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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Guest Blogger - Anna Daisy Siemens

Many years ago, I met this woman. The longer I live the more I learn from this lady. Perhaps I am learning more after she has been gone for thirteen years. I can see her reaction to be headlined in a blog, much less writing it. She would throw her head back and laugh. For she never heard this word or its derivative. Then Anna Daisy’s eyes would light up with the challenge before her and she would literally jump up and down.

When she moved in with my husband and me after she collapsed that early fall in 1994, she asked one thing. “Please, don’t put me on a pedestal!” She had a realistic view of who she was and what she was capable of. She did not like the word ‘No’, for “Yes” had more challenges, more adventures and more blessings. And those blessings had a spill-over effect to everyone who knew her.

Her challenges were in the realms of writing, music, art, homemaking, sewing, gardening and teaching. From the overflow of her study of God’s Word came His wisdom. Just yesterday a verse in my own study, blazoned across my heart as I remember Mom quoting it and living it – Trust in the LORD with all your heart - and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

As I opened the notebook of memories, I found Who Is Anna Daisy” – begun 9/15, 1993, at 7 am, 40 degrees.

Who Is Anna Daisy?

You have called me Mom, Grandma, Great-Grandma, Grandma Daisy, and a few other choice names. You even named a Jersey cow after me – Daisy. (Note: Because of the soft brown eyes reminded us of Mom)

But who is Anna Daisy? I was the farmer’s daughter who loved the great outdoors, following my Dad, creating music on any instrument with reach – a saw from the tool shop, or a comb with a piece of paper. I devoured storybooks. I was a misfit in the kitchen as I was in my sister, Alma’s, shadow! She loved everything about the kitchen and I preferred the open fields. Mr. Seibel told my Dad, “Your Anna, she rides horses, plows fields, mows the alfalfa, plays the piano, but my son, she won’t marry!”

I liked all boys better than girls as friends – girls only talked of dresses, hairdos and boy friends. I preferred boys who talked of fishing, baseball, farming and general topics I enjoyed.

Music had an impact in my life. That began as a child when Papa learned new songs, tilted back against the wall in a kitchen chair “do, re, me”ing his way through new songs. He was not averse to changing a tune or harmony to his liking. Mama delighted in teaching us songs to surprise Pap. She discovered I had the best ear for harmony, so Alma sang soprano and I learned the alto part. Papa beamed when we sang for him. Singing was a part of all our family celebrations.

In thinking back, I must have learned a lot in 2 years of piano lessons. I started at 11 and soon played the organ for school singing in the 6th grade for Miss Foote who also played. I played for 7th and 8th grade school singing for my favorite teacher Miss Sarah. When I was 13, Papa allowed me to go through each new sheaf of choir music that was sent several times a year from several companies. Finally when I was 16, I played for my Papa’s precious choir.

In his last months our sweet Papa (my Dad) often thanked God for his accomplishments of the day whether it was getting dressed or taking a garden walk. He was thankful for everything he could do in the limited strength left to him. I wondered about my accomplishments in life? Worldly pedigrees to me are like Paul said, “worthless”. He would rather have Christ than the honors this world bestows. Why should I list my accomplishments for my family? To show them what the Lord can do with a girl – sun-burned, tousled hair, a Kansas farmer’s daughter without a college degree. So like our sweet Papa, I thank the Lord for what He gave to me – the blessings and accomplishments. Three children who call me Mom and grew up to make their way in this world, choosing their mates and providing for their needs. Their children and grandchildren go into the same category. They are God’s gifts to me.

How many weddings and funerals did I play for? And were they accomplishments? Only God knows. I played for friends, church members and family. Music was a great part of my life. Harmonizing was beauty and words brought that beauty to life.

In 1960 after breast surgery and illness, words poured out of my brain. I couldn’t find the OFF button. As I grew stronger, Papa fixed a clipboard and as I became stronger I wrote them down. I started writing. I began submitting poems and articles, and the rejections kept coming back. It sent me to my knees to pray, “Lord, let me write something that will be used to your glory.” God answered in his own way. The elderly people felt cut off from church life, so

I began to write a one page church letter to the shut-ins. Papa copied them and mailed them. When the minister, Joe Wilson, read one he called to say, “I found an editor for our church paper. I knew it was you!”

