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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How To's or Relationship?

The ‘how-to’s of life sometimes feel a bit nebulous to me. Not knowing what to do next creates havoc with that comfortable feeling of security that we all desire. Following directions for me causes insecurity….for I have a personality type who asks, what if…., why not…., what would happen if….

Mother decided I needed to learn to sew when I was 16. I chose red taffeta material and a pattern with a top with a peplum at the waist and sleeves with a gussets. Mother raised her eye brows, but that was her only (non-verbal) eloquent comment. I could picture the finished garment and wearing the red statement of a new dress that I had made.

I read the directions. What? I looked at the pictures, but could feel no connection with the directions and the how-to’s. How would the pieces come together to complete the red creation I envisioned?

The gussets escaped me entirely. How could diamond shaped pieces fit in the under part of the sleeve of the? I could see the purpose, it gave more movement for the arm, but really – “How in the world does this gusset fit, Mom?” I moaned and whined. Mom, the Guru of the Sewing Machine, hovered in the background. “You have to ‘ootch’ it in,” she said quietly.

“Ootch? Ootch? What is ootch?” My voice rose with each question mark. She explained how to stretch and push or … “ootch”.

Then Mom ‘deserted’ me and left the house. As she left, house was filled with the sounds of a teenager in throes of tears and frustration. When she returned, the gusset fit, though with a few unintended tucks, and I was smiling.

Some times our lives are like the fitting of the gusset into the sleeve. We want the how to’s and list of ways to be a wife, to be a mother and to be a Christian patterns. We have to ‘ootch’ in order to make our lives fit the ‘how to’ mold. We have forgotten that each of us are created uniquely, and have different gifts.

Is it simple? Yes, all we need is Jesus and all His name means - salvation, love, faith, trust, goodness, patience, self-control, gentleness and peace. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be with us after He left this earth to return to Heaven. In Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit abiding in us, for our bodies are the Temple of God. The Holy Spirit is living with us. We do not need a ‘how-to’. We do not need a list of 10 ways to be a hostess to the Holy Spirit.

We simply need a relationship with our Lord and Savior. We simply let His love flow through us. His forgiveness gives us His grace. The Holy Spirit teaches us. There is no long list of how-to’s to accept His grace. No, all we do is ask Jesus to come into our hearts. Not once, but every moment of our days. There is no ‘ootching’ with Jesus.

Philippians 1:6 gives us the promise of how much Jesus loves us. ….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.

Instead of a bowed head of hurt and a crying heart, we live with a song in our hearts, a song of ascent to Jesus. We learn more and more each day to nestle into the arms of Jesus. No matter what age, we learn. We learn to love others – seeing their hurting hearts and not build fences of division shutting out our neighbors.

With Jesus in our hearts, the mystery of life becomes a simple way without the complex lists of do’s, but a simple path of strewing petals of faith and love for others to follow to Jesus.

And we praise Him with the words from Revelation 5:12

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,- to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Psalm 37:5-7a - Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.

Revelation 5:8-12

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, 
because you were slain, 
 and with your blood you purchased for God 
- persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,- to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

God's Woman, or 'Me'?

The first time I read Proverbs 31:10-31, married with four children – my heart was filled with dismay. I could never live up to all the verbs that nagged at me from every verse. – Brings, selects, gets up, considers, sets about, opens, makes, clothe, speaks with wisdom. Really, how could anyone live up to this unbelievable woman in Proverbs?

Now that my age is much more advanced this portion of scripture, I see the value. I see more of God than me. I see so many ladies about me who capture this way of living – no idleness, simply bringing a Martha-ness to those about them. They bring the faith and yearning to be God’s Woman, just as Mary did.

In these verses, the Proverbial woman is a woman of reputation for goodness, a woman who fulfils needs of others and eagerly greets the day’s activities. She does so with faith in God. A woman of faith, a Mary. A woman who follows God

God’s Woman is just that. She puts God first in her life. Proverbs 31:26 -28, She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

Further guidelines for a woman of faith are found: Matthew 22:37 - Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

John 14:15 is more succinct, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Psalm 119: - - I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

The M & M’s of God’s Woman come under the heading of Marriage and Mothering. When God’s Woman follows the precepts of His Word, peace reigns. For the ‘Me’ belongs to God and is enveloped by God. When we trust in God our life is sweet. Guidelines are in Proverbs. (Proverbs 31:11-2, 23, 28. Add to that, I Peter 3:1-2 – “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

The importance of mothering comes through these words - Start children off on the way they should go, 
 and even when they are old they will not turn from it” - From Proverbs 22:6. The words from Jesus in Luke 18:16 gives every woman joy, as she knows her children are loved by Jesus….”Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Is health important? Yes! (Proverbs 31:13-14,17), we see how God’s Woman cares for herself and her family. - Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” I Corinthians 6:19.

Service of God’s Woman is described in Proverbs 31:12, 20. She is gentle and loving and charitable with all whom she meets. I Corinthians 13:13 - And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Time is a struggle for many of us. We vacillate between juggling schedules, homemaking, children and finding ‘time for ourselves’. Many of us find the word ‘No’ difficult to pronounce, much less using as a response. We forget to ask what has a kingdom impact, what is of eternal significance. Priorities become skewed. As I read this incredible portion of scripture, I see that God’s Woman is able to differentiate between the trivial and what is pleasing to the Lord. (Proverbs 31:13, 19, 27). Philippians 4:8 gives this thought-worthy scripture - Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Finances can become a matter of contention in a family. How does God’s Woman deal with finances? (Proverbs 31:14, 16, 18) In all of this, she follows this verse – “Do everything without grumbling or arguing”. Philippians 2:14. I Timothy 6:10, - “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Finances are not a tug of war, but a tying together of a cohesive purpose in the marriage. This makes any marriage stronger.

Perhaps the most attractive quality (how do we choose just one) is the gift of hospitality. (Proverbs 31:13, 19, 27) 1 Peter 4: 9 - Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Hebrews 13: 2 - Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

What makes a woman beautiful? Billions of dollars are spent to create the beautiful woman? This is but an illusion. What is the essence of beauty of a woman? (Proverbs 31:10, 21-22, 24-25)

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. I Peter 3:3-4.

The question is, are we God’s Woman or are we a ‘Me’?

Note: Twelve years ago Anna Daisy Siemens wrote a study called – Mary, Martha and me. This blog is a response to that study.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What's In a Name?

"The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched they must be felt with the heart." Helen Keller

There is an object that can be touched and dwells in my heart. Not because of the object itself, but what it stands for in my heart. – this is The Anna Bowl!

The Anna Bowl…a glass bowl, fragile yet heavy enough to last for many more years with the right care. The edges of the bowl are encrusted with gold. A thing of beauty. A wedding present given to Anna Loewen Suderman, in 1900, one hundred and eleven years old now. The bowl remains unbroken, and even when it ever becomes broken, it will be etched in my mind forever.

This one bowl was given by Anna Loewen Suderman to her daughter, Anna Daisy Suderman Siemens. This same bowl was received by Emily Ann Siemens Combs 20 years ago. Anna Kathleen Combs Payne refused to take the bowl to California because of the danger of breakage due to possible earthquakes. This month,

Anna Michelle Payne LaMar helped me pack the ‘Anna Bowl’ and now it is with the 5th generation of the Anna’s. Will there be another Anna or Hannah in the family line? Time will tell. Will the family heritage be continued? Time will tell. Mother wrote a book, out of print, that is being put online -

What does the name Anna mean? Favor (a gift of love) – grace (elegance of beauty – pleasing quality). A fitting name for my grandmother, mother, daughter and granddaughter. Fitting because their lives are motivated by grace and love.

The bowl, in its form and appearance, is a symbol of their lives being poured out for others. What is the essence of their lives that causes(d) them to communicate grace and favor to others? Love.

Anna Loewen Suderman, the oldest of 15 children, grew up caring for her brothers and sisters. She surmounted grief of losing 4 of her 10 children, accepting this as God’s will. She gave her life caring for others, her mother, and even in the nursing home. There she left the door open to always welcome others to her one room she called home. Her prayer – along with Gerhard Suderman – included koch kommen (those children who came after).

