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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.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Consider the Future

In 1957, we packed the station wagon, created a romping place for our four children, 5 - 1 years, by folding down the seat and covering all the area with a thick blanket. This was BSB (before seat belts). We drove from New Harmony, Indiana to western Oklahoma. We drove for miles with our children and discovered the incredible variety of landscapes - rolling mountains, trees so thick, they obscured our vision, lakes brimming with water. Even the dirt changed color from a dark rich brown to a burnt red.

As we drove toward Watonga, Oklahoma, our eyes could suddenly see for miles, instead of the next curve. We felt our eyes stretching as we viewed the road ahead, much as we stretch after a good sleep.

It was as if we could see into the future - our vista widened. Now we live in the heart of a tree-laden town, and again, our vision is impeded. We miss the sun rise and the sun set, we miss watching the clouds changing shape and scudding across the sky. But there is another vista, a heavenly vista that is open to us.

When I was a child, I often said, "I can hardly wait for my birthday." It would be a momentus time each year - an attainment of maturity - not gifts or birthday cake. Looking forward to the future of college, marriage, children and to experience life. Now a birthday is a time to reflect, remember God's blessings in my life as I strive to reach maturity in Him.

During the past week, I have been reading and re-reading the Eugene Peterson's introduction to I & II Thessalonians in the Message.
He begins with these words: The way we conceive the future sculpts the present, gives contour and tone to nearly every action and thought through the day. If our sense of future is weak, we live listlessly.
How do we look forward with hope and without hopelessness that causes us to descend in a spiral of despondency?
He continues: The Christian faith has always been characterized by a strong and focused sense of future, with belief in the Second Coming of Jesus as the most distinctive detail. From the day Jesus ascended into heaven, his followers lived in expectancy of his return. He told them he was coming back. They believed he was coming back. They continue to believe it. For Christians, it is the most important thing to know and believe about the future.
And I believe it. I live with expectancy of the return of Jesus. Now I know that every birthday draws me closer to the eternal home. I simply put my trust in Jesus, for under no other name is there salvation.

Does it change my life? Yes. Mother used to tell me how she woke up each day wondering what God had in store for her that day. What ministry would He call her to? Saying 'Yes' to God becomes an adventure - it changes the way I live.
Eugene Peterson says it this way. The practical effect of this belief is to charge each moment of the present with hope. For if the future is dominated by the coming again of Jesus. It takes the clutter out of our lives. We're far more free to respond spontaneously to the freedom of God.
When I was a child, we celebrated Christmas in our special way. We had a tree, with presents under it. When Dad came home from delivering mail on Christmas Eve, and had a chance to relax, we gathered around the tree. We began by singing Christmas Carols, had family prayer with each of us praying on our knees. Dad read from Luke 2. We children said the 'pieces' we had learned about Christmas. Then we opened the gallon jar of Peppernuts Grandma Suderman sent and began opening gifts.

Our attention was on the gifts - until the Christmas Mom apologized and said there wasn't enough money for presents. She knitted each of us some mittens. The Chrismas celebration was not diminished for we learned that Christmas - Jesus is the Gift!

Our belief in Jesus prods us to continue to live FORWARD in joyful expectancy for what God will do next in Jesus. Stretch your eyes to see and stretch your faith to live in Him.
I Thessalonians 4:1-2 - One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Why Genealogy?

That question began sifting through my mind, and I thought about the questions about my husband's father brought me to search for information about John William Combs. His picture is in our family room, a handsome man with a mustache. His eyes did not tell me the stories of his life, but soon, through the wonders of internet, I learned that John William and his wife, Matilda Jane Burris Combs began their married life in Mount Airy, NC. Living in a log cabin, they brought eight children into this world. I learned that John William was born 18 August 1845 and died 12 October 1905 in Merkel TX, at the age of 60. There are as many stories not uncovered between Mount Airy and Merkel. He made ax handles, and his son Rufus Edgar recorded about the cancer on his knee that caused him much pain as he worked in the cotton fields and finally is death.

As I gathered information about John William Combs and learned about the hardships he endured homesteading, adjusting to a new land, I knew how John William lived his life. I learned about his strength in the face of adversity of illness and his trust in God that he instilled in his eight children.

My Grand Uncle Solomon Loewen compiled a book two inches thick of names of the Isaak Loewen family. That is it, just the names and dates of births, deaths and marriages. He wrote another book I treasure even more....'History and Genealogy of the Jacob Loewen Family'.
In this book I can find more that statistics but 'the way things were' for our ancestors.
As a scientist and biologist, Uncle Sol wrote: A person is much like a tree. Above ground the tree shows its rugged stem, spreading branches and green leaves, all obvious to the passersby. Its characteristic features give the cognizance as to its kind. The invisible part, the root system, also has its unique features by which the plant can be known. In a person, as in a tree, chromosomes and genes give identity peculiar to each individual, tieing the hidden past to the more obvious present. A living person can never dissociate himself biologically from his hidden pastk his ancestors. For a person to fully know himself he needs to discover his heritage...Someone has said that, "The experiences of people of the past is a great untold treasurehouse that can enrich the present generation tremendously...
Uncle Sol's big sister, Anna Loewen Suderman kept a Journal for many years that contained the stories behind the births and deaths of her own family. She recorded the home remedies she used to care for her family. These words penned by hand tell the stories of faith. Tears come to my eyes as I read my Mother's journal - a day to day account after the death of my father - as she found her footing in life, again walking without her love beside her.

One day I read the remarkable words that told me 'Why Genealogy?" In the Message, Eugene Peterson wrote, "Christians have always insisted on the historicity of Jesus - an actual birth, a datable death, a witnessed resurrection, locatable towns. There is a parallel historicity in the followers of Jesus. As they taken in everything Jesus said and did - all of it a personal revelation of God in time and place - it all gets worked into local history, eventually into world history."

We have the genealogy of Abraham and his children. Why? We have the genealogy of Jesus back to King David. Why? Because as children of God, these are our roots, our foundation. Faith in God makes our lives (leaves) greener. The lives we live and how we face diversities give our children and children's children direction - either positively or negatively. Chapter 11 of Hebrews gives us a "Hall of Faith" list of people who endured and were faithful to God. The Bible gives us stories of those who stumbled in their faith, were forgiven and redeemed.

The same is true of our earthly families. We see faltering of faith, even our own, during the low times. Then we see parents, children and grandchildren who exemplify living for Jesus. These times bless grandparents and encourages us. Where do we find our strength?
II Timothy 3:16-17 - Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.
Genealogy is more than dates and names, it's the stories of faith. It is gives us a place in life...a be. Let our lives, as we become the 'roots', testify to the greatness of God. Help us to be examples of faith worthy of being included in the "Hall of Faith".
Hebrews 12 begins: Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit!