Category Archives: What Is On My Mind Today

What Is On My Mind Today? The Passing of My Aunt Margie…Well Done My Good and Faithful Servant

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Uncle Klynn and Aunt Margie

My Aunt Margaret Cole surrendered her spirit to her Lord Jesus on March 11.  She had spent the last years of her life in a losing battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

When it comes to diseases Alzheimer’s and cancer both suck. However, in most cases, unless it directly attacks the brain, like it did in my neighbor Don’s case, cancer destroys the body…Alzheimer’s destroys mind and body, and in many cases, like that of my dearest aunt, a person’s very essence.  I believe that it is the much crueler fate.

I think her battle was especially tough on her as her older brother was passing from the same disease when she first noticed her own symptoms.  She really did a marvelous job during those first few years of working to keep her mind as focused, active, rational and relational as possible.  But, the slide of Alzheimer’s was still inevitable and relentless.

At first her devoted husband took care of her.  Their loving relationship was one romance fanatics could only dream about.  They were devoted to one another. Then, just as her condition began to worsen rapidly, he suffered a major stroke.  Since both of them now needed around the clock care…their daughter, husband and granddaughter moved home to care for them.

It was hard. Hard on everyone.  Lots of adjustments and challenges.

Eventually, Alzheimer’s robbed us all of the woman we loved…wife, mother, grandmother, sister, cousin and aunt.

When I was diagnosed with the cancer Multiple Myeloma seven years ago and was confined to a bed for years…my aunt Margie never forgot me.  In fact, she called me at least once a week.  She always had a Bible study prepared for us to share.  Our conversations could last for hours.  In addition to her scheduled calls, sometimes there were unexpected calls. Oddly, those calls always came during my dark times…she somehow felt that I needed her and would always listen to that feeling and call.  She lifted me up.

As the years went by I grew stronger and due to necessity our roles reversed.  It was my turn to call her.  My turn to organize the Bible study.  My turn to listen to my feeling and call her whenever I thought of her.  My turn to listen to frustrations and fears.

When she couldn’t see well enough to read her Bible anymore, I sent her one with extra large 18-point font and in addition a desk top magnifier with its own light. Then spent days worrying that the Bible would be too heavy for her to lift.  The large print and magnifier worked alright for awhile.  Too, soon she lost her ability to read completely.  Oh, how she grieved the loss of reading.  As a former school teacher reading was another of the loves of her life, especially reading scripture.

So, I sent her the Bible on audio tape.

I don’t believe this ever worked out too well, as by then even that simple recorder was too difficult for her to navigate. Then, too, her hearing was being taken away by the disease.

Eventually, I would call just to read her Bible Verses…John 3:16….Psalm 27…Psalm 23 and many others.

Too soon our phone calls had to cease. Once in a while she’d ask to call me and it was so very wonderful just to hear the sound of her voice.  Even if I wasn’t sure she still knew who I was, or how disjointed our conversation.

I will greatly miss my Aunt Margie.  It has been a long winter for me.  In addition to being basically totally housebound since October due to health, weather, snow, ice and slipping hazards, there has been a lot of goodbyes. First I lost my good friend El, then, my Aunt Dee, then neighbor Don, then, cousin Mim, then, a wonderful friend Scott Carlson and now Aunt Margie.

Heck of a deal.

blizzard outhouse

Sun still came up this morning and it shines warm and bright.

sunrise

Just as bright as the call I received from my cousin Laurie, the daughter who cared for my Aunt and Uncle for the past year.  I thought it was my turn to lift her up, but I have not even been able to bring myself to buy a sympathy card..too soon…too hard.

Laurie shared what my aunt’s last month was like.

For the last month of her life Aunt Margie was transported mentally back to the farm she grew up on in Minnesota. And spent much time with the folks from back home especially, her brothers. Laurie shared that one day Aunt Margie announced that she would like to have a tea party and invite her sister Ruth Marie.  The thing is…her sister Ruth Marie had been born with multiple birth defects and had died as a small infant.  Laurie, asked me if it was possible that her mother was already in heaven.  I believe that she was and Ruth Marie was hale and hearty and recognizable to Aunt Margie as a playable-sized sister.

The other story that Laurie shared was that one day when she was trying to get her mother to eat which at that time was already quite a process and consisted of the occasional spoonful of yogurt or apple sauce.  Aunt Margie commenced to lead a very robust prayer meeting and Bible study.  Laurie said she really had to be on her toes to get a spoonful of sustenance in here or there.

Then, Aunt Margie announced, “Let’s sing.”  Laurie said she tried to remember every old Lutheran hymn Aunt Margie had learned in Sunday School as a child and they sang them all…together.  I asked Laurie if Aunt Margie remembered the words.  Yes, she said every last one of them.

Which just goes to show that God always keeps his promises…and the importance of good parenting.

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

One of my Aunt’s greatest fears about her disease is that somehow she would forget her Lord Jesus Christ and lose her salvation. We discussed this a lot over the past several years and months. With God’s own words I could assure her that, that would never, ever happen.

Faith is heart knowledge, not head knowledge. Once we ask the Lord to enter our hearts, he hangs onto us…we don’t have to worry about hanging on to him.

Deuteronomy 31:8  

And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

Psalm 9:10

And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

Hebrews 13:5

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.  

I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

Aunt Margie’s showed great courage during her illness.  In her case the “false witness that breathed out cruelty” and “will of her enemies” that had risen against her was a disease…Alzheimer’s disease.   She had no evil to fear as God, the most loving of all parents, protects and never forsakes his children.   He strengthened her heart, and she waited on her Lord. 

Two summers ago I made the long trip out to Montana to visit my Aunt Margie. Our visit went by far too quickly. We shared many hugs in the doorway before our departure. Then we looked into each other eyes for which we both knew would be the last time. She gave me a bright smile and said, “If I don’t see you again in this world, I will see you in the next!”

Psalm 23 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Surely goodness and mercy followed my Aunt Margie all the days of her life and now she dwells in the house of the Lord forever! 

 

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Always, but especially during the season of Lent, it so important to remember that Jesus defeated both death and the devil on the cross.  Therefore there is no evil to fear, for Jesus is always with us. He is our hope, salvation, ticket to heaven and eternal life.  Death has lost its sting.

John 3: 16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Blogger note:

Children’s Story about a Grandmother teaching her grandchildren about Jesus.

 

20150523130433119_Page_16On Grandmother’s Knee

 

 

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What Is On My Mind Today: Historical Jesus? Non-Biblical Evidence

Last year I spent the weeks of Lent researching answers to faith questions that I personally struggle with and that my students had asked me throughout my over forty plus years of teaching Christian Education.

Now, I am not a person who is satisfied with an “because it says so”  response.  Nor, I am not a teacher who would answer a question with a question.   Therefore, I used sources from outside of the Bible for my research.

These posts on the Bible, Christianity and religion address a number of questions such as: Is the Bible just another book of ancient mythology?  Are Biblical figures Herculean?  Why or why not? Is the translation of my Bible even remotely accurate and does it reflect original God-inspired text?  Was there an historical Jesus?  Says who? Did Jesus actually die on the cross? Was he really dead or did he just pass out? Did he rise from the dead? Who witnessed his resurrection? Were those witnesses reliable?   Are Science and the Bible compatible and if so which scientists held a belief in God? Were they well-respected in their fields of science? Did they defend their belief?

My research process took a long time and used a variety of sources both online and textual.  The result was five posts:  What is Easter?  Is the Bible Believable?  Historical Jesus?  Intelligent Design?  He has risen, He has risen indeed!

During this season of Lent, I will re-post one of these articles each week, as well as provide links to the others.

This week’s topic…Historical Jesus?

                                                     

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Jesus Calling the Storm by Patricia Turgeon

 

                                                           Historical Jesus?
                                                        Non-Biblical Evidence

There is an overwhelming amount of historical and archaeological evidence available to show that the New Testament is a reliable historical document.  The New Testament contains extensive scripture references about, to and from Jesus Christ. However, if you still have doubts about the veracity of the Bible, I believe that it is fair to ask if there are non-biblical sources that provide evidence of a historical Jesus? Yes, there are.

Few people know the names of non-biblical authors from antiquity that document the existence of a historical Jesus.  However, many of us have heard of the Romans and their Christian killing, blood thirsty Emperor Nero.

In July of A.D. 64, the same year that the Romans executed Apostles Paul and Peter, the city of Rome was destroyed by fire.  Nero, who is thought to have set the fire himself, needed a scapegoat…he chose Christians.  Roman historian Tacitus recorded,

“Nero fastened the guilt . . . on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.”

What does this reference tell us?  First, that Christians were named after a historical person called Christus, which is Latin for Christ.  The extreme penalty suffered was obviously Roman execution by crucifixion. His crucifixion occurred during the reign of Tiberius, and he was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilatus.  All of these details about Jesus are recorded in the Gospels.

Tacitus refers to “a most mischievous superstition,” which began in Judaea and had spread to Rome.  This is indirect testimony that Christians believe Jesus rose from the grave.  What abominations had Christians committed?  They did not worship Emperor Nero or Roman gods, but only the one true God.  And, Christians were accused of cannibalism, because they participated in sharing the body (bread) and blood (wine) of Holy Communion.

Within the Roman empire the Christian doctrine acknowledging the divinity of Jesus and following his teachings was extremely revolutionary.  Christians promised to follow God’s moral laws and the teachings of Jesus to love their neighbors as themselves at a time when Rome’s chief import was sand to soak up the blood of the human victims sacrificed in the Colosseum for sport and entertainment.  For a time, Roman’s actually imported more sand to soak up blood than grain to feed its citizens.

In an 112 A.D letter from the Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor Phiny the Younger to Emperor Trajan, Phiny asks for direction on legal proceedings against Christians.  He felt impelled to ask for the Emperor’s advice because there were multitudes of Christian believers of every age, class, and sex.  In this letter Pliny shares information about early Christians,

“They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food–but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”

Phiny’s words “they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god”, illustrate that early Christians acknowledged Jesus’s divinity.  When he says that Christians sang to Christ, “as to a god,” he is pointing out that unlike other gods, Christ had been a person who had lived on this earth.  His reference that Christians, “partake of food–but food of an ordinary and innocent kind” is a repudiation of the claim that Christians practiced cannibalistic rituals.

A collection of Jewish rabbinical writings dated from between 70-200 A.D. called the Babylonian Talmud also contain references to Jesus.  The Talmud is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism. It is the primary source of Jewish religious law and theology.  In nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud is the foundation to Jewish cultural life.

The Talmud would clearly be a biased source against Jesus and yet it agrees with most of the major events of his life: being conceived out of wedlock, gathering disciples, making blasphemous claims about himself, and working miracles.  However, the Talmud attributes Jesus’s miracles to sorcery and not to God.

The Talmud says that,

“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald . . . cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.” 

What does this quotation reveal? First, “Yeshu” is the Hebrew pronunciation of Jesus.  Secondly, it confirms that Jesus was crucified on the eve of Passover. The term “hanged” is often used as synonym for the word “crucified”.  The New Testament uses the word “hanged” instead of the word “crucified” multiple times.

Luke 23: 32, 33, 39

32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

“39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.”

Acts 5:30

 

“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.”

 

Acts 10:39

“And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree”

What about that bit about the cry of the herald for forty days that Jesus was to be stoned?  Jewish leaders felt threatened by the message of love and justice that Jesus preached. They plotted for a long time against him and made no secret of the fact that they wanted him killed.  In those times, a death sentence rendered by Jewish law was carried out by stoning. Fearing that Jesus’s followers would revolt against Jewish authority, should they condemn him, Jewish leaders took him to Pilate. To be crucified, and fulfill Old Testament prophecy, Jesus had to be condemned by Roman law.

The references about Jesus practicing sorcery would refer to his miracles and the charge of apostasy…Jesus claiming to be God’s son.  It was for this last claim that he was sent to the cross.

Evidence from Lucian

Lucian of Samosata was a second century (200 A.D.) Greek. He wrote this snarky description of early Christians :

“The Christians . . . worship a man to this day–the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. . . . [It] was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.”

Lucian does not mention Jesus by name, but obviously that who he is writing about.

Probably the most well-known non-biblical references about Jesus and the origins of Christianity are those recorded by first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

Josephus a scholar, historian and hagiographer was born in Jerusalem to a father of priestly descent and a mother claiming royal ancestry.  His writing entitled, Antiquities of the Jews, is dated to around 93-94 A.D.  It contains references about Biblical Jesus and  John the Baptist, a great prophet and Jesus’s older cousin.

The first reference about Jesus is found in Book 18, Chapter 3, 3.  The text is called the “Testimonium Flavianum” andsays,

“About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was the achiever of extraordinary deeds and was a teacher of those who accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When he was indicted by the principal men among us and Pilate condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him originally did not cease to do so; for he appeared to them on the third day restored to life, as the prophets of the Deity had foretold these and countless other marvelous things about him, and the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.”

This version of the text is found in Josephus manuscripts as early as the third-century.  Scholars agree that Josephus wrote the core message about Jesus, but they suspect Christians made complimentary additions to his text at a later date.  Josephus would not have believed or stated publicly that Jesus was the Messiah or that he rose from the dead.  If he had, Josephus could not still have claimed to be a non-Christian Jew.

In 1972, Professor Schlomo Pines of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem announced the discovery of a manuscript translation of this text by tenth-century Melkite historian Agapius.

“At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.”

This version of the the text is considered to be more in line with what Josephus may have originally wrote.  He could have made this statement and remained a non-Christian Jew.

Josephus’s other reference to Jesus is found in Book 20, Chapter 9, 1.  A vast majority of modern scholars believe that this text is authentic.

Josephus wrote,

“Having such a character (“rash and daring” in the context), Ananus thought that with Festus dead and Albinus still on the way, he would have the proper opportunity. Convening the judges of the Sanhedrin, he brought before them the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, whose name was James, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned. But those of the city residents who were deemed the most fair-minded and who were strict in observing the law were offended at this. Accordingly, they secretly contacted the king [Herod Agrippa II], urging him to order Ananus to desist from any more such actions, for he had not been justified in what he had already done. Some of them even went to meet Albinus, who was on his way from Alexandria, and informed him that Ananus had no authority to convene the Sanhedrin without his consent. Convinced by these words, Albinus wrote in anger to Ananus, threatening him with punishment. And King Agrippa, because of this, deposed him from the high priesthood, in which he had ruled for three months.”

The New Testament tells us that Jesus did in fact have a brother named James.James was stoned to death by Jewish authorities.

There is almost unanimous agreement among modern scholars that Josephus’s reference in Book 18, Chapter 5, 2 to the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist is authentic.

Non-biblical sources proof that,

John 1: 14

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

 

What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Believable Bible?…The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

Historical Jesus?…Non-Biblical Evidence

Intelligent Design?….The Bible, Science and Scientists

He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today? Is the Bible Believable…

Last year I spent the weeks of Lent researching answers to faith questions that I personally struggle with and that my students had asked me throughout my over forty plus years of teaching Christian Education.

Now, I am not a person who is satisfied with an “because it says so”  response.  Nor, I am not a teacher who would answer a question with a question.   Therefore, I used sources from outside of the Bible for my research.

