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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The End!

A long time ago I sang a song Mother taught me….When you come to the end of a perfect day….(Carrie Jacobs-Bond) As I began this thought, I remembered that, indeed, I have come to the end of a perfect year. The End. The End of 2011, and in just a few days a new year will begin. The questions surface – Will 2012 have changes of any kind. Or will it rock along like 2011?

Surprises are not always pleasant. Publishing Clearing House is not scheduled to drop in. The realities of life will surface as they do, when least expected. No longer is it a challenge or exciting to ‘see in the New Year’ for me.

When I nearly come to the end of a really good book, I read slower, prolonging the great story, dreading the inevitable announcement – The End. A birthday signifies a new year of beginnings with ‘mountains to climb’.

I remember school writing assignments and the last words were proclaimed joyfully by scrawling in little-girl-writing – The End!

As Christmas Day came to the end this year, I began to feel as if the anticipation of all that is Christmas would come to an end, too. How can I continue that expectant hope that comes with the preparation of Christmas?

So with anticipation I see the end of 2011 just around the corner. How do I prepare for a new year? In times past New Year’s Eve meant staying up with Mom and Dad, praying in the New Year. In the still hush of the night, it seemed ethereal, and the passing of time could not be measured – for each word of prayer for the New Year dropped silently in the room like the dew on spring roses.

My daughter Anna chose a verse of scripture as her theme for 2012. Jeremiah 46:27-28 "But you, dear Jacob my servant, you have nothing to fear. Israel, there's no need to worry.

Look up! I'll save you from that far country, I'll get your children out of the land of exile. Things are going to be normal again for Jacob, safe and secure, smooth sailing. Yes, dear Jacob my servant, you have nothing to fear

Depend on it, I'm on your side. I'll finish off all the godless nations among which I've scattered you, But I won't finish you off. I have more work left to do on you. I'll punish you, but fairly. No, I'm not finished with you yet."

She ends her thoughts with a prayer - Thank you God that you are on our side. You have more work left to do on us. You are not finished with us yet. We are yours. Help us to open our wills to your word. Help us to open our hearts to your love. We long to trust you with our whole lives. We long to believe that you will keep us safe and secure. We are trusting in you that you will provide for us everything that we need for this next year. And at the end of the year we will praise you for the journey of change you have brought us through. (

Thank you, Anna, for teaching your mother again. I looked in His Word for a scripture for 2012. So many scriptures to choose from! I have my favorites that I turn to again and again. Which words will give me hope and strengthen my faith and trust?

My thoughts go to the end of the year, the end of Christmas, the end of being on earth, and I am not sure which one. For truly, the end of the year brings another brand new year that is crystal clear, a new beginning. The end of a book brings the quest for another book. An amazing song, when it finishes, calls for another melody of truth and hope. An artful painting depicting the glory of God’s creation calls for another in depth look at what God has created.

A few of my favorite verses from scripture are these:

I Corinthians 1:8 - He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Forgiveness)

Matthew 28:20b - And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Faithfulness)

Philippians 1:6 - 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. (Trust and Hope)

If endings mean beginnings, what is there to fear? When the book ends, when a candle grows too short too burn, when an apple is eaten to its core, when the last drop of milk is used – look for more. Look for the proverbial silver lining. When pain is my companion through the night, I look to the Healer. When fear crowds out trust, I put my hand in the Hand of the One who is able.

When this life on earth ends, in Jesus there is a new beginning.

On Christmas Day, driving to church, realizing – This is the Day – This IS Christmas Day! The bright sunlight and the crisp air simply underlined the blessing of celebration of the Lord’s birth. Like many of our family who lived before, the crowd of witnesses, and now await the call of the trumpet heralding the second coming of Jesus, I thought, what if there is no tomorrow for me? What if it is just This Day?

Where there is no tomorrow, there is forever – when today never ends…

I see the glow of Heaven / In the sunrise of the morning / In the smile of your face and / In your loving heart….

Because of the Christ Child / Born so long ago / He gave His Life for us / And lives in Heaven / It is so.

