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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

God's Providence

There is no coincidence with God. He provides the most unusual answers to prayer, and to those who may be considered unimportant. Life changing happenings - a way of opening our eyes to our big our God is, not just in our 'world', but in the whole universe.

This is now a part of my history. I now know that no one is ever too old to serve our Lord in some way. As a young girl, I desired to go to the mission field. Always China was uppermost in my mind. China fascinated me. The concept that China was on the other side of the world. (Although, I tried to dig 'through' one summer afternoon in our Oklahoma back yard, I could not reach China.) Then during the latter '30's and early '40's I saw movie newsreels of the plight of the Chinese people. The graphic pictures of the Life magazines depicted the Chinese children. At night, I often dreamed of soldiers, and day-dreamed that our family would grow by adopting a child from every country in the world.

After I retired from teaching school for 31 years, and learned the many ways I could serve God, He brought China to me. It happened one warm fall morning, as we prepared for our Ladies' Bible Study - moving this night to the windowed foyer (not in the hidden classroom). I noticed a slim dark haired lady coming to the door and went to meet her.

"Is this a church?"


"Could I come in?"

"Of course," I answered. And thus a friendship began with Linda Liu from Shenzhen, China. She came into the building and she moved right into my heart! That first evening I showed her the many groups that were engaged in study and activies. Then we went to the RCC Library. We sat on the floor and I showed her a Bible, and gave one to her. She had never seen one before.

Linda trained as an employee of Walmart, working in the neighboring Bentonville. She had two months left of her three months here. She became a part of the Rogers Christian Church family. She joined us for fellowship dinners, visited with the children, came to Bible Studies, worshiped with us and learned. She enjoyed not one, but two Thanksgiving dinners that day and learned that she loved to eat the turkey leg. She helped to paint the scenery for the Faithful Witness (11 scenes of the Life of Christ for a drive through drama) and portrayed Mary at the tomb.

One Wednesday night our prayers were answered when Linda wanted to accept Jesus as her Lord and complete her obedience to Him through baptism. When I asked how she felt afterward, she said that she had longed for the peace that passes understanding for a long time. Our church family rejoiced with Linda and embraced her.

All too soon, she prepared to return to China. It was extremely difficult to let her go. She had become our sister and our daughter in Jesus. As I said goodbye, she said she would send others to us. We have met many Chinese folks through Linda. Each time we meet someone new from China, we thank God for His providence and for Linda's faithfulness.

What has happened to Linda? She was able to return to United States one time, visited with our Ladies Bible Study, and worshiped with us. We email constantly, or use Messenger or Skype to keep in touch. Linda is married and now has a little boy, Kin Ling. She continues to astound me with her wisdom, her love for Jesus, and unfailing faith. We pray for each other. This friendship (love-ship) is a gift from God!

How often I have sent this message from Apostle Paul to Linda:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6
God's Providence was evident in too many ways....and these are the questions that I ponder:
1. Why did we meet in the foyer, instead of the closed off classroom for our Bible Study that night?
2. Why did the Librarian Ginger tell me there were extra Bibles on the shelf in the library if anyone needed them -- that very morning?
3. Why was I the first one to see Linda that first evening?

How I prayed that God would give me the words He wanted me to say to Linda, and each time I communicated to her. (What a blessing technology is that helps us keep our friendship alive.) When I hear the Sunday Message and prepare the summary for the weekly email I send to my Chinese friends - I think about the message as they will hear it and what it will mean to them.
Everything was created through Him;
nothing—not one thing!—
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn't put it out. John 1:3-5 (Message)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas in Poetry 颂诗里的圣诞节

Merry Christmas! Silent Night! Memories of Christmases Past! I can see pictures of the past as they clamor for attention in my mind. My Mother, born on July 4th, 1907, remembered a special Christmas when she received a doll. A special doll with a china head, a special doll from Germany.
圣诞快乐!静籁之夜!过去的圣诞节的回忆!过去的图画不断在我的脑海中回响。 我的母亲生于1907年7月4日,她永远记得她收到一个洋娃娃的那个特别的圣诞节。当Anna Daisy Suderman 12岁的时候,她收到的来自于德国的戴着一个瓷器头的洋娃娃。

I remember seeing the doll in Mom's cedar chest, but there it stayed. It meant a lot to Mom, something she didn't want destroyed. I don't know the doll's name, or how much Mom played with the doll, but for the past eleven years it has its place in my house, standing, watching from its perch on high.

Mom grew up with stars in her eyes and thoughts that began to plague her until she couldn't sleep. I retrieved a folder of Christmas poetry from the full file cabinet. Poetry that she wrote through the years about Christmas, her favorite time of the year. I can see her yet....struggling to find the right word to convey her meanings. I can see how Mom enjoyed taking writing classes, entering endless contests and submitting poem after poem for publication. Just as one of the trees in the Tale of Three Trees wanted to point others to Jesus, Mom purposed to write only for her Lord.

The rest of this blog celebrates Christmas through Mom's poetic words:
What does Christmas mean to me? Shiny bows on bright wrapped gifts? Mistletoe and fragrant sniffs? Reindeer on white, snowy drifts?
That is NOT the heart of it! Christmas means a new-born King;

Shepherds hearing angels sing; Wisemen seeking gifts to bring.

Christmas changed the world for us! Christ was born to bring men peace,
Through this gift we find release -- And may His Kingdom never cease.

Christmas means so much to me -- Sing your carols, praise His name,
Low in birth, our Lord became The Risen Lord, whom we acclaim!

Our Christmas Rose
God wrapped His Love in swaddling clothes to hang upon a tree.

We serve Him best when we reflect His love until it grows
Up tall with healthy root and bears good Spirit-fruit,
That honors Christ, our Christmas Rose

Christmas Lives

Christmas lives - Long after every gift is gone.
My Christmas lives because of love and life He gives.
The Christ I celebrate lives on Beyond my sight of glory's dawn

My Christmas lives.

Christmas is --
a time of magic touch when hearts are filled with love that overflows for others reflecting God above.
Christmas is --
a hallowed, holy realm of joyous song and light while heavenly angel choirs still echo through the night.
Christmas is --

God's perfect gift of love when Jesus, stable born,
dawned our redemption star on that Christmas morn.
Christmas is --

a time of understanding when hearts all join to sing
and know the Christmas Child is truly Lord and King.

Christmas Forever

My Christmas is forever, For since I found the Babe
A bright new love has kindled, A fire that will not fade. My Christ is forever.
I still hear, "Glory! Glory!"
His star shines bright as ever In this unending story.
My Christmas is forever,
It's not a day or toy
That soon is lost or broken, But a heartfelt inner joy.
My Christmas is forever,
When Christ becomes a part
Of life that seeks a Savior Who reigns with my heart.
Written Christmas 1997 (age 90), In God's love, Anna Daisy Siemens

Christmas Celebrations
Christmas Celebrations need no padded pews, no decorated altars
Or bright-robed anthem choirs, they need humble hearts, filled with love. Christmas celebrations need no costly toys, electronic gadgets
Or decorated trees, they need a giving hand to share God's love.
Christmas celebrations need an open door, not to lowly stables

But to careless hearts of men, not to a manger babe, but to the Christ of love.

Let us watch.... and hold!
Let us watch the sky of truth for light revealed from God to man

That we, his humble shepherds, may journey to our Bethlehem.

