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.

The Changing Ways of Birth

I was born in Michigan, and so was my mother. My grandmother was born in Finland.

My grandmother gave birth to her children at home. My mother gave birth in the hospital during the obstetric practice of twilight sleep and delivery with forceps. I gave birth by cesarean section.

As a nurse I worked in labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care. Hoping to help women avoid unnecessary interventions, I taught Lamaze classes.

Finally after many years in the hospital I worked with a home birth practice alongside doctors and midwives. I learned new ways to assist a woman during labor and birth. I gained new perspectives, able to see the spiritual side of childbirth more clearly. Sometimes, while caring for a woman during labor, she asked me to pray for her. Sometimes I observed the husband praying.

Every birth is unique. Every baby is a gift of God. I have been blessed with seeing the birth of my grandchildren at home and in the hospital.

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: BORN

Remembering with Hope

Today we went to the cemetery and tended the family graves. We planted flowers and walked among the stones marking family members. As I read the names I was recalling family history.

My husband’s grandparents immigrated from Holland in 1911. In 1918 they lost three of their children when scarlet fever and the Spanish flu afflicted the family. William was a young adult, Winnie was a teenager and Cornelius was school age.

The family had worked hard to adjust to life in America and pay back the debts incurred during the first year. They had a deep faith in God and persevered. With support from a community of faith, they persevered through the grief of losing three children in one week.

We are blessed to have a family history written by my husband’s uncle. He wrote about his family and each of his sisters and brothers. He described the faith of his parents and siblings.

 I reflected on this as I thought about our Steven. The years of his cancer treatment were tough. He kept a journal, continued with school work and Awana lessons. He memorized many Bible verses. Three verse are listed on his gravestone.

The first one was chosen for him when he was dedicated as a baby.

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71:3

The second one relates to his participation in Awana, his Bible study.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

The third verse is one that he talked about in the last weeks of his life.

He [God] shall wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

As a family we are bonded together in faith and hope. We remember those that have gone before us to eternal life.

If you, dear reader, are not a part of the family of God, you can be. The word [of faith] is near you . . . because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God, raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

How Do We Overcome Fear?

Fear can distract us from a life of faith.

In my morning Bible study I have been reading about Nehemiah’s leadership in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, the city with a temple for God’s presence.

The Jews had enemies that did not want them to rebuild the walls. At first these enemies jeered and mocked them. When that didn’t stop the work on the wall, the enemy made a plan to attack.

But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were angry. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. Nehemiah 4:7-8

Nehemiah prayed.

And we prayed to our God and set a guard of protection against them day and night. Nehemiah 4:9

Some of the people let fear take hold of them.

In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” Nehemiah 4:10

Nehemiah responded with a plan to guard every section of the wall as they rebuilt it. With prayer and dependence on God, with a strategic plan, the work continued.

As I mused on this text I thought about the way fear can be a controlling force. How is the cloud of fear surrounding the pandemic affecting me?

I can follow Nehemiah’s example of prayer. Nehemiah also had a practical plan, and then he stayed focused on the work God had called him to do.

More and more I have recognized my need for God’s wisdom. The time I spend in prayer is growing. My family has decisions to make regarding my mother’s care in the nursing home. The lockdown, the inability to visit is hard. 

We are encouraged to pray. Jesus is ready to intercede for us.

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 is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

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

No Fear of Tomorrow

We are in challenging times . . . like people who came before us. I think of the civil war, the Spanish flu, World War II. The Bible records times when fear hung over the people of Israel. Currently I am studying the book of Ezra.

After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, Zerrubabel led a return to the land of Israel to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Ezra 3:3 records: They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. When fear grips us we need to turn to the Lord.

I am reminded of God’s words to Joshua. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

We can trust in God as we make changes in our daily life, as our circumstances change. God’s word is rich with promises and examples of God’s faithfulness.

Your hands have made me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.

Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.

I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Psalm 119:73-76

On St. Patricks day I listened to the press conferences on the growing pandemic. I spent time on the computer gathering information. It made me weary and stressed. I was glad to receive notification of an evening hymn sing that Keith and Kristen Getty provided on their facebook page. Their concerts have been canceled, but they sang hymns from their home, and it warmed my heart. You can find it here.

Spring is coming. God is faithful. We don’t need to fear tomorrow.

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

A Meal to Spark Memories

My mother’s birthday was last month. We celebrated her 98 years. She is cared for in a nursing home in Michigan. She has significant memory loss and is wheelchair bound.

She recognizes family as familiar people and is happy to see us. Sometimes she reverts to the language of her childhood, Finnish. I can only catch the drift of what she is saying.

When she was a child her mother made pasties—meat, potatoes and rutabaga wrapped in pastry. It was a typical meal for miners. My mother’s father worked in the copper mines.

