As we drove across the plains of northern Texas we were listening to a book on CDs. John McDough was bringing the characters in Come Rain or Come Shine to life. The book, written by Jan Karon, is the latest in the Mitford series.
I have read all the books in the Mitford series, but I don’t think it is necessary in order to enjoy this one. My husband followed the story with as much enjoyment he can acknowledge in a fiction book. (He is an engineer! lol) Of course I have gotten to know the characters and know their histories.
As puffy white clouds rolled across the blue sky, my husband and I listened to the wedding plans of Lace Harper and Dooley Cavanaugh. We passed scenes of cattle grazing, and listened to the description of Meadowgate Farm. Dooley was setting up his veterinary practice there. We could envision the heifers that Dooley was purchasing. Husband took note of the bull, Choo Choo.
As wedding plans move forward the event is definitely a community project. Dooley and Lace have loving friends. I enjoyed the give and take, between people with varied backgrounds and experiences. Each character is unique and brings color to the story.
Father Tim, a retired Episcopal priest, has memorable words throughout. I was pleased to hear the term, covenant of marriage, in dialogue.
The perspective on marriage is thoughtful, holy and realistic.
The simple wedding turns out to have a variety of complications–like most weddings. It is a celebration of marriage and family and a child. It is a great read—or if you are going to travel, a great story on CD.
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On Monday night our PBS station aired a documentary about Pope John Paul II. As I watched I was remembering the discussions that I had with my daughter about the Theology of the Body (writings by Pope John Paul II).
Julia was attending Marquette University and was introduced to the Theology of the Body, God’s design for male and female, for marriage and sexuality. She brought home some tapes for me to hear, and we talked about them.
I am not Catholic, but this teaching on sexuality makes sense to me. I have great respect for the Catholic position on life. I understand the position of the Catholic Church, opposing contraception and drugs that cause early abortions. As a nurse I have concerns about the effects of hormonal drugs on longterm health.
So when the Little Sisters of the Poor refuse to be providers of contraception, I am with them. This is the teaching of their church. They have a right to live out their faith.
My own right of conscience was tested during my first year of nursing practice. I was working in a large city hospital, affiliated with a university. I was shocked when I realized that an abortion was taking place in our labor/delivery unit—a saline induction. I could not participate. That night I wrote a letter stating my conscience objection to abortion, gave it to my manager and it was kept in my file. I was never called to assist with an abortion.
Later I would choose to work at Catholic or Lutheran Hospitals.
In the United States the first amendment guarantees the freedom of religion—the right to live according to one’s faith. The Little Sisters of the Poor are living out their faith as they minister to the elderly.
Can the government force the Little Sisters to provide free contraception in the health insurance they give their employees? The mandate goes against their faith. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on this case today. I am praying for the right of conscience to be upheld.
If SCOTUS rules against them the Little Sisters will be heavily fined and may be forced to discontinue their work.
The Little Sisters minister at St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly in my community. I am participating in a day of prayer and service as a sign of support. Let them serve.
Addendum: A good sized crowd gathered in front of St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly in Palatine. We were positioned along Northwest Highway and were encouraged by cars and trucks honking as they saw the signs. We received many waves of approval.
Maria Goldstein led in prayer and Bible reading. We sang the servant song together.
What do you want of me, Lord
Where do you want me to serve you?
Where can I sing your praises?
I am your song.
Refrain: Jesus, Jesus, you are the Lord. Jesus, Jesus, you are the way.
You are the light in my darkness.
You are my strength when I’m weary.
You give me sight when I’m blinded.
Come see for me.
I am your song and servant,
Singing your praise like Mary.
Surrendered to your Spirit,
“Let it be done to me.”
We prayed for the protection of conscience rights:
Father, we praise you and thank you
For your most precious gift of human life
And human freedom.
Touch the hearts of our law makers
with wisdom and courage to uphold conscience rights
and religious liberty for all.
Protect all people from being forced to
Violate their moral and religious convictions.
In your goodness, guard our freedom
to live out our faith and
to follow you in all that we do.
Give us strength to be bold and joyful witnesses.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Every summer I visit Calumet, Michigan. At one time it was the center of the copper boom with a growing immigrant population. Both of my grandfathers emigrated from Finland and worked in the copper mines. I know that Calumet had many bars to serve the immigrant workers.
So it is with interest that I am reading Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent. The saloons and bars were a place of escape for men working long hours in menial tasks.
That the proliferation of saloons was abetted by immigrants (usually German or Bohemian), largely for immigrants (members of those nationalities, but also Irish, Slavs, Scandinavians and many, many others), was not lost on the moralists of the WCTU [Woman’s Christian Temperance Union].*
The wellbeing of women and children was affected when a husband spent his paycheck on alcohol.