Let us spend our days in study as we search the word,

Not as Pharisees or Herod But as Wisemen seeking truth.

Let us hold to Mary's wonder as we celebrate again this year

Of LOVE God sent to earth to draw the heart of men.
Christmas Love

The essence of Christmas is love -- not our measure of love for God,
But His love for us ....great enough to send Jesus down to this earth
To die for the sins of all mankind -- and with such great love in mind
Of God's glory, peace and good will.
May your Christmas be filled with joy and happiness as you celebrate His Love!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas is Coming

I knew it was the Christmas Season when I looked to find the Peppernut (Pfeffernuesse or Päpanät) Cookie Recipe. It has been a tradition in our family for many years. Mom adapted the recipe (from the many available) until they were just right.

Baking these sweet, crisp Christmas cookies and eating them, transports me back in time to Oklahoma and a small Christmas tree on a Christmas Eve with three young children in their pajamas (sleepers) sitting in a semi-circle. The Christmas lights are reflected in their eyes as the family of five celebrates the birth of Jesus.

After hearing the Luke 2 Christmas story, carol-singing, and prayer, Momma would pull the glass gallon jar from under the tree and say, “Well, we might as well eat the Päpanät Grandma sent while we open the gifts.”

It was a sweet time on a succession of crisp Christmas Eves through the years. Although our children now live in IL, CA, GA and WI, we remember Christmas Eves with them…so much joy in just being together. We always baked peppernuts (calling them
Päpanät [phoenetically - pa-puh-nate]). We played games, we made special treats - we were family. The gifts may not have been plenteous - but always the celebration of the birth of Jesus was shown in our love for one another.

We listened to Luke 2 in the King James version...accepting all it said as the true story of our Savior.

It wasn't often that we could go see our Suderman grandparents, uncles and aunts for Christmas, for Dad carried the mail until late on Christmas Eve. One year we were able to
go. Since I was very young then, I don't remember much except traveling for hours - it seemed like months - huddled in the back seat of the Model A Ford, with a blanket over our laps. We always made an anticipatory event of crossing the state line. Mother would breathe a sigh of relief and enjoyment when she said, "Now....we are in Kansas." I never so much as felt a bump to signify the difference on crossing the state line. The dirt of Oklahoma to Kansas changed from red to dark brown. Of course, on this trip we could not see the color of the dirt, just the color of snow. Part of the way, we traveled in one lane that was open on the highway. I thought my Dad was so brave to steer the car in this world of white, and know where to go.

Finally, as it was getting dark, Mom hollered, "This is where we turn!" Dad turned as soon as he could. There were no tracks on the dirt road -- the snow was as high as the fence posts of the fields. Pretty soon it seemed to me that in this cocoon of snow there was no up and no down, we walled in with white. Dad lost his sense of direction and plowed into the pile of snow on the right side of the road.

We felt the security of knowing that Dad would get us there. "Kids, I need to turn off the motor, so it won't be as warm. Stay covered up with blankets."

In those days there was no CB radio, no cell phone, no way of communication with Grandpa and Grandma Suderman. We could picture the warm farm house and the love that always came when we visited. Just as we thought we might have to spend the night in the car, we heard the chug of the tractor coming down where we imagined the road to be.

The tractor had a flat bed wagon behind. It was Uncle Eli and Uncle Jonas, Mom's brothers. We loaded up on the wagon, and soon were welcomed into the farm house, hugged by many pairs of arms....Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle Eli, Uncle Jonas, Aunt Bernice and Aunt Irene. Before we ate the soup from the wood stove and the fresh tvaybach (2 story rolls), prayers of thanksgiving were given. "Welcome, home!" was heard over and over! Stories of the rescue and the drive dominated the conversation until we were sent to bed to dream of a White Christmas.

Even as in the first Christmas story - when the star guided the Wise Men to Baby Jesus, when the angels told of the birth to the shepherds in the field, was a welcome that God orchestrated for His Son.

What kind of welcome will we have when we have traveled our journey in this life and God calls us Home? It will be a joyous time filled with love and beauty that we have never encountered. An unconditional perfect love. And that hope began with God's plan for redemption through Jesus Christ.

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told! Luke 2:1-20 (The Message)

For a recipe for Peppernuts, email me.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Invitations To Come! 邀请过来!

I began hearing that word - Come - when I was a little girl. I learned to listen to the tone of voice of my Dad or Mom, before I obeyed the summons. Was it an excited-wait-til-you-see-this tone of voice, or a commanding tone that implied that I slow down my obedience with dread of a scolding or punishment? Now I know that my parents had the same thoughts of wanting to share the 'firsts' with their parents. Grandma Suderman came soon after my birth on a train from Hillsboro KS to Hooker OK, quite a trip in the 1920's to see her first grandchild.
我开始听到‘来’这个单词,是在我小时候。在我学会服从传道之前,我开始学习爸爸或妈妈发声的音调。它是一个令人激动地等待直到你看得到的音调呢,还是命令的带着令人恐惧的责备或惩罚的口气,意味着我的服从不够?现在我知道了我的父母同样想向同他们的父母分享许多的第一次。当我在一辆从 Hillsboro KS到Hooker OK的火车上出生后,我的祖母 Suderman很快来看她的第一个孙儿,这在1920年是一趟很不容易的旅行。

I began using the words, "Come here and see!" Usually it was a self-centered 'come and see' invitation to celebrate what I had accomplished. A somersault, a headstand, a clean room, a program at school, my first effort at baking, success at driving a car, graduation, recitals, a wedding, a new baby always was preceded by a 'come here and see'. Later it was delight and joy in what our children accomplished as they grew up, often accompanied by their own, 'come and watch, Momma!"
我开始使用这句话,“来这里看!” , 通常它是自我中心的‘来看’的邀请来庆祝我刚取得的成就。一个翻筋斗、一个倒立、一次清洁房间、学校的一个节目、我的第一次烘焙食物的努力、成功的开车、毕业、演奏、婚礼、一个新宝宝的诞生等等,常常是跟着“来这里看看”。后来是在我们的孩子们长大过程中取得成就时的高兴和喜悦,常常伴随着他们自己的“来看看,妈妈!”

We receive invitations every day to attend weddings, to go caroling, parties, graduations, office parties, concerts, church meetings of various kinds. Then there is the world of commerce with its beckoning through words, pictures, the guise of helping to come and use some product that will cure snake bites, warts, sprains, zits or a variety of other imperfections or hurts. Then there is the 'come-on' to use our money for various get-rich-quick schemes, insurance for fires, floods, life, long term, health (or the lack thereof), prescriptions, dental, car, house or termites. Oh, I must not forget the education insurance and burial insurance.
我们每天接受各种邀请参加婚礼、唱颂歌、各种小聚会、毕业典礼、办公室聚会、音乐会、各种各样的教堂会议。随之而来的是商业的世界,带着令人动心的语言、图片、帮助人的诱惑,并且使用一些产品,可以治疗蛇咬、疣、扭伤、丘疹或很多其他的不舒服或伤害。再后来是各种各样欲一夕致富的伎俩诱惑我们花钱,如火灾保险、洪水险、寿险、长期险、健康险 (否则就会没有)、处方险、牙险、车险、房险或白蚁险。哦,一定不提教育险和葬险。

So many invitations to 'come'. One of the sweetest invitations I had was from my friend Emma's six year old daughter to come to China and she would show me around. I knew it was one invitation that I could not accept, but it pleased me and warmed my heart.

