual family. Both our family of origin and the church family have flaws, but we need them. God has given the family unit as foundational unit for society. 

The Church is the spiritual family that helps us know God and develop spiritually. We sing and praise God. We pray together, confessing our faults and seeking God’s will. We study the Bible together so that we understand God’s commands and obey. We help each other.

When we consider how God has designed us for relationship and community, we can understand why the restrictions imposed by the pandemic are so painful. The isolation that my mother and many others are experiencing in nursing homes is not right. Churches are struggling to navigate through this time.

And so we pray for this pandemic to end, for the officials making decisions about restrictions, for truth and for God’s mercy.

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. I am grateful for this community led by Kate!

Detroit, the Family and Reflections on Racism

My first job as a graduate nurse was in a hospital in downtown Detroit. I worked in a labor/delivery unit with a diverse group of patients. Some women had taken Lamaze classes and some were unwed teenagers. We had a pregnant woman, victim of a gunshot, who was partially paralyzed. The unit had on average 500 births per month at that time.

The head nurse on the dayshift was a black woman. The head nurse on the evening shift was a black woman. Many of the staff were black, and I had a big learning curve.

Most nurses on the unit were experienced, but I was in my first year of practice. I also found an ethnic difference between myself and the nurses that had grown up in a black community. Sometimes I misunderstood them, and sometimes they misunderstood me. But I don’t think this was racism.

I believe that we must listen to others and try to understand our differences. We need to have respect for all people. We can learn this in our families.

I am third generation Finnish. My family held onto Finnish traditions and language (I learned some basic phrases and listened to Finnish pastors as a translator spoke in English). We kept ties with the Finnish community in Upper Michigan where my grandfathers had worked in the copper mines.

 I grew up in a home where my parents instilled a love of learning, took us to libraries and encouraged us to read the Bible.

My family, like all families, has flaws. Yet the family is the design that God put in place for the flourishing of society. My family provided a foundation for me to withstand the challenges of life in a broken world.

The laws of our country need to support the nuclear family. A child’s best advocate is his mother and father. The family is the primary place for learning life skills. Welfare laws inadvertently discouraged the formation of nuclear families. Did this have a disproportionate effect on the black community? 

Planned Parenthood has placed its clinics in poor and black communities. By providing birth control and then subsequently abortions, did these clinics promote promiscuity in the black community? A negative effect on family formation?

It is important to look carefully at the policies that have disadvantaged the black community to understand institutional racism. In an editorial in the Wall Street Journal (9/11/2020) Latasha Fields writes about her opposition to programs that increase dependency on the government. She states:

By subsidizing recklessness and the growing effects of immorality these programs have subverted, undermined and unraveled the tapestry of thriving and healthy families. Ultimately the successes and failures of the black community come from the choices we make. 

We are at a turbulent moment in our country. We need to understand the roots of the unrest and violence in order to find solutions. The police are dealing with complex issues: domestic violence, aggressive resistance to arrest when they are called to a scene, mental illness. Our society has a growing number of young men with autism. 

Please join me in praying for our country.

Luke’s Orderly Account

Next week our women’s Bible study will begin a study of the gospel of Luke (meeting in my backyard). So I am reading and meditating on the first chapter as Luke relates the unfolding of God’s plan to send Jesus.

The angel Gabriel visits Zechariah to announce that God has heard prayers for a son. Zechariah and Elizabeth are going to have a son that will turn the hearts of the people to God.

Zechariah has been obediently serving the Lord in the temple, but he is astonished by this message. Is God going to do this now? This is beyond my expectations? How will this work out?

God’s ways and his timing are truly beyond our understanding. As we see the chaos in our country fueled by the pandemic, the riots, the fires we may wonder how this will end. God is sovereign and He will fulfill all the promises in scripture. We need to hold fast to our faith.

After Gabriel gives the message to Zechariah, he visits Mary to tell her that she will give birth to Jesus, the promised Savior. Mary wonders how this will all happen, but responds in faith. 

May we be like Mary waiting expectantly for God to carry out his plans.

The gospel of Luke will go on to tell about the events in Jesus’ life on earth in a chronological order. I am looking forward to studying each chapter. The events in Luke are covered in the other gospels, but John makes an interesting statement. 

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21:25

Bible

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3 Kinds of Basil for Soups and Salads

One of the many blessings from a home garden is having fresh herbs readily available. This year I have three kinds of basil.

I planted sweet basil from seeds.

I purchased a bush basil plant at a farmer’s market.

My neighbor gave me a lettuce basil plant.

Basil is nice with any tomato dish. Diced cucumbers and tomatoes with basil is a quick and easy salad. Tear the fresh basil leaves into pieces and add to the cucumbers and tomatoes with salt to taste.

Basil is also nice in soups. I found a couple of good recipes online.

Creamy zucchini soup

Creamy pea and basil soup

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Loud Songs of Joy

Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! Psalm 47:1

The pandemic has made it difficult for us to worship at church. In the beginning weeks of the lockdown I listened to the hymn sing led by the Getty family on Facebook. The hymns refreshed my faith and gave me joy.

Our church was meeting on zoom. We are a small church and at first did not have a way to include hymns . . .  but our pastor kept pressing forward and when our tech assistants were able to post the words to hymns with screen sharing, we all sang from our homes. I don’t always stay on tune, but it was good to be singing with other believers. 

More recently we have met outside and/or in a room with social distancing. We have been singing hymns accompanied by keyboard, violin or guitar. I am blessed by the hymns. It is an affirmation of our faith in a stressful time. We need to sing!

This past Sunday we sang Jesus Messiah, written by Chris Tomlin. The words of the third verse have a powerful message about our Savior.

His body the bread, his blood the wine

Broken and poured out, all for love 

The whole earth trembled, and the veil was torn.