Her desire for beauty exhibited itself when she used newspaper to cut intricate ‘snowflake-like patterns to make ‘lace curtains’ for the few windows in their first house. She encouraged Gerhard in his desire to learn new music to lead in church. Most of all, she worshiped God and loved Him. Even in the four trips to the Ebenfeld cemetery with the bodies of her four children, she learned a deeper walk with God. How did she see the Anna bowl? She saw it as a bowl of beauty and faith. A symbol of the beauty of God’s love.

Her daughter, Anna Daisy (English – Day’s Eye) was born on a national holiday. When Anna was young, she endured many health difficulties. What made this child choose the Evening Star as her confidant as she watched the sky from her bedroom window. Her desire was to play the piano for the Ebenfeld choir her father led. All about her she learned duty, she learned love, she learned faith. She worked with her father in the dusty field, played softball, learned to sew, cook. This Anna was curious and loved meanings of words. She taught Bible classes, piano, organ and learned to write. Her delight was in finding the words to express what was in her heart. Was this because her mother kept journals of her life? Anna Daisy wrote scripture songs that indelibly imprinted the words in her heart. I still have a tea towel that has her stitching on the edges…embroidery, tatting, knitting, crocheting, sewing, writing were in her search for beauty. This Anna, with the help of one of her piano students, created a many shaded lilac mural on her living room wall. Her desire for beauty extended to painting. In her 80’s she attended college art classes. What did she see in the Anna Bowl? She saw a heritage that had been given to her. A heritage that she must give to her children. Her continuous faith is my legacy visualized in the fragile bowl.

I am the 3rd generation who received the bowl from my Mother. When it was given to me, I simply put it on a shelf, glancing at it every so often. As the years passed, I began to see The Anna Bowl in a different way. What does the beauty of the bowl mean to me? It becomes clearer to me with every day. In the lovely reflection of the glass, I see the many prayers of my Mother and Grandmother. I see their heartaches and triumphs in life. I see their giving hearts, and I know that with Jesus in my heart, I can be worthy of a name that means favor and grace. For to me The Anna Bowl is a challenge to live with faith in God, to pour out my life for others. The word ‘No” is difficult for me to say. Yes, I can do some of the things Mom did. But I learned early when I tried to cut my brother’s hair for Mom, and it was an ‘oops’ haircut, that I could not ‘be’ Mom, but I had to be my own person. So, I write. And I must play the piano for Mom taught me. I learned to do some painting, which is enjoyable. Then there are my children, grand children and great grandchildren. We have a granddaughter named Hannah, a derivative of Anna (grace - favor). Elise, her middle name, means My God is a vow. How beautiful that our great granddaughter is named Annelise (favor – grace – Elise is My God is a vow). The blessings I have received are like the stars in the sky, without number. The Anna Bowl cannot hold the joy I have had in my life.

Anna Kathleen….our daughter. There was no question about her name being Anna. Kathleen (From the Greek – means pure) was chosen by her father. Anna had a special relationship with Grandma Daisy (as she was affectionately known by her grandchildren). I remember the day our Anna told us as she left for a long trip that she would be safe because she prayed for angels to be on all sides of her car. Her faith astounded me. Anna was always concerned about doing the right thing from the time she was little. I found her in the school cloak room of her 2nd grade class when I visited one day, I asked why she was crying. She replied, “Because I made a boo-boo.” As she grew up, she learned to play the piano, she wrote, she sang, she excelled. Then she was gone – married to a wonderful man. They have three children who she home-schooled. Anna writes, a gift from her Grandma Daisy. She teaches Bible Studies. Although Anna lives 1557 miles away – we share our hearts and dreams and our faith in God. We don’t need an Anna Bowl, yet it is a tangible reminder of a heritage of faith despite the challenges life puts in our paths. Anna sees God’s beauty in the lives of others. She has the caring heart of her grandmother.