During our life time we have attended our children's graduations, weddings, new born grandchildren and their graduations and weddings. We attended our parents' 50th's wedding celebrations and their funerals - celebrating their lives, plus the funerals of several of our siblings. A life of celebration of 'come and see's.

Last summer an invitation came to witness our granddaughter's wedding in California. Although my dear husband could not go, I flew there on my own. Many invitations we are not able to accept because of distance, time or money. At this time of the year, visits from or with our family is sparse because of the distance. No matter how far away our family is, in four or five different states, they are as near to us as our hearts.

When I visited my Aunt Irene, she introduced me to the thought of the many uses of the word - Come - in the Bible. Such a small word, a word you can slide over easily in the scripture...and yet it brings various responses in our hearts and minds.
当我拜访我的婶婶Irene的时候,她向我介绍了在圣经上‘来’这个词的许多用法。如此一个小小的单词,一个你在经文中很容易不经意而带过的单词, 然而它对我们的心灵和思想带来多种多样的反应。

God invites us, through Christ Jesus, to love Him and be His. I checked, the word come, in its various forms is used 1,638 times all the way from Genesis to Revelation. I accepted His invitation to enter my heart and be baptized to complete my obedience 71 years ago. The older I grow, the more dear He becomes in my life.

How blessed it is to be loved and wanted, to find a lasting friendship in Jesus. A friendship that is deeper than any other. It is Spirit-Deep. And I find this friendship invitation in the following verses.
Come, children, listen closely; I'll give you a lesson in God worship. Psalm 34:11

All believers, come here and listen, let me tell you what God did for me. I called out to him with my mouth, my tongue shaped the sounds of music. If I had been cozy with evil, the Lord would never have listened. But he most surely did listen, he came on the double when he heard my prayer. Blessed be God: he didn't turn a deaf ear, he stayed with me, loyal in his love. Psalm 66:16:20

There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live. John 14:2-4

"Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I'll come right in and sit down to supper with you." Revelations 3:20

"Come!" say the Spirit and the Bride. Whoever hears, echo, "Come!" Is anyone thirsty? Come! All who will, come and drink, Drink freely of the Water of Life! He who testifies to all these things says it again: "I'm on my way! I'll be there soon!" Yes! Come, Master Jesus! Revelations 22:17, 20


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What is in a Quilt? 被子里是什么?

Now this blog includes a Mandarin Chinese Translation, thanks to my friend in China - Lisa! Thank you, Lisa, for your work, and thank you more for your friendship, worth more than fine gold!

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." (John 14:1-7 - The Message)
你们心里不要忧愁。你们信神,也当信我。在我父的家里有许多住处,若是没有,我就早已告诉你们了。我去原是为你们预备地方去。我若去为你们预备了地方,就必再来接你们到我那里去。我去那里,叫你们也去那里。我往哪里去,你们知道;那条路,你们也知道。托马斯对他说:“主啊,我们不知道你往哪里去,怎么知道那条路呢?”耶稣说“我就是道路、真理、生命,若不籍着我,没有人能到父那里去。你们若认识我,也就认识我的父。从今以后,你们认识他,并且已经看到他。” (约翰福音14:1-7)

It was a day that caused the teeth to chatter, as a family met to celebrate the life of a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister-in-law, an aunt. Inside Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethern Church in central Kansas, the family was surrounded by church family and friends. After the rich harmony of the trio, Scripture read by a grandson, two hymns led by the son, and a sketch of Edna Koop Suderman's life, read by a granddaughter, Gaylord Goertzen took his place at the podium.
这是一个令人不语不休的一天,因为一个家庭聚在一起庆祝一位妻子,一位母亲,一位祖母,一位嫂子,还有一位婶婶的一生。在Kansas中心的Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethern 教堂里,这个家庭的四周环绕着教堂的大家庭成员们和朋友们。在优美和谐的三重唱后,由一名孙子读经文,儿子领唱两首赞美诗,孙女则宣读介绍Edna Koop Suderman 生平的文稿,Gaylord Goertzen 则坐在指挥台上。

Beside him hung a quilt with various colors, patterns and many stitches. As Gaylord spoke, he told of quilt and how it came to be made and how it resembled the life of Edna Koop Suderman. For God chose colors from the vast array of colors he created in creation. He chose the green from the lush greenery that graced the earth. He chose the rich maroon of autumn leaves. He chose the rainbow colors reflected in his flowers for His purposes. He chose a few dark colors that contrasted with the bright colors and made them more brilliant. Then He set the pattern and laid out the pieces. He chose how those pieces would form the pattern.
在他的旁边挂着一床色彩鲜艳、带图案和许多针线缝合的被子。在Gaylord讲话时,他讲了有关被子以及其如何缝制而成,以及它由如何象征了Ena Koop Suderman 的一生。因为上帝从他创造宇宙的丰富颜色中选择颜色。他从装点地球的富饶的草木中选择绿色;他从秋天的叶子中选择栗色;他为了他的目的从他的花所折射的颜色中选择了彩虹之色。然后他设计图案并采集布片。他选择能形成所设计的图案的布片。

We must not forget the stitches that held the myriad of patterns and colors together. A stitch a day holds the quilt together. And that stitch must be consistently straight and tiny, one that outlines the patterns in the quilt. It takes nimble fingers and a clear eye and a strong will to finish the stitches. This is what Edna Suderman did, not just with the many quilts made in her lifetime, but with the quilt of her life.
我们不能忘记那数不清的缝线,使得无数种图案和颜色组合在一起。一天一针能缝一条被子。并且这种缝合必须始终如一的笔直和细微,才能勾勒出被子上的图案。只有敏捷的手指、明亮的眼睛和坚强的意志才能完成如此多的缝针。这正是Edna Suderman所做的,不是她的一生中的许多床被子,而是她的生命的被子。

God steadied her hand as she continued stitching her life. He listened to her prayers and created someone with compassion day by day, stitch by stitch. When the color suddenly turned black when her baby Larry died, it contrasted with the beauty and gift of another child within a year. When God saw that the quilt had been finished, He called Edna home. There will be a reunion when God sees that our individual quilts are finished.
在她的一生的持续的缝合中,上帝坚定了她的手。他听到了她的祈祷,并在这一天一天和一针又一针中带着爱心创造了后代。当颜色突然转黑,当她的宝宝Larry 不幸去世时,她又得到了漂亮的小礼物她的第二个宝宝。当上帝看到被子终于完成时,他呼唤她回家了。当上帝看到我们每个人的被子织成时,将是我们再一次相会的时候。

While thinking of the quilt analogy, it suddenly occurred to me that God creates a pattern and the colors of each church family. We see the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in the lives of each - and in doing so we contribute our own stitches to the corporate quilt of each church family.
从被子推想开来,我忽然想到,上帝为每一个教堂的家庭创造了一种图案和多种颜色。我们看到每个人生命中的精神的果实 - 并且在这样做的同时我们将我们自己的缝针奉献给了每一个教堂家庭织成的共同的被子。

But let's broaden our vision to the world-wide quilt in this generation, or beyond. When something goes awry in our lives, we tend to comfort ourselves by saying, "God is in control". Indeed, He is. Do we see the intricacies of the design of the world quilt through the ages? No matter where we find ourselves, do we see His love? Do we follow His lead? Do we add dark colors of rebellion to the quilt? Do we stray from His Pattern? What is a Quilt? It provides comfort, love, security and memories. It conveys the story of people. How do we contribute to His quilt?