These posts on the Bible, Christianity and religion address a number of questions such as: Is the Bible just another book of ancient mythology?  Are Biblical figures Herculean?  Why or why not? Is the translation of my Bible even remotely accurate and does it reflect original God-inspired text?  Was there an historical Jesus?  Says who? Did Jesus actually die on the cross? Was he really dead or did he just pass out? Did he rise from the dead? Who witnessed his resurrection? Were those witnesses reliable?   Are Science and the Bible compatible and if so which scientists held a belief in God? Were they well-respected in their fields of science? Did they defend their belief?

My research process took a long time and used a variety of sources both online and textual.  The result was five posts:  What is Easter?  Is the Bible Believable?  Historical Jesus?  Intelligent Design?  He has risen, He has risen indeed!

During this season of Lent, I will re-post one of these articles each week, as well as provide links to the others.

This week’s topic…Is the Bible Believable?

May God bless you and keep you, may his face shine upon you and give you peace!

Bible read me

                                                          Believable Bible?
                  The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

I spent all of last year reading the entire Bible. The Bible is not easy to read, especially the Old Testament.  The text itself can be hard to understand and many of the events described disconcerting.  I know that there are parts of it, I will never understand.  I even read the Old Testament Book of Numbers chapter, line and verse.  After completing the first chapter of the Book of Numbers,  I learned two things.  Its precise details spoke to authenticity, and it became incredibly clear to me that I was never meant to be an accountant.

The Bible was never intended to be a “proof” of God, similar to a mathematical proof. It was meant to contain mysteries beyond human understanding. The Bible is the revelation God. His power, wisdom, strength, justice and love.

After reading the Bible, it became clear to me that conceptually….I am to an ant, as God is to me.  An ant cannot understand the power and scope of my universe, anymore than I am able to understand the power and scope of the realm of God.  An ant may not know of my existence, but I certainly exist and know about the ant.

Faith in God is about believing in the unseen. That may seem like a lot to ask, but we believe in many things we cannot see.  When I was a Christian preschool teacher each spring I would prepare a lesson about how air is like God.  The children couldn’t see air, but that did not make air any less real.  If they stood in front of a fan, they could feel air.  If I whistled they could hear air. To see air we needed…a balloon.  The balloon showed the children that air is a real thing.  The Bible is the balloon of God.

God provides plenty of proof of his existence throughout the Bible through witness accounts, allegory, parable and prophesy fulfillment.   Historians use many different tools to evaluate the accuracy of the scriptures such as corresponding archaeological evidence and other external sources.

Archaeologists have discovered in non-biblical sources the names of Biblical kings, government officials, cities and celebrations. For example, in the Gospel of John we are told that Jesus healed a cripple beside the Pool of Bethesda. The Bible describes that there were five walkways (porticoes) leading to the pool.  For many years historians did not believe that the pool even existed. Then, the pool and its five walkways were found forty feet below the ground.  In the Book of Acts, Luke mentions thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities and nine islands.  All of which exist.

When there is a lack of archaeological evidence or documents to support the accuracy of a primary source, a historical analysis tool called the criterion of embarrassment can be used. The criterion of embarrassment states that recorded accounts that would be embarrassing to the author are presumed to be true, because it would be counterproductive for the author to promote embarrassing accounts about themselves.  In other words, people can be counted on to put their best foot forward.

Biblical characters have far-too many embarrassing human faults to be considered glorified herculean heroes. Many of the accounts of their lives are of the most embarrassing sort.  Therefore, critiquing them by using the criterion of embarrassment would indicate that we are reading truth.

Here is a very small sample of embarrassing Old Testament stories. The great King David was an adulterer and murderer. Noah got so drunk that he was found naked by his sons. And, then there is the story of Lot’s daughters. They got their father drunk so that he’d have sex with them and get them pregnant.  Yes, incest. The gals were successful in their endeavors.