The 5th generation of ‘Annas’ lies with Anna Michelle (Michelle – Hebrew – Who is like God?). Because of the distance, we did not have the opportunity to Anna Michelle. Her visit with us helped us to know her. It brought us much joy as we learned that family faith is still strong. When Michelle learned of her mother, grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother having the same name, she became interested in the history of family. She is learning of the legacy of faith that comes through the family. Her decision to teach is in keeping with her Great Grandmother and Grandmother. Her interest in the beauty of symmetry of mathematics leads her to see the patterns in life. The patterns of living of those who have gone before. Her faith in God is strong, along with her husband’s faith.

What is in a name? A lifetime of choices that can bring glory to God. A lifetime to give your life in service. To learn about living the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness and self-control each day. No matter what our name is, whether we have an Anna Bowl or not, we hold an eternal heritage in our hands and what we choose isn’t just for our ‘now’, but for those we see every day and those who come after. Choose wisely.

Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. Psalm 25:12

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you willserve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and myhousehold, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Be Still and Know....

As an elementary teacher I had many experiences. A teacher thrives on silence in the classroom because silence speaks to being in control. One day as the children grew restless and became a bit chaotic, I knew I had lost control. A sweet cherubic girl on the front row suggested, “Why don’t we play the ‘quiet game’?” Astonished that there was such a game, I asked her how the game was played. Her directions were simple, “Tell everyone that we are going to play the quiet game. The one who is quiet the longest wins.”

Needless to say, we tried it immediately. I was pleased when the children quieted down immediately and were ‘in the game mode’.

Learning takes place when there is silence. One of the shortest verses in the Bible continues to be a favorite of mine. Be still and know I am God. Psalm 46:10a.

Perhaps we only note the first two words, “Be Still….” The power of this verse is “and KNOW “. What do we know? That “I am God.”

When I was a child, the choir, the choir often sang in hushed tones …. The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him. Habbakuk 2:20.

I sensed the presence of God all about me as the choir sang the response to the prayer. That everyone would be silent….we were all hushed, grown-ups, too…this amazed me.

In today’s world, I wonder about the deafening sounds all around us. Volume of music is turned up, the need for white noise to concentrate, the noise brought about the advance of technology and industry in the name of progress.

What was it like in the ‘old days’ when the radio was turned on just for the news, if one owned a radio. When the sounds one heard were the sounds of God's creation - the wind blowing through the trees, the sound of thunder, the birds on wing leaving a song in the course of their flight, the buzz of bees as they visited the flowers, the crackle of a log on the fire, the mooing of the cow, the neigh of the horse, the clink and clank of dishes in the kitchen. This natural living music can still be heard if we turn down the noise of the world – it is Creation’s noise.

When I was a child, our family enjoyed Pow Wow time in summer time. We retreated to the oasis of our 'south' yard at night. Crickets were singing their song. The night-lights of heaven twinkled high above us. Even the chiggers in the grass scarcely moved and forgot to bite. We crossed our legs, and sat in a circle of five. We had a family talk…concerning any family problem that we faced us. Financial, expectations of behavior and needs in an open discussion united us. The night shrouded our faces and the words became lessons. We could ask questions, we could make comments, but we learned the art of ‘coming together’ as a family. We felt the security of knowing that our parents cared about us as individuals.

I picture this time when I hear the words, Be Still and Know That I Am God. We can ask questions, but we have to ‘be still’ to know the answer. We have to Be Still to hear God's purpose for our lives. We have to Be Still to know how to follow His path.

Recently, in a prayer group, we were asked to be still and listen for the voice of God in our hearts, even as Samuel listened for God’s call. As I tried to focus on God, all I heard was the incessant jangle of previous conversations, music, and a jumble of noise from the television. It was then I realized that it takes effort, concentration and dedication to clear our hearts and minds to hear our God. The static of the world can impede the voice of God in our hearts.

Listening to God equips us with wisdom and knowledge of our Lord - through His Word and through meditation and prayer.

But if not, then listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.”
 Job 32:33

Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Psalm 4:4

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Revelation 8:1