It is our place to stand fast in Him and to follow where He leads through fields of flowers, valleys dark with sorrow as well as the mundane everyday-ness of life. God walks beside us as we look to Him!
The good life begins in the fear of God— Do that and you'll know the blessing of God. His Hallelujah lasts forever! Psalm 111:10

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


"Yesterday's the past and tomorrow's the future. Today is a gift - which is why they call it the present." (Bill Keane)
An interesting quote. We always like to receive a gift.... yet, we often choose to wait until the future for some awaited happening that seems more glorious than today. Rarely do we live in the present enjoying the things around us but wait impatiently for what is to come.

Last Lord's Day, I heard a two point sermon entitled Thanks - Giving. As the title implies, it is not something to be celebrated once a year with turkey and fixings, but it is a recipe for living in the present.

How we live in the present creates our future. What is past 'fades into history'. However, we can do something in the present to have a glorious future.

My dear husband of 56 years and I planned a quiet Thanksgiving this year, celebrating the day together by just being. However, Monday night I learned that my Aunt Edna died. My plans for the future days were changed as I ponder the wisdom of traveling on Thanksgiving Day, ordering flowers, notifying my brothers and their families, and other things to get ready for an impending trip to Hillsboro.

Somehow, while I called my little brother, I realized that I would not be talking to him this moment, in the present, if it were not for Aunt Edna's passing. As Gene and I visited about her life, he remembered sitting in the backseat as a boy with his brother Jim, as Uncle Eli and Aunt to be Edna drove them home. He remembers her as a spunky lady. She raised four children with Uncle Eli on a farm. They celebrated Thanksgiving on Wednesday as a family. She enjoyed that time - in the present - with her beloved family. After 66 years of marriage, Uncle Eli, 92 years old, is left alone in the present. Yet, memories from the past 66 years race through his mind, and all the 'present memories' he has lived are his forever. And now the present will seem empty without Aunt Edna. He will continue to give thanks and to give with his last breath, no matter what day it is.

Mom and Dad (Anna and Herman) spent their last night together visiting memories and holding each other, for they knew their final separation was at hand. One of Dad's statements that night Mom shared with me, "When Jesus comes, look to the East, you will see me in the air going to meet with Him."

What was their secret? In all things, they gave thanks. Each evening, Dad gave this prayer at the supper table -
Come Lord Jesus be our guest, and let thy gifts to us be blessed. He always said this in German - "Kom, Herr Jesu, sei unser Gast, und segne alles, was du uns aus Gnade bescheret hast. " Mom thanked God so often for so many things. The garden vegetables, the first tomato, the fruit from the tree, viewing her stash of home canned foods and after the tornado caused much damage to their home -- she thanked God for life. She would break out into the Doxology - Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Their second secret? Giving. Generosity wore hands and feet and smiles all in the name of Jesus Christ. Mom and Dad's words were laced in encouragement, especially in their latter years. They gave their home to many who passed through, they took food, flowers from their garden, listened to the elderly. Even as Mom gained the age of 84, she would tell me that she must call on the old people. Off she would drive in her maroon-red chevrolet.

Our Suderman and Siemens reunions consisted of laughter, love, devotion, family stories and always something to eat. I don't ever remember a quarrel or even a disagreementvwhen the whole family gathered. From what I know
in the various individual families, there were times of teaching, prayer, and Bible Study and chores - responsibilities.

Why are they able to accept the future without fear? Because they lived in the present - a gift from God - to prepare for the future with Thanks to Him and Giving to all. And the present IS a gift from God!

Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you're in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father
. I Thessalonians 1:2-3 (Message)


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Momma and Alexander Graham Bell

Communication makes family life even more relevant through the ages since the time of Alexander Graham Bell. I often think of the pain that happens when our ancestors were separated, and then only through the Pony Express and written word came that communication connection. Or perhaps the letter was carried by a ship across the ocean in 1800's and earlier. No matter the telegraph or words on paper, there is nothing like hearing a loved one's voice.

Through the eyes of Grandmother Suderman in a note to her daughter, Anna Daisy - on her 55th birthday (1962), I learned how relevant is communication and the need to share good news!
My dear daughter (Anna Daisy), 55 years ago we celebrated, it was a hot day, the telephone was off, because it was a holiday. But you came early that morning, arriving at 8 a.m. Daddy stayed at home that day, did not go out to work. That evening when the telephone came on he called those that should know about it. John Litke worked for us that harvest and the wheat was finished the afternoon of the 3rd. John was the one to go get Mrs. Eitzen, Papa got Grandma Suderman and we had 2 little girls. I’ve always been glad for you both. (Would have been so nice to have the two boys) But God’s will was different. He’s made it alright. Thanks for the visit, and you know I did not think of your birthday when you were here. Nice warm weather today. Have a good time and keep well.
Love from Momma (Anna Loewen Suderman)
It was the following day, July 5th, in 1907 that the phone was used to announce to the neighbors on the party line that indeed a new baby was born.

Every time Anna Daisy toddled through the living room she spied the telephone on the wall. An inviting object. Momma and Papa would talk to it as often as they talked to her. What could it be?

Anna looked at the black circular speaker that jutted out from the front of box. On the left side, a receiver was hanging. On the right side the small crank was ready for the caller to turn to make a series of long and short rings. If the party they called had the number 23, it simply meant two long rings and three short. Anna often studied the object. It would be fun to turn the crank, put the receiver up to her ear, just like Papa.

One day Anna Daisy, her mind as agile as her body, assessed the matter. A red horsehair sofa sat beneath the phone. If she could get climb on the back of the sofa, she could talk into the telephone, just like Momma and Papa. She began her ascent eyeing her goal. Climbing to the top, she grabbed the speaker and lost her balance. She hung on to the phone as it pulled from the wall. Anna and the phone fell with a crash to the floor. The speaker shattered and pieces were embedded underneath Anna’s left eye.

Momma found Anna crying with the telephone box lying partially on her. She scooped her daughter into her arms and held her until the sobs subsided. She carefully cleaned the particles of the phone from Anna’s face. Momma cringed as she could see how close to losing an eye Anna had come.

Momma could not clean all the particles from under Anna’s eyes, and Anna Daisy carried the reminder of her curiosity, bits of black like eye shadow, until her dying day.

The telephone was used to announce my birth to family in Oklahoma and Kansas. The phone heralded good news and bad news. It became a way of life. I remember, in high school, that our phone number consisted of 3 digits - 205. Life was a slower pace then, with no cell phones and blackberries belonged on cereal, not in the pocket. It was a race to see if the phone was used more for bad news than good news.

Mother (Anna Daisy) compared my telephone conversations with my brother Jim's conversations. Mine were filled with emotions, the ups and downs of my life of the moment. Jim's were always 1 - 2 - 3 and a quick goodbye. I remember a tearful conversation with Mom after three weeks of college. I had never known that homesickness could hurt so deep inside. My wise Mother said, you can come home after six weeks, but not sooner. Tough love, gentle patience, conversations laced with wisdom were dispensed on the phone to Mother's family.