Various groups came together in a fight against drunkenness, supporting prohibition. The WCTU, the Anti-Saloon League and the Suffragettes joined together in the battle against alcohol consumption. I wonder if a fight for better working conditions might have helped men and their families—less use of alcohol?
In response the brewers and distillers organized against Prohibition and Women’s Suffrage. Women’s Suffrage became a target because the brewers believed that women would vote for Prohibition.
In 1906 a state suffrage amendment in Oregon was defeated when the brewers secretly enlisted Oregon’s saloonkeepers and hoteliers in an elaborate get-out-the-vote operation. Secrecy also prevailed when the USBA [Brewers Association] paid the nationally known suffragist Phoebe Couzins to repudiate her previous position . . . *
It is interesting to me that Finland gave women the vote in 1906 and the Netherlands in 1917. The United States did not give women the vote until 1920.
What a tangled web we weave as humans when we try to solve social problems. The money involved makes it more complex. Until 1913 when the income tax was instituted, the government depended on revenue from liquor sales.
In the New Testament Jesus does not confront government practices or politics. Instead he asks his followers to be a light to a confused and chaotic world.
You are the light of the world. Matthew 5:14
Jesus also prays for his followers.
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. John 17: 14-15
In this election year I see the need to spend more time in prayer, seeking God’s guidance. I can rest in the knowledge that Jesus is interceding for his people.
*Okrent, Daniel, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, New York; Scribner, 2010, pp. 26, 65
This month our women’s Bible study is beginning a study of the covenants recorded in the Bible. Chapter 17 of Genesis records the covenant God made with Abram and Sarai. With the establishment of the covenant God changed their names to Abraham and Sarah.
Having recently been in the New Testament it brings to mind other name changes. Simon became Peter. Saul became Paul. Each of these people were transformed for the role that God gave them.
The name changes indicate that something big was happening.
As I studied the use of the word covenant in Genesis, I was impressed by the references to future generations. The covenant was about a long view into the future.
Abram was 99 and Sarai was 90 when God gave them the promise of a son within a year. The promise was for them AND for the future. And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of people shall come from her.” Genesis 17: 15-16
The most important event in Abram and Sarai’s life was happening when they were well advanced in age. They were given a blessing not just for themselves, but for people in the future. Can we grasp a little bit of God’s perspective?
I have been chewing on this. It is easy to be focused on our personal life. The covenant takes in a bigger perspective, a blessing for many people. It is a perspective that looks long into the future.
We talk about the environment—it is good to take care of the earth—but it is even more important to care for the next generation. A spiritual heritage is central in God’s word.
I think about this as I spend time with our grandchildren. Our influence as moms, dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents is urgently needed. The importance of guiding and teaching the next generation is recorded in Deuteronomy.
“You shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, when you lie down and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 11: 18-19
Prayer: O Lord, may we be faithful in teaching the next generation your word and your ways.
It is March 1st and spring is coming. The temperatures are still up and down, but I am beginning to have garden thoughts. I am looking forward to seeing the blooms from the bulbs I planted last fall.
The delight offered by gardens has been expressed over hundreds of years. I have collected some quotes.
The first garden was described in the Book of Genesis.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Genesis 2:15
Gardens bring us in contact with nature, created by God.
When I go into my garden . . . All the cares, perplexities, and griefs of existence, all of the burdens of life slip from my shoulders and leave me with the heart of a little child that asks nothing beyond its present moment of innocent bliss. Celia Thaxter (1835 – 1894)
We still have snow on the ground. Yet, new life is stirring and will soon appear.
Beneath the crisp and wintry carpet hid a million buds but stay their blossoming; and trustful birds have built their nests amid the shuddering boughs, and only wait to sing till one soft shower from the south shall bid, and hither tempt the pilgrim steps of Spring. Robert Bridges (1845 – 1931)
My daughter and I enjoyed reading The Secret Garden by Francis Burnett ( 1849 – 1924). Here is a quote from the book.
They had come upon a whole clump of crocuses burst into purple and gold. Mary bent her face down and kissed them. “You never kiss a person that way,” she said when she lifted her head. “Flowers are so different.”
Jesus mentioned flowers during the Sermon on the Mount.
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Matthew 6: 28b-29
I like to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, thru which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. George Washington Carver (1860 – 1943)
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Give us, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards. Give us an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out. Give us an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Thomas Aquinas (1225 -1274)
In November of 2013 I wrote this in a blog post:
On Wednesday morning I was still reeling from the news that same-sex marriage was passed into law in Illinois. The trends in our culture weigh heavily on me. I have been studying the book of Ezekiel, and I see many parallels between Ezekiel’s description of the culture then and the present day. Throughout the ages, people and sin remain the same. We have a tendency to rebel against God’s ways.