We celebrate each day./ For when there is no tomorrow / With Him we’ll live forever more / Where our today will never end.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lights! Action!

In 1928, my romantic Dad (Herman) married a farm girl from Kansas. They moved to the panhandle of Oklahoma, far from the rich black soil of central Kansas. Far from the Suderman home-farm. Anna Daisy was homesick as the days grew shorter and colder. She remembered Christmas celebrations-past. A tree, cut from the field, would stand in the parlor. Beside it stood a bucket of water and sand in case of a fire. On Christmas Eve, the candles were lit and the children listened to the story of the birth of Jesus from Luke 2, the flames of the candles reflected in their eyes as they listened in wonder. Those were the memories Anna Daisy held dear.

Anna Daisy did not know what a resourceful man she had married. Herman brought a Christmas tree, cut down in the field, and set it up near the living room window. Electric lights, or fairy lights they were first called, were placed on the tree. Then on Christmas Eve Herman parked the Model T Ford near the window. He attached the wires of the Christmas lights to the battery of the car.

I can imagine the pure joy Anna Daisy felt that night, to see lights on the tree and the love they represented from her new husband. Even more, she thought about the star that shone on that dark night, filling sky with the light of the world. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

People through the ages are drawn to the Light of the World. The Light that signifies Hope and Peace. The Light that brightens our way in this dark world.

Today we are confronted with an overdose of lights in the name of Christmas and become a tool for marketing, and truly becomes a Holiday. Not a celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, but the 'cha-ching' of the driving force of commerce.

When someone asks if I am ready for Christmas, I search my heart for readiness – not in a material sense but a spiritual sense. When did the advent become encumbered with man’s ingenuity with electricity? I still recall in 1930’s going to Grandpa and Grandma Suderman’s and watching as the lamb on the table was ‘trimmed’ and shadows grew in the dining room.

Laying the history of lights against family, I learned that when the first electrically powered lights in England’s Theater were introduced in 1881, my Great Grandfather Jacob Suderman was 40 years old. In 1848, my Great Grandmother, Aganetha Wiens Suderman was six year old when Windsor Castle in England had its first illuminated tree. When Justina Leppke Loewen, my great Grandmother was 1 year old, Christmas Trees were first sold at Tree Lots. A year before, 1856, the first lighted tree appeared on the White House Lawn. When my Grandmother, Anna Loewen Suderman, born in 1880, two years later, Edward Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison handcrafted the first incandescent bulbs. In 1890, seven years before Ed’s mother, Ruth Olive Starkey was born, candle holders were made for Christmas candles. In 1902 - 1914 Small lanterns and glass bowls were made to hold candles. Dad (Herman) 1903 and Mom (Anna Daisy) 1907. When Mom was one year old Insurance Companies would not pay for fires that began with Christmas trees.

Now, imagine a quiet, dark hillside. The only light comes from a myriad stars in the skies and a campfire. The shepherds were lulled on the edge of sleep by the lowing of the contented sheep about them. Then they saw a star shining more brightly than any of the others. What could this be? I can hear them asking each other questions.

Suddenly….And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:9 -14

God set the stage for the coming of his One and Only Son with angels and lights as only He can do with His own creation. The lights He fashioned with His own hands. They were not made by man, the lights that need electrical power and tend to ‘burn out’.

Have you ever walked in pitch black or sat alone just wondering what would come next in your life? Just as the shepherds said, “Let us go find this thing that the Lord has told us about.” Follow the Light of the World!

Next time we see a Christmas Tree, or a house decorated, or an artfully decorated business, what do we see with our hearts? Man’s achievements? To out-decorate your neighbor's house is not celebrating Christmas. Or do we see Jesus, The Light of the World?

Recently I heard the song, The First Christmas Gift. The lyrics of the chorus are this: “The first Christmas gift came from above,
wrapped in starlight, tied with love, given with joy, 
A sweet baby boy, a gift for you and me.”


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bless You!

“God bless you!” the grey-haired older lady said to me. What did I do, I wondered. What is this ‘blessing business’ I keep hearing?

What does ‘bless ‘ mean? Is it just a figure of speech that makes the hearer feel better? Is it a word that makes the speaker feel more spiritual?