The New Testament fares no better. The Apostle Peter, the rock the church was to be built upon, denies Jesus three times in public, within ear and eye shot of Jesus himself, then runs away crying.  When Jesus was arrested a fellow lost all his clothes and ran away naked.

Mark 14: 51-52

“51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.”

The Apostle Paul escapes his enemies by being lowered out a window in a basket. Even, the account of discovery of the empty tomb on Easter morning would have been horribly embarrassing and a hard sell to first century Jews.  Women made the discovery!  Their testimony wasn’t even taken seriously in a court of law at that time.

Biblical characters were not made-up figments in the imaginations of the 40 different authors who wrote the Bible over 1,500 years (1450 B.C. the time of Moses to about 100 A.D. following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ).  There are so very many extensive and precisely detail lineages within the Bible. These folks existed and they experienced all of the joys, fears, anxieties, sorrows and vices of humankind. And, in spite of all of their human faults and weaknesses, God got his work done through them anyway.

The Bible was completed almost two-thousand years ago, around 100 A.D. If you go online you can read the Bible in over 150 different translations.  So, it is fair to ask whether or not modern Bibles are accurate translations of original text.  Is today’s Bible still the message God wanted shared?

Today’s Biblical translations are made from original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts.  In 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in a cave in Israel.  These scrolls contained Old Testament scripture that was 1,000 years older than any other known Biblical manuscript. When known manuscripts, including modern ones, were compared to the Dead Sea Scroll text it was in total agreement 99.5%.  The differences were all minor and had no effect on messaging.  The differences included minor spelling variations, such a missing or incomplete letters and sentence structure changes that had no effect on the meaning of the sentence.

However, the Dead Sea Scrolls are not the oldest Old Testament text ever found.  In a First Temple period burial tomb near Jerusalem in 1979, an excavation lead by Gabriel Barkay found two small silver scrolls.  The scrolls were dated to the 7th century B.C., the time of the Biblical prophet Jeremiah and King Josiah. Four centuries before the Dead Sea Scrolls.

It was a challenge to unroll the small silver scrolls without damaging them.  It took three years just to unroll the largest scroll which was about three inches long when unrolled.  Inside the scroll were very delicate engraved words.  The first word that was recognized was “YHWH”….Jehovah.  This is God’s name in the Hebrew Bible.  The scroll’s 19 lines of small Hebrew writing was an almost a word for word copy of a very familiar ancient priestly blessing found in the Old Testament Book of Numbers.

Numbers 6:24-26

“The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”

There are great gaps of time between the writing and the dates of first known copies for most ancient writers.  There also very few known copies of these works. Even those of Plato, Caesar, Aristotle, and Homer.  Yet, few doubt or question the accuracy or reliability of the publications by Plato, Caesar, Aristotle or Homer.

Plato wrote “The Republic” about 380 B.C.  The earliest know copies are dated from 900 A.D. ….1,300 years later.  There are just seven copies in existence.  Caesar’s Gallic Wars” were penned between 100-44 B.C. There are ten known copies of this work, all of which are dated almost 1,000 after it was written.   The works of Aristotle were published between 384 and 322 B.C.  The earliest known copy is dated 1100 A.D., a span of 1400 years.  There are only 49 copies in existence.  Homer’s Illiad was written in 990 B.C. It’s earliest know copy is 400 B.C., a gap of 500 years.  There are only 643 known copies.

The original writing of the New Testament is better preserved than any other ancient manuscript. There are over 5,000 whole or partial Greek manuscripts of the New Testament all dated within 50-225 years of its writing. Over 24,000 if you include those of other languages.

When it came to Scripture, scribes (monks) were meticulous in their copying of original manuscripts. They checked and rechecked their work, to make sure it perfectly matched. If there was a mistake, they had to start the whole thing over again.

The New Testament was written between 50-100 A.D.  The earliest known copy was found with the Dead Sea Scrolls in Cave 7.  At that site a fragment of the Gospel of Mark was found by Jose Callahan.  It has been dated to have been written in A.D. 50. Less than 25 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.  At the same site, fragments of the Book of Acts and other books of the New Testament where also discovered and dated to have been written shortly after 50 A D.