Since then the Supreme Court has decided in favor of same-sex marriage. Our local school district has opened bathrooms and locker rooms to transgender individuals, without regard to their biological identity.
The moral chaos and confusion is disheartening but our role as Christians is to remain obedient to God and to proclaim the Gospel.
We have instructions and prayer support from Jesus.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28: 19-20
I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours . . .
I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one. John 17: 9, 11
My prayer: Thank-you, Lord Jesus, for your intercession for us. May we, with your help, be steadfast in proclaiming the Gospel.
On March 23rd the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments regarding the HHS Mandate and the Little Sisters of the Poor. The federal government is arguing that the Little Sisters must comply with this mandate in the health insurance that they provide for the people they employ. It is important to understand the far-reaching effects of the mandate. According to the site, ObamacareFacts.com, the Health and Human Services Mandate is this:
Grandfathered plans (plans that started before March 23rd, 2010) are exempt from the rule.
Insurers cannot limit preventive services for transgender people based on their sex assigned at birth.
Birth control methods include morning-after pills and IUDs despite their being looked down upon by some religious and conservative groups for being “abortifacients,” meaning they cause abortion.
Although these methods have risk factors, side effects and some cause abortion they are mandated to be included in health care. One of the devastating risk factors for hormonal birth control is that these pills (or the NuvaRing) can cause blood clots. Women have died as a result of blood clots traveling to the lungs or brain.
Pills readily available to teens and young women pose another threat. Young women who have been taking hormonal birth control for a period of four years prior to having a full term pregnancy have a higher rate of breast cancer. More information is available at http://www.bcpinstitute.org
Young women who are sexually active, thinking that they are protected from pregnancy by taking contraceptives, are opening themselves up to sexually transmitted diseases including HPV. The HPV infection can lead to cervical cancer (increased risk if a woman has been taking birth control pills for more than 5 years) And so the CDC recommends that all young women get the HPV vaccine which has caused major health issues for some girls. See the warning issued by the American College of Pediatricians here.
Here are four reasons why the HHS mandate is bad for women and why it violates religious liberty.
The medical guidance promoted by the HHS Mandate does not promote health. The recommendations offer short-term treatment for sexual intimacy, without considering side effects and long-term health.
Girls, who have decided to abstain from sexual relations until marriage, do not need to get the risky HPV vaccine that is becoming a recommendation for all teenage girls. A one size fits all health policy that assumes multiple sexual partners is a disadvantage for girls that are making healthy choices and a bandaid for girls that don’t.
Interventions like hormonal birth control and the HPV vaccine are likely to have more of an impact on the health of women who have poor nutrition and underlying health issues. We should be concerned with improving baseline health.
The Little Sisters of the Poor should not be forced to include the 18 forms of birth control in the health insurance that they provide for employees in the elder care homes. The Catholic Church’s teaching on human sexuality is opposed to contraceptives, always has been. The Little Sisters have the right to live according to conscience in harmony with their faith.
Women are speaking up for their health and religious freedom at this site.
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As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11
I am finishing up my study of the book of Acts, and I can see how Isaiah’s declaration applies to Paul. Several times in Acts, Luke describes Paul’s call to Rome—and his determination to go there to testify. After being imprisoned in Caesarea for two years he is finally on his way to Rome, by ship. They are traveling in a season not favorable for sailing. He and the 275 other people on board the ship are shipwrecked. God protects them and they are treated well by the people of Malta. They wait out the winter there. Luke, the physician, was with Paul and recorded the journey to Rome in the 27th chapter of Acts.
Matthew Henry comments on chapter 27 with these words:
No storms or tempests can hinder God’s favour to his people, for he is a Help, always at hand.
The work that God had prepared beforehand for Paul was to proclaim the message of the gospel. Acts 9:15 states this about Paul: he is a chosen instrument of mine [of God] to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. Paul was called to proclaim the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection in Rome. He was to tell people about God’s offer of salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
It is easy to get distracted by world events and by tragedies in our nation. Why are Christians being beheaded? How did we ever get to the point that medical research seeks baby parts from abortion clinics? Why did Justice Scalia die now? In some sense our nation is in a shipwreck.
The words from Isaiah and the example of Paul are a great encouragement. Paul was not deterred by the execution of James and or by his own imprisonments.
Even though storms come up, we need to keep our focus on Jesus. God’s word will not return empty. I may stumble but He is faithful to help. We live with a precious hope. May we bring God glory.