The word bless means God’s favor and protection. The noun blessing means asking for favor and protection, as in a short prayer at a meal, or grace. Also it means the act of one that blesses. It can mean approval, words of comfort, encouragement and inspiration. Or one can be blessed….Who began this blessing and who is blessed. There are 35 references to blessed just in Genesis. Nearly all refer to the Lord blessing his creation. God is in the blessing mode and the early fathers blessed sons.

David understood the relationship between God and blessing - Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Psalm 40:4

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD. Psalm 89:15

Several years ago, a father gave his daughter, the new bride, a blessing during the wedding ceremony. I listened in amazement for I thought blessings were only used by Old Testament people. People like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob gave blessings to their sons.

Matthew 5 contains the ‘Beatitudes’ or the ‘Be Happies’. 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

A daunting list of character traits and situations are given for those who are blessed. For me, I use this list to measure my life – poor in spirit, mourn, meek, hunger for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, persecuted because of rightousness, insulted because of Jesus –these are not reasons to feel as a victim or down=trodden – but to be glad and rejoice. The basis for being blessed.

A blessing gives cause for counting….for this song writer. Name them one by one…” Sometimes our hearts are so filled with joy and thanksgiving that we want to share. Is that where the song writer found these words….”Make me a blessing…make me a blessing…out of my life.

A blessing can come from sunshine and joy in life. Other times a blessing comes from a dark storm in our lives. The blessing comes with faithfulness and trust and relationships. As a teen, I remember singing the song, “No Man is an Island.” I didn’t understand it then, and unable to articulate the importance of relationship. In the book by Mike Mason, The Mystery of Children, one chapter stands out. The author declares that we cannot live in solitary confinement in this world. For we are someone’s child, someone’s spouse, someone’s parent, someone’s neighbor. The pebble dropped into the lake of life ripples out, just as our lives ripple out to touch many.

When the Author of Blessings is our Father, when our life is defined by our relationship with our Lord, then we are blessed indeed. However, self-seeking behavior is self-defeating.” Mike Mason continues…”This is sin in a nut-shell."

To be a blessing, or even recognize being blessed, we nurture the relationships God has given us. This reveals to us just “Who” we are, not only in God’s eyes, but our families’ eyes and wherever and whoever the life-ripple touches.

This ‘life-ripple’ continues through time. Our relationships, our connections, live on. Our choices and actions and our inner being are etched on the hearts of others around us. Today I received an email written by a cousin to watch for old pictures of the family – and the pictures will tell of another time. The pictures will be another ‘life-ripple’ for me. And I received a Christmas card that was filled with remembrances and who she was and who I was in a relationship long ago blessed me today. Someone very wise said, “Don’t burn any bridges,” in reference to relationships. Somehow our lives are one piece, not compartmentalized, but woven together.

What are my blessings in this day and age? Family, a rose bush that blooms in the face of coming winter, God’s word, the freedom to pray, sunsets and sunrises, friends, laughter, a new born baby, the innocence of a child, the warmth in a smile or a hug, a cup of soup. The joy of knowing that love comes in many different hues in my life. Knowing that God creates love and harmony and beauty and allows me to taste it.

What is our blessing to our children? You have blessed us in so many ways that will continue to grand children and great grandchildren.

Dear children, look not to the world and its enticements for happiness for they are fleeting. But put your hope in God, and your hand in His hand. Walk with Him in this world. This is our deepest desire and prayer that we meet again in Heaven when this life on earth is done.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Clouds Matter

It was a summer day with a soft cooling breeze that played tag with fluffy white clouds. We sat outside on a blanket, Mom, and my two brothers and I, finding ever changing shapes in the clouds. “It is an elephant!” Said Gene. “No”, said Jim, “It’s a cow!”

We continued to watch the sky-art that afternoon not realizing the common bond we enjoyed with other ‘sky-watchers’ through the ages. The life of a cloud is a mysterious and moving entity, ever changing in shapes and colors.

In science books we learn the how and why of a cloud. Clouds form when the temperature of the air reaches the condensation point, which is the point at which water vapor (which is an invisible gas) becomes a liquid. When it reaches this point, the liquid collects on the dust particles in the air and become visible.

Then we learned names for clouds – three types -- cumulus (Latin for heap) -- stratus (Latin for layer) – and cirrus (Latin for curl). What is the Latin for ‘beautiful, curiosity, wonder in the sky…” Bellus curiositas admiratio caelum!

In every language, in every land clouds are searched for signs…. of life-giving rain, for beauty, and for storms. Clouds can darken the sun’s light during the day and plays peek-a-boo with the moon at night. Clouds play tag with the wind, scudding across the sky as far as we can see. Clouds hold hands with the wind to bring destruction by creating tornadoes and hurricanes.

Clouds can bring rain or sleet or snow or hail. People watch the stream of winds that circle the globe and prognosticate their path and the likelihood of water from the clouds that swing like a child on a swing.

Job 38:22 gives the words of God, “Have you entered the storehouse of the snow or seen the storehouses of hail? And again in Psalms 135:7, “He makes clouds rise from the earth; He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.”

In Psalm 33:7 – “He gathers the waters of the sea into jars, he puts the deep into storehouses.”

Growing up in Oklahoma, the tornado alley, we learned to watch the clouds for fearsome tornado winds. Dad and Mom lived through one of those tornado storms, huddled in the ‘Siemens Cellar’ behind the house. The small underground cellar must have seemed frail as the wind and the rain knocked against the wooden door of the entrance. They spent the duration of

the storm praying, and then praising God as the winds quietened. They went inside the house to determine the damage. Then without warning the tornado returned. They huddled in the kitchen under the 5-foot by 2 feet table, holding hands and lifting their voices for deliverance.

Years later, while flying alone, I looked out the window and saw a carpet of clouds below me. I saw the God-view of the earth. As we flew to our destination, the clouds parted and I peered below to see tiny cars criss-crossing the roads below. I saw even tinier people scurrying across streets. The verse came to mind…. Psalm 8:4, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”

How many times, I wondered, is the word cloud or clouds are used in God’s Word? In the NIV version, I found 151 references. As I read each one, I noted how often God used a cloud to hide in and his glory shows through. The first one verse that caught my heart is in Exodus 16:10. While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.”

The glory of the Lord appears in the cloud? Fascinated I read further…. Exodus 19:9 – “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud…” Exodus 24:15-16 – When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it…and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day, the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud!”

I think of all the beautiful cloud-filled sunsets and sunrises I have seen. I think of all the wondrous formations of clouds with rainbow-hued colors I have seen. Yes, the glory of God appears in a cloud. The presence of God is all around us. Can we see, truly see, the presence of God? Or has man-made technology blinded us to His presence around us?

God used a cloud and a pillar of fire to lead the Children of Israel from Egypt. God used a cloud to cover His presence. He used a cloud to separate the army of Egypt and protect Israel. The cloud covered the tabernacle, and at night the cloud looked like fire. When the cloud lifted, the Israelites continued their journey. In I Kings 8, the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple. Deuteronomy 33:26 proclaim, “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in His majesty.”

When Dad died in 1979, Mother told me of Dad’s words before he died, “When Jesus comes again, look to the East as He takes me to heaven!” Then I read the words of return of Jesus to Heaven – “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Acts 1:9. Verse 11 continues - “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Each time I walk, I search the sky first, looking for clouds. A clear sky just doesn’t have the same message as a cloud-filled sky. A cloud-filled sky can be the day Jesus returns. It was never as clear to me as the day I drove to my prayer-partner’s house for prayer. I sat in the car, facing east. Clouds covered the sun that early morning. Suddenly, the clouds parted, light poured through the windshield with an unusual intensity. I looked into the light, “Jesus, have you come? I have been waiting for You!”

Is it any wonder I call Him Lord?

Is it any wonder I love His Word?

By His grace and love, He has set me free--

Jesus, holy Lord, every praise to You!

By Your grace alone, I am born anew;

I will sing Your praise for eternity!

(Smith, Barreto, Holder -