Once the phone rang late at night. Dad (Herman Bennie Siemens) said his familiar, "Hallow," into the phone. The caller asked, "Is this Herman Siemens?" Dad, half asleep answered, "Yes, it is." He promptly hung up the phone. He didn't remember the call the next morning.

We become frustrated when our mode of communication is cut off, whether it be cell phone, emails, facebook, myspace or twitter. We want the connection to stay unbroken so that our words and ideas can flow through unimpeded. We are frustrated by an unanswered communication when we attempt to make a connection - no matter what type of spoken or unspoken word we send.

There is a six letter word that is more important in communication than any other.....PRAYER.
Our Father in Heaven waits continually to hear from His children. He wants to hear from us in our ups and downs, our belief and unbelief and in our strength or in our weakness. His love is never-wavering, His faithfulness is constant. There are no interruptions of 'service'. There is no down time. We can turn to Him in all things, knowing that His deep love is steadfast.

Philippians 4-7 Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Words and Words = Books

Anna Daisy (Suderman) Siemens (Mother) said to her daughter, "Susie, that was an inadvertent statement." After a discussion young Susie understood that she had inadvertently commented to her mother a statement that was misconstrued.

Anna Daisy had a love affair with words. While her daughter (me) blithely learned Latin, struggled with French. Anna Daisy found obscure words and used them often until they were hers. She loved to do crossword puzzles and in her writing meticulously substituted words until she attained a word with a fitting rhythm, sound or meaning. Ill-chosen words could distort the purpose of the entire writing - and compell the collapse of the strength of the verbose discourse.

What is the result of Anna's love of words? There are many. There were the 'on-target' results of publication and awards, or a continuous love affair with wordology. (not a word - I am sure there is a larger word for wordology).
1. Closer listening to determine the meaning
2. A larger vocabulary
3. Interest in history of words and their evolution of meaning
4. Amusing confusion of children as they hear unusual words in familiar places
5. Creating an interest in off-spring (children) who also become enamored with words.
6. Teaching students of various ages the art of writing poetry in workshops.

Mother gave this gift of the love of words through her quest for better writing. Her oldest grandson, Dan, kept an open dictionary on the floor by his bed during his high school years, and he consulted it often. Dan learned French in high school and learned the obscure language - Esperanto - on his own.

Dan's brothers and sister have a penchant and adroitness in the use of words and have written often in various formats. Another grandson, Matt, became a talented debater, winning many awards during highschool and college.

What was the foundation of Anna Daisy's interest in words? Her tremendous faith in God and the determination to witness that faith. She spoke Plautt Dietch, coming from the heritage of a group of people, the Mennonites, who came to this country for the freedom of worship in the 1800's. Anna's determination and understanding of God's Word demanded that she witness her faith. She accomplished this in writing the history of her family, a file cabinet of poetry, articles and stories. There is but a short step from the rhythm and flow of words to music. One of her passions included writing Scripture Songs, singing her faith. She often wrote an 8th note beside scripture verses that 'sang' to her.

The picture above shows the foundation of her, the Bible, and the books she self-published during her later years. She once reminded me of the words of Solomon - Ecclesiastes 12:11-13
The words of the wise prod us to live well. They're like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd. But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There's no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you're no good for anything else. The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you.
One of Mother's poems illustrates her lifelong journey with Jesus Christ, the foundation of her life.
Precious Presence, we are kneeling Wearied of earth's emptiness Feed and fill us with your power As we strive for holiness Let us walk to gain perfection, More like Christ in every way, Till we stand in joy before you On that great and glorious way.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


As I sorted the remains of Mother's belongings and picked up the light Wearever Aluminum mixing bowl. I saw that much of the covering had worn off. There was a dent in one side of the bowl. Worn and weathered, this bowl and endured many years of use. I considered throwing away the battered bowl, yet something stayed my hand.

Dad bought Mom a set of Wearever cooking utensils. Among the skillets and pans was this mixing bowl...and it brought mixed memories. Mom used the bowl for mixing her bread dough. I can still see her arms, covered with flour, flailing about as she gleefully kneaded the dough. The mixing bowl did not groan, but I wondered how it managed to endure. Once I asked about her active interaction with the dough. She explained that she received a lot of exercise making bread.

Many a chocolate cake, gingerbread or hot wheat loaves of bread were brought through the yawning portals of the old aluminum mixing bowl. Now when I reach into the cabinet for the used aluminum mixing bowl, I don't think so much of what Mom used the bowl for, but of the lessons she taught me through her giving to others, her love of the Truth, her straight and narrow path, her desire to impart through music, writing and teaching the love of Jesus.

Today I received an email from a Chinese friend, who said, "It isn't the words you said, but the love you gave that has changed my life." From this I learned a valuable lesson and one that points to Jesus. For it isn't just the Words of Truth that He gave us, it was His Love, dying on the cross for my sins, that makes following Jesus a life-changing force.

The beauty of the cross shines with love, though it is an instrument of torture. Remembering Jesus. I look at the emblems of bread (body) and juice (blood) as I partake of them. I see Jesus and His great love for me, and marvel at His great love. I hear the words, "This do in Remembrance of Me".

Now, I know why we were given our memories and the little things in life that remind us of love and sacrifice. The love that was demonstrated through the years from grandparents, parents, long gone and also now of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Just as the aluminum mixing bowl reminds me of my Mom's love, all the things of creation remind me of His great love and I sing His Praises for the abundance of blessings and love He pours out upon His children. Even as the birds sing praises to Him, I stretch out my hands to Him who is ever Able!

Psalm 143:6 - I remembered the old days, went over all you've done, pondered the ways you've worked, Stretched out my hands to you, as thirsty for you as a desert thirsty for rain.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Blind Will See

My Aunt Marie set a plate of food before my Uncle Jake, "The potatoes are at 2 o'clock, the chicken is at 4 o'clock and the green beans are at 11 o'clock." I watched Uncle Jake move his hands move toward the edge of the plate to hold his fork, preparing to eat.

At the age of eight, I realized for the first time that my Uncle Jake was blind. I thought about the restrictions that he faced in life. I watched later as he took a large book, laid it on the table, and began running his fingers over the bumps on the page. When I questioned his activity, I learned about Braille. Whereas my eyes simply scanned the page, and the words jumped up into my eyes and told stories to my brain, Uncle Jake read with his hands. Later I tried to 'read' with my fingers but could not discern any meaning from touching the bumpy Braille.