Love so amazing  

Hymns turn our eyes back to God and his love, his plan for us.

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community.

Mercy in a Children’s Book

A terrible accident took place in the hills of Switzerland. A child sustained a debilitating injury and one boy, Lucien, had provoked the accident.  This is how the story begins in Patricia St. John’s book, Treasures of the Snow. This book for children was first published in 1948.

As I continued to read, I was startled by the clear themes of sin, anger, and bitterness—and the way sin makes barriers between people. The story was told with gentleness, but was bringing a clear message to children about the human heart.

The grandmother has nuggets of truth for Annette who struggles with bitterness.

Every day of your life, ugly, angry selfish thoughts will knock at the door and try to get in again. Don’t try to push them back yourself. Ask Jesus to help you by filling you with His love. Read about the love of Jesus every day in your Bible. If you keep your heart full of it, there won’t be room for those bad thoughts to stay. [p. 172]

As the story continues Annette and Lucien both realize their own sin. This is the beginning of mercy, compassion and healing. //

Patricia St. John’s story has lingered in my mind because of the deep truths embedded in the words.

In the book of Hebrews we find this guidance.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14 – 16

Linking this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community and Heart Encouragement.

Text edited: Correction made to scripture reference. The scripture text is from the book of Hebrews.

The Right Life-map

This past week I skipped my morning Bible study a couple of days. Instead I read a few articles in the newspaper at the breakfast table.

The tension of our current time put my nerves on edge. I felt irritable. I drank more coffee and spent too much time on social media. I pondered the effects of the pandemic and the various theories and recommendations. The current state of politics upsets me too. I didn’t sleep well.

Yesterday I pulled out my Bible and spent time in prayer to begin the day. I was reminded that my hope is in the Lord. God is sovereign and He knows what is happening.

With calmness and focus I went outside to work on the yard. I pulled weeds and trimmed bushes. I prayed for our neighbor who lost a sister this week.

The wild rose bush was a challenge but I stayed with it. I chopped the thorny branches until I was tired. Then I came inside for a cold drink of water. It felt good.

The fall season that is coming will be a challenge. There are many uncertainties and we need God’s guidance. He is faithful. I need time reading the Bible every morning.

The revelation of Yahweh is whole and pulls our lives together.

The signposts of Yahweh are clear and point out the right road.

The life-maps of Yahweh are right, showing the way to joy.

The directions of Yahweh are plain and easy on the eyes.

Yahweh’s reputation is twenty-four carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee.

The decisions of Yahweh are accurate down to the nth degree.

Psalm 19: 7-11 MSG

Linking this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Todays prompt is: RIGHT

Are We Making Progress?

Perhaps you saw it in the news. Two people from the Students for Life organization were arrested last Saturday for writing with chalk on the side walk outside of a Planned Parenthood building in Washington D.C. What did they write? Preborn Black Lives Matter.

Remember that the Mayor authorized the painting of Black Lives Matter on the street in Washington D. C. Others painted Defund the Police. 

Students for Life received a permit to be on the side walk outside of Planned Parenthood and had requested permission to write on the sidewalk. They were told to use a temporary paint. When they got there the police told them that they couldn’t paint on the side walk. So they used chalk. Two of their group were arrested and taken to a jail cell. Why were their voices shut down? 

Are we making progress in the health and wellbeing of all women and children?

 “while Black women accounted for 38 percent of reported abortions, population estimates for 2016 (like 2015) show that African Americans made up just 12 percent of the population. This news comes on the heels of deliberate efforts by the abortion lobby to market abortions among women of color as a positive.”

Planned Parenthood was started by Margaret Sanger who had ties to eugenicists. I read her biography and wrote a post comparing the passion of Margaret Sanger with the passion of Lilias Trotter.

Recently I saw an article about Dr. Mildred Jefferson who was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard in 1951. She was also the co-founder of the Right to Life organization. She made these assertions:

I would guess that the abortionists have done more to get rid of generations and cripple others than all of the years of slavery and lynchings.

There are now more abortions than live births in Washington DC, and the same is true for New York City,” 

It seems to me we should review the steps government policy has taken to “help” women in need. What are the longterm consequences? Have we made progress in the health of black lives? 

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Respect in Marriage

Marriage is a refining relationship, My husband and I are in our 44th year of marriage. We have had low points and high points. A number of years ago we read the book, Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, with our small group.

The book gave me pause. I understood the importance of love in a marriage, but respect? The dictionary defines respect: to consider worthy of high regard: esteem.

When we had disagreements did I still demonstrate respect? It was helpful to consider this as it encouraged me to see things from my husband’s point of view, respecting his knowledge and experience. Trusting him. He once said to me, “Please trust me.”

There are learning curves in marriage. Both love and respect are important ingredients in a healthy growing marriage.

God designed marriage and family as the foundational social unit. 

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. Genesis 1: 27-28

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2: 24

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: RESPECT

Nine Tips for a Young Woman

As a mom, grandmother and nurse What advice would I give to a young woman?

Learn about life practices that support your health: nutrition, exercise, rest.

Pay attention to the rhythm of your body, because your cycles give insight into your health.

Don’t share your body intimately with a young man outside of marriage. Sex is a sacred bond between a man and a woman.

Trust your body. During pregnancy and childbirth lean into your faith in God with prayer.

As a parent, trust your instincts and remember that you will always be the best advocate for your child.

Ask questions when you visit a doctor. Medical practice is moving towards one-size fits all policies. If we go to socialized medicine this will increase. It is important to remember that all medicines and vaccines have side effects and risks. Learn about the risks and benefits as you make decisions for your child.

Pray for wisdom and trust God to guide you.

No one is perfect. We all have human failings. Confess your faults, forgive yourself and others.

Respect moms that have made choices that are different from yours.

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