For 13 years, I wrote the Watonga Christian Church newsletter through three ministries. A comment from one of the leaders, “When I can’t understand the sermon on Sunday, I wait to read it on Wednesday.” Was that an accomplishment? Poetry writing began to plague me, usually at night, losing hours of sleep

Do I believe in prayer? Does the wind ever blow? Do birds fly? I still think the angel picture in my room helped to shape my belief that God does send angels (sometimes people) to answer my prayers. I have had many prayers answered. I have also seen what God has accomplished in my life when others prayed for me. Sometimes those who prayed for me were not god’s perfect saints.

I have seen bad things turn into blessings. I have felt god’s moving spirit” with a coming change to prepare me for a bend in my road. I had sensed His Presence in my darkest hours of sorrow and pain. I have had a ‘tiptoed-peek’ into heaven. I have had gifts and privileges given to me that I would not have dared to ask for – yet god gave them to me. That brought a deeper meaning to Delight thyself also in the Lord and He will give thee the desires of thine heart.” Psalms 37:4

My faith holds me in God’s care. I pray that I can remain faithful until it turns to ˆsight' on the ‘other side’. That should not be too long. My prayer is that Papa and I may tell God, “Here are our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren and beyond. They all love and obey You.

Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Heaven-Ready

In this day of instant-goodness in kitchens and the fast food availability, we have lost the wonder of preparation of food in the kitchen. One of my earliest memories was the toothpick test for the readiness of a chocolate cake. Putting the toothpick in the center of the cake determine whether the baking time is finished or not. If some of the batter stuck to the toothpick, it needed more baking.

Then Mother taught me the basics of making homemade, from-scratch pudding. My introduction was being given a spoon and told to stir and stir in a definite pattern and wait for the kettle of milk, sugar, eggs and corn starch to thicken and come to a boil. Standing in the warm kitchen and stirring around, and then across in parallel motion to the pan, was interminable at the age of 10. “How long do I have to stir?” Mom’s answer, “Until it thickens, then it will be ready.” To this day as I make vanilla wafer pudding, I can hear her voice, “Stir until it thickens, then it will be ready.”

When I thought of the title of Heaven-Ready, I thought how much preparation of the heart and mind and soul is necessary. How God stirs our life over the heat of allowed trials to help us attain the perfection in life that prepares us to be ready for Heaven.

While perusing for quotes on heaven, I saw many derisive comments downgrading the value of Heaven. This I know. Heaven is being in the Presence of God for an eternity. We live in the expectation of living in Heaven. Expectation on earth is often geared to the next eating out experience, making more money, the career, the possession of a new car or house, a family. But the greater expectation is the purposefulness of being in the presence of God for an eternity where there is no time or schedules.

Many writers have described Heaven – what it looks like, what happens there, what we will know or not know, what we will do. But that is immaterial to me. For Heaven and being there is a matter of trust in the God who created us and the world we live in. When I think of Heaven and being there with God, I will trust Him and give Him praise, saying, Glory, Glory, Glory to the Lord God most Holy. Will I stand? No, I will fall down in humility. Will I ask questions? No, I will wait for God to reveal what He wants me to know. Will I know my earthly family there? Yes, but all who are there from all nations and all ages are my brothers and sisters in Christ and that is my family.

At the end of the Love Chapter, I Corinthians 13, is this verse 12 - For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

We shall see face to face. We shall know fully. How do I prepare for that. How do I know when I am ‘toothpick done’ and Heaven-Ready?

The ‘recipe’ is in Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law,”

Each day I ponder these qualities and measure my life. Do I have these qualities, these characteristics? Who has them all? What sets people apart from others who do not possess them. Where do they come from? These qualities are not for sale at Walmart. In fact, these characteristics paint a picture of who Jesus is. The Fruit of the Spirit is singular, for one characteristic does not stand alone, and comes from the Holy Spirit that we receive when we accept Jesus as our Savior.

Love gives us joy and it gives us peace and from these qualities we learn patience (forbearance), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The phrases, ‘it is my right’, ‘it is not fair’, ‘I deserve it’ are known as the antithesis of the Fruit of the Spirit.

Last Sunday I spoke to a young man who is 74 years younger than me. He looked at me, smiled and then gave me a hug. Who taught him this behavior? His godly parents, parents who ‘live Jesus’. Kindness, patience, goodness and self-control is not easy in the world of stresses that seem to multiply by the day. There has to be a reason for living this way. I often say – that those who are just being good are good for nothing when their goodness is not based in and through Jesus.