Fragments from the Gospel of John, (John Rylands Papyrus) have been discovered that date within 40 years of being penned.  The Chester Beatty Papyrus is a nearly complete copy of the New Testament and has been dated within 100-150 years of its composition. The Bodmer Papyri contains most of the Gospel of John, and dates to A.D. 200.  Should all of the manuscripts of the New Testament have been destroyed, the entire New Testament, with the exception of 11 verses, could be reconstructed through the recorded quotes of early Church fathers.

From the Rylands Papyri, found in Egypt, dated to 130 A.D, we can reasonably conclude the this gospel was completed long before 130 A.D.  We know this because it had to be written, hand copied, and had to travel from Greece to Egypt. Since, most scholars agree the the Gospel of John was the last to be written, this papyri would affirm that the entire New Testament Gospel was completed in the first century after Jesus’s crucifixion.

It is believed that most of the writing in the New Testament was completed twenty to forty years before the end of the first century.  The gospels are traditionally dated as follows:  Gospel of Mark A.D. 60;  Gospels of Matthew and Luke between 60-70 A.D. and the Gospel of John between the years of 90-100 A.D.

Both internal and external evidence supports these early dates.  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke prophesy the fall of the temple in Jerusalem.  This event occurred in A.D. 70.  Yet, none of these first three gospels mention this catastrophic event in Jewish history.  Since, they had prophesied this event, one would think they would have staked a claim to the accuracy of the prophesy, had it occurred prior to the completion of their writing.

Luke, wrote both his gospel and the Book of Acts.  He ends the Book of Acts by noting that the Apostle Paul is alive and well, and preaching about the risen savior.

Acts 28:30-31 

“30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!”

Both Apostles Peter and Paul died martyrs in around 67 A.D.  The book of Acts does not record either man’s death.  So the Book of Acts must have been completed before that date and Luke’s Gospel was completed before the Book of Acts.

Most New Testament scholars concur that Paul’s epistles date from A.D. 48-60. The details he provides about the life of Jesus are consistent with those of the gospel writers.  In his first letter to the the Corinthians in Chapter 15, Paul summarized the gospel as told by its writers.  In 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul actually quotes from the Gospel of Luke, indicating that the Gospel of Luke was certainly completed before Paul was killed in 64 A.D.

1 Timothy 5:18

“18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

Luke 10:7

“7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire. “

There are also external sources that help provide an early date for the New Testament.  An early father of the church, Clement of Rome, wrote a letter to the church in Corinth in A.D. 95. In that message he quoted not only from the gospels, but also from other portions of the New Testament.  Before he was martyred in Rome in 115 A. D., the Bishop of Antioch, Ignatius, drafted a letter using quotes from all of the gospels, as well as some of the other New Testament letters.  By the second century church fathers were so familiar with the text of the apostle’s writings that they quoted them as scripture.

Why are early dates for the New Testament so important. There are two reasons:

First, the closer an event is to its historical record, the more likely it will be that the record is accurate.  When the New Testament, including the gospels were written, eyewitnesses to the life and death of Jesus were still alive to attest to the truth of the text.  The writers of the New Testament were either first-hand witnesses to the events surrounding Jesus or they were very close companions to, first hand witnesses.  Their accounts had to be and are supported by chronological and geographic fact.

Author Dr. Colin Hemer painstakingly reviewed each and every verse in the Book of Acts to determine the accuracy of the history written by its author Luke.  In just the final 16 chapters, Dr. Hemer identified 84 facts that have been collaborated by archaeological and historical research.

Second, the documented early dates of the New Testament is too short of a time period for legends to have developed.  Historians agree that it takes over eighty years, or more than two generations, for legendary accounts to become established.  Legends tend to be made up after all of the first generation witnesses and those that they directly shared their first-hand accounts with have died off.