Uncle Jacob was the 6th Jacob Siemens, in a continuous line from Jacob I who born 18 May 1746, in Altmunsterburg, West Prussia, Germany. The Siemens Family left Holland because of religious persecution sometime after the year 1560, immigrated to Danzig area of East Prussia. This area between cities of Danzig and Elbing was swampy forest land owned by a Polish King. Mennonites reclaimed the land using a network of dikes and canals. They were required to learn the German language, church services were in German, schools, too, but in the home Dutch dialect was used. About the same time the Prussian king demanded that Mennonite young men enter military service. The Colony paid the king $5000 a year to exempt them from this service.
His obituary reads - Jacob J. Siemens, son of Jacob B and Emelia (Brunn) Siemens, was born 17 Dec 1898, in McPherson County, near buhler, Kansas, and went to be with his Lord, 29 Mar 1969 at the age of 70 years, 3 months and 12 days. On May 2, 1926, he was united in marriage to Marie E. Huebert in Corn, OK, Washita Co., who was his reader while he attended chiropractic College. To this union was born two daughters, Virginia Siemens Hurt and Helen Siemens Dreschler. Since music was one of his many interests, he loved to sing and play the piano. For many years he taught in the Sunday School, eager to know more about the God of the Word. His favorite scriptures were Psalm 121:1-2 and Philippians 4:8. Among other things, he was interested in history, mathematics, and had an athletic and mechanical mind. He enjoyed fellowship with people, and great joy thrilled his hearts over his five grandchildren.
Later Mom taught me Uncle Jake's favorite scripture from Psalm 121:1-3.
I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber.
Uncle Jake began his life in the light, but his physical eyes were blinded through accidents when he was a boy. In empathy for Uncle Jake, I blindfolded my eyes and tried to walk and eat. I listened to footsteps, learned that bats, blind as a bat, could sense an impending barrier, with their built-in radar. I wondered what it was like to never see the face of your loved ones - a wife and two beautiful daughters or the grandchildren. As I played the piano, I wondered what it sounded like when you couldn't read the notes, or how could he sing when the words aren't visible but written on your heart. I watched as the Siemens brothers - Dietrich, Jacob, Herman and Johnny sat in a row on wooden chairs tilted against the wall - reminiscing about their life as children.

I wondered if Uncle Jake had another kind of sight that we didn't know about. As I grew older, I read the scripture, John 9:39 - Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." I sang the song when I was 19 years old and thought of Uncle Jake - from I Corinthians 2:9 - Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Yes, there are many ways to see without using the miracle of our eyes. We can see with our souls - with our spirit. And in seeing spiritually the things of this world and God's purpose for our lives, we have the promise from Psalm 3:3 - "But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter of my head."

When things in this world seem like more than we can bear, when it seems that we are attacked from all sides, we can lift up our heads, because our Lord is a shield for us.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

Finally, "There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever." II Corinthians 4:18 (Message)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thank you, Children!

Thank you, Children, for raising your parents through the years.
You were raised during the Dr. Spock days (not of Star Wars fame). Prior to the advent of landfills full of disposable diapers and the plastic bottles that could take a fall! Several times a week our house was filled with the aroma from the washing machine....of amonia, not Oust. Getting ready for a new baby was buying another dozen of diapers, for there were usually two in diapers at the same time for about five years.

After I read Dr. Spock, I compared the discipline he mis-advocated and that which my parents used. There had to be something in between that would work. I made a trip to the Dodge City Library to search for a book on children's discipline one evening. There were none. It was not the day of Dr. Dobson, or the many authors who provide alternatives to 'what was always done'.

The years of their growing up has become a series of pictures that flip faster and faster through the years in a fast forward fashion.
  • Dan, Paul and Tim pushing the bangstas (little benches) upside on the floor like so many cars. (Bangstas were reminiscent of the small benches used by their Grandpa - Herman Siemens).
  • Paul riding on Booger, the shetland pony, who liked lemon drops and cracker jacks.
  • Tim banging his head on the crib end as he rocked back and forth to go to sleep, mimicking ever tone the piano tuner hit, much to his chagrin.
  • Anna holding Tiger the rooster in her lap, sitting on the fence, daring to jump off the high dive at the swimming pool to the awe of her older brothers....because of a deficiency in her sight.
And many more pictures in my memory scrapbook. Their concern for their Mother, was evident in many ways. When we lived on the side of a Western Kansas sized hill, they would go explore near the Coronado Cross, out of the sight of the house. Many years later they told me that as they trekked out of sight, "If anything happens to me, take my underwear to Mom so she will know what happened." (It was logical to them.)

In the Fort Dodge two story house, we had four bedrooms upstairs. Tim, the little brother, shifted between Dan and Paul's bedrooms. Every so often Tim had to move to his other brother's bedroom. They made the decision on their own. As a reward, the next house had 3 bedrooms upstairs at Collinsville, IL, Tim had the largest bedroom. Once I complimented Tim on him keeping his room clean and done so quickly. Then later one of his brothers had me look under his bed. Oh, oh!

As they grew, their personalities flowered and bloomed as attested by their Grandma Daisy in poems and pictures included on this page.

Dan, the student, studied many things: time, space, ham radio, electronics, playing the guitar.
Paul, the creative one, made 8 mm movies, took pictures and developed them in his photography studio in the basement. He learned to play the guitar from his brother Dan.
Tim, the studious one, always in a hurry. He worked laboriously on a report about Abraham Lincoln. When I read it, I asked how he did it. He told me he would copy a part of one sentence here and there and splice them together. He loved to read the encyclopedia.
Anna wanted to be like her brothers in many ways, climbing trees, exploring. Then she taught herself how to play the piano, interrupting TV time for her brothers. We moved the piano to her room after she painted it orange (her choice), and she practiced uninterrupted for hours over her Dad's workshop.

And how did they enrich our lives?
Education: Dan - "Why do I have to be in a classroom where other kids don't want to learn and I have to wait?" This question came up over and over when I became a teacher.
Paul - "If I know it, and I know I know it, why do I have to do the homework or get A's?" This question came when he was 10 years old, in Mr. York's classroom.
Driving: Tim - On entering Vandalia Drive (a forked road), out of habit, I said the usual - "Be careful." Tim put on the brakes and asked, "How long have I been driving?" Six months. "Have I had an accident?" No. I got the point.
House Cleaning: During the usual Saturday morning house cleaning, I pointed out the missed areas and began fixing them. Paul: "Mom, if you have to do it over, why should we have to clean our rooms at all?"
Emotional Welfare: Annaka's loving spirit and constant concern for friends and family gave her the nickname of Sunshine Girl by her loving Dad.

Yes, we went through some times of concern, and yet, through love and family, we made it through each upset with prayer. And as I near my 80th birthday, I can see God's hand through all the years, and how He sent me children to learn from them. We are separated by miles, we are separated by so many time constraints, and yet our family is still close and we enjoy our children and their children and their children's children. Hugging memories in our hearts, communicating through the wonders of technology and cyberspace, the blessing of children.

One of the most important gifts for Mother's Day and Father's Day are the children's books - My Mom is Fantastic and My Dad is Brilliant, in 1992. Both by Nick butterworth. Children's books that were embellished by many memories and comments by our four children. Thank you, Karen!

I understand the words of my Grandmother as she said that she wanted her children and grandchildren with her in Heaven. This scripture says it beautifully. 3 John 1:4 - Nothing could make me happier than getting reports that my children continue diligently in the way of Truth!

Yes, Children, I give God praise for giving your Dad and me such beautiful and beloved Children who have taught us so much about the process of being a parent. You have obeyed Exodus 20:12 - Honor your father and mother so that you'll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


As I walked into the house, I heard the sewing machine running and then it stopped. I reached Mother's bedroom door just as she whipped the new garment from under the Singer Sewing Machine presser foot saying, "Thank you, Lord!"

I asked, "Why are you thanking God, Mom?" I was used to her creations at the sewing machine, and took them for granted. She looked at me in surprise, "Why, Susie (my nickname), it is because God let the thread and the seams finish at the same time!"