This Upper Michigan specialty was passed on to us. Mom made pasties for our family. We had summer vacations in Upper Michigan and visited relatives there. On a sunny day we would take a picnic basket full of warm pasties, some soda or juice and a thermos of coffee for a picnic lunch at a park along the shore of Lake Superior.

So for her birthday we had a pasty lunch. I brought pasties that I had made at home. My sister and our husbands were able to set a table in the activity room at the nursing home. Mom was more alert and talkative than she has been lately. It was a lovely day.

Here is my recipe for pasties:

Pastry:

3 C. flour

½ tsp. salt

2/3 C. shortening

1 egg yolk,  reserve the egg white

½ C + 2 Tblsp. cold water

1 Tblsp. cider vinegar

     Combine flour and salt.  Cut in the shortening until it appears as coarse crumbs.

Mix the egg yolk, water and vinegar.  Gradually add this to the flour mixture, stirring with a fork.  Add the water slowly and stop when all is moistened. Mix just until it holds together.  If needed added additional water a tablespoon at a time.

     Divide the dough into six portions and roll out each portion to a 9” circle.

Filling:

1 lb. round steak, diced or coarsely ground

1 C. rutabaga, chopped

½ C. finely chopped onion

4 large potatoes, peeled and diced

1+ ½ tsp. salt

   Place a generous cup of filling on half of each dough circle.  Fold the other half of dough over the filling and crimp the edges.  Place the pasties on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Whisk the reserved egg white until it is a little bubbly; then brush the pasties with the egg white.  Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.  Serve hot.

NOTE: Optional additions to the filling include chopped carrots, shredded kale, garlic, herbs.

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

Giving an Encouraging Word

Talent: characteristic feature, aptitude or disposition of a person; the natural endowments of a person

Words matter. They can encourage or deter creative pursuits. I still remember two elementary school teachers that I had. The orchestra teacher told me that I had no musical ability and discouraged me from attempting to play the violin. (I heard don’t try to be involved in any musical activities.) 

An art teacher said that I had artistic ability and recommended that I be included in a special art class. I was encouraged and blessed by this opportunity.

As parents, grandparents and teachers we desire to guide children, helping them to realize their potential. I know I tried to do that for my children. I see it as my role as grandmother, to speak encouraging words.

What about in the church? Do I recognize the talents of my fellow believers and encourage them? 

God has given each of us a role. We can encourage each other along the way.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

This post is shared with Inspire Me Monday and the Five Minute Friday writing community.

The March for Life and the President

Over the years I have attended the March for Life in Palatine and in Chicago. I have paid attention to social media accounts of the March for Life in Washington D.C.

Despite the thousands of young adults and families who have turned out year after year, the coverage by the main stream media has been limited. With relief I can say that this year the coverage might be better.

For the first time ever, the President of the United States attended the March for Life and spoke to the tens of thousands of high school and college students, men and women. It was refreshing to hear the President say, “Mothers are heroes.”

When we hear the defense of a woman’s right to choose, the implication is that careers taken precedence over children. An actress at the Golden Globe Awards stated that if she had continued her pregnancy, she wouldn’t have been able to finish the movie she was in. 

Some women choose to abort the life growing in them, but others don’t really have a choice. They are pressured to abort the baby by parents or boyfriends.

My daughter led a young life group. One of the girls became pregnant and called my daughter for support. She wanted to continue the pregnancy. But her parents threatened to take away all financial support, and she gave in to the pressure.

Another woman told me with tears in her eyes that she had forced her daughter to have an abortion.

Abortion is contrary to life and health. The procedure has risks and longterm consequences for women. We know that from conception the baby is developing as a unique individual.

The President said, “Every child is a precious and sacred gift from God.”

I am thankful for growing number of pregnancy centers that offer support to women that are in a difficult circumstances. I am grateful for groups that help women to heal after an abortion.

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

Family Fun in Missouri

Between Christmas and the beginning of the new year our family had a mini vacation in St. Charles, Missouri. It was such a pleasure to have our children and their families altogether for a few days. The nine grandchildren enjoyed time with their cousins.

We learned that Lewis and Clark left from St. Charles for the Corps of Discovery Expedition in 1804. The town has the Lewis and Clark Boat House Museum with boats that are a replica of ones used by the expedition. The museum elucidates the historical facts about St. Charles, the people of the town and the expedition.

As we walked around town we noted a number of sculptures of a large dog. Meriwether Lewis had a black Newfoundland dog that he brought along on the expedition. 

The appearance of the town is reminiscent of New England towns, with quaint shops.  St. Charles was the capitol city of Missouri in the years 1821 to 1826. 

St. Charles is just outside of St. Louis so we also enjoyed the St. Louis zoo and museums (many have free admission).

The grandchildren had fun climbing on this bronze gorilla.

There was so much to see at the zoo. I only captured a few of the birds and animals.

Linking this post with Sue’s image-in-ing and Tuesdays with a Twist