Why is there a Heaven? Because God loves us and wants us to choose a relationship with Him. John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Why is Heaven often called Home? Because Home is where the heart is! Matthew 6:21 - For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The surety of Heaven is real. The longer we live the more our thoughts turn to our Creator. Jesus sets us free from the fear of death and sets our minds on Heaven.

John 14:1-3 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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.

II Corinthians 5:6-8 - Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as w

e are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rehab

Yesterday I learned the beginning shoulder exercises to regain the use of my healing shoulder. This morning I walked outside and saw that the earth is continuing its ‘rehab’ from the month long 3-digit summer heat.

Clouds and light covered the eastern sky. The sight brought me joy. Then I saw the Surprise Lilies clustering and blooming. Each year their arrival surprises me, and this year my delight seems more intense.

My granddaughter Jenny wrote in a tweet as she returns from a family vacation just what I felt this morning…so travel weary in the morning until I see God's creation explode in its massive beauty. Somehow God’s creation all around us puts our lives and our hearts into perspective.

All through the long days of inactivity and my brain become a gray mush; I kept repeating that I am learning patience and endurance. I waited for the bad time to rush past. And it doesn’t. Somehow I knew there would be an end to this grayness.

Then the physical therapist gives me new exercises to do, and I feel the pull of muscles as they are drawn from inactivity and flaccidity. Ever mindful of a full-grown pain pang, I try to heed the admonition to go slowly. Rehabilitation requires forgiveness of what are, the frailties of being human. Not reliving what caused the interruption to the flow of life, but asking what is next.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

The left hand on the pulley pulls my right arm to unaccustomed activity. S-l-o-w-l-y. The desire to rush through and be finished has to be quelled. Rome was not built in a day…. is a phrase that bubbles through my mind. I look at my lazy right arm, and say, 'Rome, get moving'.

Surely I will get through this and be able to effortlessly drive the car, play the piano, dress in other than button down shirts, wash my hair with both hands, put on my socks with both hands, open jars, fix meals without 2nd thoughts, trim my hair with my right hand.

Then I remembered a time when ‘the me’ of life was not important – and now I engage in a spiritual rehabilitation. I will go s-l-o-w-l-y and stretch spiritual muscles that have become flaccid with disuse. The praise and prayer muscles are first in the regimen. Praising God for each step towards health, and praise for all those who have supported me through prayer and encouragement. It is like a new lease on life, but deeper. From every set back we have, emotional, physical or spiritual, there is a rehab. A time of recovery and becomes a step beyond what we expected.

Just as physical therapy doesn’t happen all at once, but gradually – with baby steps – so does spiritual therapy. During this time I have been reading an extraordinary book with truths that hit my heart – Champagne for the Soul by Mike Mason.

A book that cannot be read in one gulp, but savored, chapter-by-chapter. Maybe more than a how-to book on finding joy, it is more a book of finding the Savior Who is the Author of Joy. Just when I think I understand, the next chapter opens another doorway into that joy. But I must open that door. Part of joy is the ability to recognize it. Living in the moment of joy, not in the past or the future - but this moment that God gives us.

Is there a secret passage into joy? Is it only for a select few? Is there certain language that must be used? Our passage into that doorway requires action on our part. Using muscles that we may not be using. Being able to hear the voice of Jesus and able to open the door.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelations 3:20.

We may dine with Jesus – and He gives us enough. His enough is abundance, a cup running over. How do we gain abundance?

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. II Peter 1:1-2

An abundance of grace and peace through Jesus Christ trumps anything the world has to offer.

Just when life threatens to drown us in a sea of discouragement and sadness, is the moment when we need perseverance in opening the door to joy and continuing our continual spiritual rehab.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, Hebrews l2:1





Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Search for Freedom

When I set the table for five – Dad, Mom, Jim and Gene and me – then often someone knocked on the front door. For two weeks it was the same visitor. Charlie Collins, a friend of my brothers, sauntered in asking if we were going to eat. The table was set and the food was being brought to the table. The only thing we could do was to ask Charlie to join us. He did, night after night. We later learned that his hunger drove him in search for an extra meal – and he enjoyed Super-Suppers. Until Mom talked to Charlie’s Mom and they found out what was going on.

Whether the hunger is physical, spiritual, emotional or power, we search for a way to satisfy that hunger. Often there is a search for independent freedom in the teens. Rules, laws, expectations for certain behaviors seemed to cramp my style as a teen. When Mother had a way she wanted me to wash ‘her’ dishes, I announced, “I can hardly wait until I leave so I can do things my way.” Those words came back to haunt me a scant five years later, as I washed dishes, viewed the pile of laundry including a load of cloth diapers, and a house to be cleaned. There I stood in ‘my’ kitchen washing ‘my’ dishes just as Mom had wanted me to do! It was a moment when I realized that she knew more than I thought as a teen.