That was one of many expressions of thanks I heard for 'the little things' in our home. I've often heard that God's timing is exact, yet I didn't know it extended to such an every day event. I began looking for other things to thank my Lord for...and I find many. When I enter a busy intersection, and suddenly it is clear of traffic, I know that God is there. When I encounter a problem and suddenly the answer is clear, I know that God is there. In the evening as I retire, my last thought is resting in His arms, secure and safely. In the stillness of the night, when I awake and can't sleep, I turn to him, and He gives me rest. When the day dawns and the 'to-do list' lengthens endlessly, I trust in His Goodness and His Help. The food and the health He gives me is such a blessing....

The song comes to my mind:
God is good all the time He put a song of praise in this heart of mine God is good all the time Through the darkest night, His light will shine God is good, God is good all the time
As a young matron, I looked for a gift I could give for Mother's Day. You must know that I grew up with knowing that washing dishes is a chore. Somehow the dishes piled up in the sink in my home, and I remembered the hours I spent doing 'chores' in the kitchen. Then I found the poem, which I prepared for Mother's gift - even breaking some doll dishes to fit on the frame. It changed my focus, not on the chore, but the blessings of dirty dishes.
Thank God for dirty dishes,
They have a tale to tell.
While other folks go hungry,
We're eating very well.
With home and health and happiness,
We surely shouldn't fuss.
For by this stack of evidence,
Life's been good to us.
You might say that I had this same view a house cleaning - a chore. Now I know that a home is a blessing, and represents a place of love, growth and a place to be God's child. And I am thankful when I wash the kitchen floor, vacuum the carpet and dust that God has given me this place to be.

Just this morning, as I walked along our street, my heart leaped at the sight of the beauty of God-painted leaves on one tree. I love to mix colors, but I would be hard pressed to come up with that luxuriant shade of sunsets and fall leaves. Recently someone sent me a series of pictures of a vista from a mountain top. There before me in the photos lay mountain tops and deep valleys, all dressed in God-colors.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
No matter what happens, and every day there is something or someone that needs AGR on our part. (Additional Grace Required) It may be short-lived, or it may stretch out seemingly unendingly. God taught me that when I cared for my Mother during her last illness, when I finally prayed, "If this is what you want me to do, I will do it." I submitted to his will. Mother died two weeks later.
Psalm 68:6-7 Blessed be God— he heard me praying. He proved he's on my side; I've thrown my lot in with him. Now I'm jumping for joy, and shouting and singing my thanks to him.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


It was a warm summer day. I enjoyed laying back in the water, breast stroking my way across the pool at Roman Nose State Park. I watched the lazy lacy clouds drifting across the blue skies. I was enveloped in my favorite color - blue, until I heard a demanding voice. It was Hoppy the golden haired muscular lifeguard. He motioned me over to him. I swam over and he asked, "Are those your parents?" He motioned over to the shallow end of the pool.

There they were, sitting on the steps talking HOLDING HANDS. The serene blue of the day crashed, I was embarrassed as only a 16 year old can be. I nodded yes, and swimming away, I tried to recapture the euphoria I had previously.

Relationship. I thought about that tableau often, wondering how I could have been so wrong. I came to treasure the deep love my Dad and Mom had for each other. How they considered each other in their walk through life before themselves. How Mom ate the dark meat of the chicken because she liked the white. Dad ate the white pieces of the chicken because he liked the dark. After 30 years, they finally confessed to each other, and spent the other 20 years of their life together eating their favorite pieces of chicken.

Mom used to take the three of us for long rides in the old car, so as to keep the house quiet during the day so Dad, who worked at night, could get his rest. Mom prepared meals that were healthy for Dad, when he had heart trouble. Dad sat by the hour in the living room and was a part of every piano lesson Mom gave to a parade of students, offering his encouragement to each one. Mom spent many hours trying to teach Dad how to match his voice to a pitch on the piano, when it went awry.

That is relationship. I saw the same kind of concern and love in my grandparents and great grandparents. I watched my Dad in his relationship with his brothers as they reminisced about their childhood together. The Siemens brothers were known for their sense of humor and for their love for each other. During a Siemens reunion, I could always be found near them so I could hear their stories told partially in English and in Plautdietch and their laughter, as their wives visited in another part of the house.

My husband and I enjoy that special relationship, too, with each other and with our children and grandchildren and beyond.

And there is another relationship on a spiritual plane that grows stronger and more meaningful as I grow older. From the time I was a little child I knew the verse - God is love. I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was eight years old, knowing my sinful nature, and desiring an eternal life in Heaven. In the ebb and flow of my life, that relationship with Jesus created a base that I often wandered away from, yet Jesus always draws me back to him.

I can still see my Grandmother (Grosmom Emilie) sitting on our front porch in the steel-springed rocking chair singing "Shall We Gather at the River" over and over, to the rhythm of the rocking. She had a hard working life, raising five children, and later caring for her husband who was paralyzed. Did she turn from God? No, she longed to go Home.

As I read the book, The Shack, I was struck with the word pictures the author used to describe the relationship we have with God. The power of unconditional love, the freedom of forgiveness, the inter-relationship of the Father, Son - Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and how they long to have all of us to be a part of their deep love-relationship.

John 3:16-18 (Message)
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Helping Brings Hope

Our son Dan was almost two years old when we brought our second son, Paul, home from the hospital. Dan watched the oohs and ahhs as his grandparents held little Paul. Grandma Siemens said, "I think Paul is thirsty!" We didn't notice Dan leaving the room, but he rushed off to the bathroom, got on his Bangsta (small bench), put water in his glass and brought it to the living room. All four of us stared at Dan's earnest little face as he tried to help his new brother. That event, though small, was never forgotten. For Dan showed his helpful nature and his helpful nature brought us hope. Hope that lives on even today 56 years later.

Helpfulness is what attracted me to Ed, my husband. When I first knew him, he bought winter coats for three small little boys, whose parents had no money. His helpfulness was extended to many in our almost 56 years together. He continues to want to give and share. His gifts of generosity extend from giving of our financial means, to his time to others and his prayers for others. Let me forget where I placed the car keys, and he is the one who finds them for me. His helpfulness brings hope to many.

It is often said that what is modeled children learn, and our four children also model this same helpful spirit to those around them, in four different states. They tell me of helping others on moving day, providing help for children in India including bringing us two new grandchildren from India, to teaching children and adults, to serving as leaders in their respective churches and simply being the heart, hands and feet of Jesus to those around them.

Always helpfulness brings hope. What is hope? Anna, our daughter, provided a look at hope in a brief blog, Hope is the belonging we have in Christ Jesus. Colossians 1:4 - The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope. Hanging in there in life, and seeing the needs of others brings us over the rough spots.

A friend of mine, just 53 years old, was struck down with cancer. She came through the chemo treatments singing the chorus - "The joy of the Lord is my strength....." She was declared 'clean' and then two months later, she was told she only had weeks to live. She continues singing her song and continues to draw strength from Jesus. She is outliving her prognosis. Even in her illness, she helps others, thinks of others and all who visit her are strengthened by her indomitable spirit in Jesus Christ.

Helpfulness, like prayer, brings love. For when you help someone you can't help beginning to love that person. The same with prayer, for prayer isn't always for another person, for prayer changes us, the pray-er.

This brings us to the next step....hope brings compassion! As a child, I always had hope...often for tomorrows...the many tomorrows that all girls do. I can hardly wait until I am twelve, I will have a birthday party, or, a new dress, or being sixteen so I can wear lipstick, date and drive a car. That was a big year. Then it was marriage and a family, then grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Now my hope has turned to compassion for my family, for those who have needs - physical, emotional and spiritual. And the compassion turns to love for our Heavenly Father, for without Him, there is no helpfulness, no hope, no compassion and no love.