Freedom. As a teacher I saw the need my classroom of 6th graders felt to be ‘free’. They expressed the need to choose how the rules in the classroom, what they ate at lunch, and how long their recess lasted. One assignment I gave them was to write what freedom meant to them. Their writing rarely exhibited the correlation between responsibility and freedom. Making decisions based on a deeper basis was not in their repertoire. One of the stories I read to the class was about a man who so desired freedom that he stowed away in the wheel casing of a jet. As the plane landed in a free country, he fell onto the pavement of the runway in an almost frozen condition. The desire for freedom was so strong that the man dared death to achieve his dream.

We have an inherent need to be free that is soul-deep. We chaff against the constraints of society, laws, regulations and employers. Freedom is deeper than the country’s laws.

After 82 years I have seen a steady decline in our culture. I have seen a shift from a “Leave it to Beaver” world to a world where anything goes. The lines of right and wrong have been blurred by political correctness and ‘being one of the gang’ has become more important than being a follower of definite rights and wrongs. Everyone has their own interpretation of what is right and wrong. Absolutes are absolutely gone.

When I was young, I learned about the search of my ancestors for the freedom to worship. I reread a pamphlet called Search for Freedom written by Leonhard Sudermann. He chronicled the journey from Prussia to Russia at the invitation of Queen Catherine of Russia. The invitation, in 1786, included religious freedom, freedom from military service, complete control over their own church and school as well as liberal economic inducements, which was codified in 1800. In 1870 some of the special privileges ended in 1870. Then it was time to find another place to live. Nothing stays the same. No small task for the large group of Mennonite families to move on. Would it be a America where they only knew criminals and savage Indians lived? Several men made trips to survey the possibility of America. The decision was finally made that they would go.

My great grandparents, Jacob and Aganetha Suderman were among those who prepared to go to America, after they saw that the new law in 1880 would not be rescinded and curtailed their freedom to worship and live quiet lives. When I read Carolyn Zeisset’s description of the detailed preparations to move, I am filled with admiration. (A Mennonite Heritage) What propelled them forward even when it was so difficult, it must have seemed impossible. They sold their farm, then paid taxes to be free to leave Russia. A passport cost $80 for the family ( written in Russian, German, French and Italian) and ship/train passage for the family was $300.

Proverbs 3:5, 6 says it all, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."

In our day of easy access to ‘fast food’ on a trip, they prepared food for a month’s travel for a family of eight. It consisted of toasted zweibach, raw ground pork and coffee. Some added a few more items. A month of this one menu for all the family must have been the height of monotony in our world. My Grandpa Suderman was born in November 23, 1874, and was 5 years old when he traveled with his family to this country.

The first part of the journey was in May 15, 1879, traveling by train to Antwerp, Belgium. At Antwerp the family joined 714 other Mennonites to board the steamer, Switzerland, of the Red Star Line, owned by the Quakers. They landed in Philadelphia June 24th. Forty-two families went on to Kansas, arriving in June 28th.

They lived with other families until they found a sod house. Jacob found a job that netted him 50 cents a day. He was able to buy 48 pounds of flour for one day’s pay, which he carried home on his shoulders to feed his family. A new baby was added. In 1882, Diptheria wreaked its havoc on the families, and one of the little Suderman baby died.

Did they feel depression or discouragement? When survival is of primary importance, there is no time for thinking of self. Jacob and Aganetha lived in Kansas and latter owned land and began farming. They raised their family to trust God. They came to this country trusting God with their very lives. They found the freedom to live in peace and worship the Lord through sacrifice of hard work.

What happened to the dream of freedom since then? Somehow the time-saving inventions have worked against us. We have too much idle time. We search for things we can see and touch, instead of the unseen treasures. Freedom has turned to unrest. Freedom can only be achieved in Jesus. For freedom of the spirit, freedom of the soul can only come through Him. We must hunger and thirst for his righteousness.

The Search for Freedom can create a sacrifice of the status quo. A hard lesson is that there is no status quo, for we live in a changing world. Status quo, rocking on in worldly security is an illusion.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Psalm 42:1

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. Psalm 119:45

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. II Corinthians 3:17

Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Comments? eacombs@att.net

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Blessings of a Broken Shoulder

“Why don’t you slow down?” “Don’t you ever get tired of working so hard?” “You are retired, you know!” These comments I have heard often in the past five years. My answer to the first comment was, “God will let me know!”