Even as my parents, grandparents and great grandparents, I am learning what it means to have 'joy and strength' in the Lord and see beyond myself. I have a deeper commitment to Jesus, and desire that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren join me, even as I join my loved ones in Heaven, including Donnie, Dan's twin who died at birth so long ago.

Helpfulness turns to Hope, Hope turns to Compassion and Compassion turns to Love. God is Love!!!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Supper Time

What do I remember when I think of family and memories of the past? I remember a time each day as the sun drooped in the western sky - Supper Time. From the time when I was small I looked forward to the time when Daddy came home. My brothers and I would run to the door to hug Dad with a shout!

Every evening our kitchen filled the house with aroma of a good meal that Mom prepared. Sometimes it was just potato soup and fresh bread. And we were soon seated around the table, chores done, and we would watch Dad fold his tired hands and pray, "Komm Herr Jesu, und segne ulles was du uns aus Gnade bescheret hast". (Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blest. Amen) I loved the way Dad said bescheret.

After the meal, I usually washed dishes, since my brothers took care of the cow and the chickens. Then we settled down with homework, talking and just being family.

When I grew up, I greeted my husband and father of our children. When they were young, there were spills and mishaps at the table. We often thought we needed a drain in the floor so we could hose down the area after Supper Time.

Then came the time when our four children were in high school. Supper Time became a time of laughter and joy as the ideas flowed and grew into silly thoughts. Each comment elicited laughter, and then someone else would comment. One evening I noticed that the teens were whispering as they passed the gallon jug of milk from one to another without pouring any. Finally I asked what they were whispering about. Television had influenced them. They were playing Spanky and the Gang. "Don't pass the milk, it's spoiled!"

Our son Paul had a friend named Steve. Steve often joined us for meals. Our four decided to confuse Steve. They achieved their mission by pretending to number their jokes, and laugh hilariously after someone announced any number.

My little brother married his young bride in California and they came to visit. Dad delighted in teasing her. He told her about the cold, cold weather in Oklahoma. "Why one winter, I went out to milk the cow and I didn't need a bucket. As soon as a stream of milk flowed into the cold air, it became a milk-cycle. I just carried an arm load of the milk-cycles into the house."

They drove to Kansas to visit the Suderman clan. All the way, Dad continued the story about how little they had to eat, and to eat very little. My new sister-in-law's eyes grew very large when she saw the loaded table of food with several kinds of meats, side-dishes, bread and desserts. It was plentiful.

Fellowship dinners at church are like that. Plentiful, rich, and with the visiting, it makes a rich time for all.

Now I remember those times at the table as a child and as a mother. When the grandchildren come and the great grandchildren, we have a sense of the family-ness and the tie that binds of love and a sense of belonging.

There is one Supper Time during which we remember the One who gives us the cause of this joy. He died on the cross that when we accept Him, we have His promise that we will be united in Heaven.
I Corinthians 11:24-26 - The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me. After supper, he did the same thing with the cup: This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. Each time you drink this cup, remember me. What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. The Lord's Supper is when we remember our Lord, even as He commanded. When we are gathered around His Table.
Now Ed and I have a quiet Supper, and we remember our children and our parents. Supper Time is an earthly picture of what is promised us when we belong to His family.
Can you see the joy and laughter, the family-nes,s as we sit around the table in His House?


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How to Live a Life on Loan

Anna Suderman commented once that when she had to go to the nursing home, she hoped she could be decent about it. After living in a large home, after Grandpa Suderman died, she moved to a two bedroom home. Then, once again she downsized to one room in the nursing home. She left her door opened, welcoming all visitors. She surrounded herself with old pictures of those she loved. But always her door was as open as her heart to all who entered. She never complained, but kept her sweet smile. If you came to minister to her, she ministered to you.

Her daughter, Mother (Anna Daisy), was the same. As she lay on her hospital bed, a lady close to Mother's age came to see her. As she left, she told me, "I ministered to your mother." When I checked to see if Mother needed anything, she told me "I ministered to my friend today."

I decided then that ministering is a two-way street, like a hug. When you give a hug or a smile, you always get a hug or a smile back. We find strength and joy in ministering, showing our love to one another in various ways. We often receive more by opening our hearts to someone than the recepient of our giving.

In this day and age, such care for each other, except in small groups, is exceptional. When Mother and Dad honeymooned in Galveston TX on the beach, they slept there, in 1928. Times change. My parents came from a Mennonite background. I have forgotten the name Dad gave for Mennonites going on a trip and finding Mennonite brethern to stay with along the way. The trip was always planned with homes of Mennonite brethern along the way. In 1952, Ed and I honeymooned on the same beach, but by then it was unthinkable to sleep on the beach.

Rufus Edgar Combs, my husband's father, was a pioneer in many ways. He was born in the proverbial log cabin in North Carolina, then at the age of 13, he traveled to East Texas with his family. He told about living in a dugout home, ranching, traveling by wagon. He homesteaded in the panhandle of Oklahoma and there he continued to invite travelers to bed down and share their food. You can find his compelling story here.

Often I think what I have is not good enough to share. And yet, that is not what is written in I Peter 4:7 - 11.
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen
To give even a cup of water in the name of Jesus honors Him. This scripture tells us to first of all to pray. Prayer and then love each other deeply. Through prayer for each other, our love grows for each other. Why should we love one another? Love covers a multitude of sins. Last Sunday, the message from Living Life on Loan (by Rusaw) helped me to see that God places the intersections in our lives with God according to His purposes. We plan, but yet, his purposes are first. He created us, He saved us from sin FOR the tasks in this life He has for us.

When we really see others as those who are created by God, we see God's hand in their lives see what He sees. We are not just seeing the weaknesses inherent that each of us possesses.

During this election year millions of words fill our ears with cynicism and doubt. We are confused about our direction in this country. I am reminded of a time long past. A time in our country when a man's word was his bond. When a dependable truth came from a man's mouth.

Rufus Combs tells when he needed some mules to farm a cotton field, but had no money. He went to a near neighbor in Texas who sold mules. After the mules were chosen, and Rufus came to the time to settle up....but let him tell the story.....
Finally I got up courage enough and said, if you make up the note and mortgage for me, I will sign it and be on my way. He said, "We don’t do that away out in this country. You go on and take the mules home with you and this fall when you sell your cotton, you come pay me. "I couldn’t hardly believe my ears. About the only thing to do was get started with the mules down on the road. I felt like I stole them. I took them home and broke them. In a month or two I seen my Uncle and told him what happened. I got the mules all right. I told him to make out a note and I would sign it, and he said we don’t do that way out here. And he said, You just take the mules on home and when you get your crop, why come pay me. " My Uncle said, yes, that’s the way we do things out here in the west. If a man’s word ain’t no good, and his name ain’t good, what’s the use of wasting all the paper?
And I wonder, is my word my bond? Do I talk with the His Words? Do I SEE every person as being created by our God? Do I do more than glance, but give my time and resources to those who need help? Retirement is no time to quit, but to live the good life, not as the world envisions a good life, but how my Lord envisions my life, using the gifts He has given me.

Colossians 3:15-17 gives us words to live by. A way to live in peace, and the hope of Jesus Christ!
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.