Then on June 30th, I went to church and was helping a friend with some packages. As I came back up the stairs, I missed the last one. The fall went into slow motion. I didn’t fight the descent. As I lay on the floor, I was dazed, and then realized I couldn’t move my right arm. I sat up slowly. I knew I had to go to the hospital and that my ‘busyness’ was halted. God had let me know.

As I sat in ER, waiting for my turn, I readjusted the church kitchen’s apron my friend fashioned that served as a sling. Then my mind began counting blessings…. I had just had my haircut, I was dressed in clean clothes, and I had received my new glasses that morning…. I laughed to myself – such superficial blessings, but there was many more.

I began praying that I would not need surgery and a week later the surgeon underscored the answer to the prayer. A major blessing!

Many blessings then painted my life with reasons to give thanks and praise the Lord as I realized the disadvantages of a broken shoulder! I could not drive, I had to sleep in a chair and wear a sling from 6 – 8 weeks, and I could not type or take notes. I could not play the keyboard, which I utterly enjoy.

I laughed when I realized that the plan I made for July the 4th weekend could not be fulfilled and read this scripture. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

This fall and its ramifications had a purpose. God wanted me to learn something.

When I could concentrate more, I continued to read the book my cousin had suggested I buy, Champagne for the Soul (Rediscovering God’s Gift of Joy) by Mike Mason. 90 chapters, each 2 pages long, was perfect reading. Joy is a choice. Joy moves pain along. Joy is not halfhearted; completeness is one of its marks. “Ask and you will receive,” Jesus said, “and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). Negative self-talk is a powerful enemy of joy. Instead of honesty or humility, we’re tearing ourselves down and God and others with us. “Rejoice in the Lord always~ Again I say rejoice!” Philippians 4:4. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4 (The distinguishing mark of our belief is delight.)

The next blessing was a letter from my Aunt Irene. She wrote about her mother, my Grandmother, breaking her right collar bone while at church for a session of quilting. Her Dad, Jacob Loewen, a country type doctor, taped her collar bone/shoulder. During the time that she was recovering, she learned how to sew and quilt with her left hand. As I read these words, I felt hope. I felt motivation. I knew that if my Grandmother survived and learned new skills I could, too.

Then came a cup overflowing with blessings and thanksgiving when our four children living in four different states conferred, bought a plane ticket for one of our twelve grandchildren, Jenny, who came to spend 8 ½ days with us. This gift meant so much that it brought tears of joy to my eyes. Jenny, a quiet thoughtful young lady, interested in singing, took me to the therapist, the grocery store, the pharmacy, helped me with the sling, making meals, cleaning. The gift of Jenny’s presence brought a song of joy to my heart. Jenny was an oasis of peace in my world of inactivity and pain.

Another blessing, a big blessing, is the concern of our church or faith-family. The meals, the cards, the prayers, the phone calls and taking me to the doctor and the therapist provide a covering of God-goodness over this time of recuperation. One prayer partner met Jenny at the airport, and made sure she made her flight back at the end of her visit. Another prayer partner took me to the grocery store, and will take me to the doctor for 6 weeks x-ray. She has also taken us to church twice, when I was ready to go.

The question is age old. What am I to learn? Never before have I felt that I have had misfortune or a testimony. Now I have one of joy and thanksgiving.

When someone asks how I am doing, I reply, “Healing!” For I am trusting in God that this is so. Then I read one more chapter from Champagne for the Soul. Again it points me to scripture that reminds me of how great our God is. One of my favorite activities is walking in the early morning watching the sunrise, reading the message in the clouds. Listening to the songs of the birds and watching the seasons’ flow.

One young facebooker posted, I like the sunrise better that the sunset. That thought arrested me for a moment. A sunrise promises a new day. A sunset promises rest before a new day. God creates both! Both have their purpose and both contain promises.

Mike Mason says – Joy is a presence of God that banishes loneliness. And asks the question, Are you looking for joy? Look up at the stars. They are the remnants of the original creation, fresh from the furnace of God’s thoughts. They contain, encoded in ancient luminous script the great secret at the heart of the cosmos: JOY!

Job 38:4-7 - “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! 
Who stretched a measuring line across it? 
On what were its footings set, 
or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”


Comments? eacombs@att.net