The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, were readily accepted by early Christians because their accounts readily agreed with the common knowledge known about Jesus. People were still alive who had met Jesus, heard him speak, knew of his healing powers, ability to perform miracles and had seen him after he had risen from the dead. Matthew and John personally knew Jesus and had traveled with him for more than three years. Mark and Luke, were close associates of the apostles and recorded what they had directly learned from them.  Their accounts would have been easily fact checked.

Luke wrote in the Book of Acts, ““This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses”

John noted, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

He also wrote, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life … These things we write.”

A reasonable person could conclude from presented evidence, and there is so much more, that Jesus did exist and the Bible is authentic, accurate and reliable.

2 Peter 1:16

“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty”

*************

Links: 

What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Believable Bible?…The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

Historical Jesus?…Non-Biblical Evidence

Intelligent Design?….The Bible, Science and Scientists

He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today? A Smart German Shepherd and a Snitch

 

 

Truman and Oliver 

My German Shepherds….Oliver and Truman are smart. Sometimes too smart. Many people swear that Truman understands every word I say.  He does. Oliver, understands what I say, however, he’s a young enough male to still believe that he can get by just on his good looks.

Truman. an all white German Shepherd, really is and always has been the perfect dog.  He is a rescue.  We adopted him when he was five months old.  He had been severely abused and starved.  He was absolutely emaciated.  The first week we had him….he gained 14 pounds.  Hundreds of dollars later the severe infection in his face was cleared up.  The drainage from that infection used to glue him to our hardwood floors at night when he slept.  Still…. after experiencing that level of pain and misery at the hands of humans he was still all kisses and kindness.  A role model of forgiveness and perseverance to be sure.

Truman is now thirteen years old, which is old for a German Shepherd, and I grieve his advanced age every time I look at him.  He still is one of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen.

It is always amazing to me that after all of these years of being very pampered Truman’s abuse scars still on occasion reappear.  Truman has only two residual abuse behaviors.  Both involve food.  When the weather turns cold he hoards and occasionally, he will get into the garbage.

His hoarding began day one. He would hide his food, treats or toys by burying them in a sofa (when we first adopted him he destroyed both of our sofas).  The first one we found shredded when My husband and I came home from work.  Stuffing all over the floor.  That sofa was a pricey little number from the Galleria.

After that experience, I suggested that maybe we should put Truman in the kennel while we were at work, but my husband just could not bear thinking of him locked up.  The very next day we arrived home to a basement filled with…more sofa stuffing.  You could see piles of it at the bottom of the stairs as soon as the door opened. That sofa was purchased at Dayton’s Home Store…

After making sure that Truman was alright and had not consumed foam stuffing. We both agreed that the poor pup had to be exhausted from working so hard and there needed to be some changes in our home.  Out the sofas went.  To be replaced by two solid oak church pews.  My father once commented that when he came to my home he never knew if he was here to visit or repent.

The church pews were used for many years.  Eventually, we replaced the sofas.  However, even after thirteen years of having all the food he could want or need, when the weather turns cold Truman will still try to hoard food by burying it in the sofas.

If neglect and abuse can permanently scar a dog, I cannot imagine the  lasting damage done to a child.

Truman’s favorite food to hide for later is powdered sugar.  Only once have we experienced an internal blizzard and sticky floors.  It was fabulous!   Last week he tried to hide and entire five pound bag of rice. He still is one strong dog and must have a very soft mouth as there was not a hole in the bag anywhere.

Walter, A Dog’s Life Well Lived

 

Walter, a canine heathen and Truman’s dog buddy when he was young, never saw a garbage can he could resist or a counter top he could not clear.  He did not even want to resist his foraging for food treasures.  He considered garbage can raiding as seriously as an Olympic athlete does his sport.

To be sure, it was Walter that taught Truman about garbage can exploration and exploitation.  Where as Walter would empty the whole can with the finesse and energy of an explosive and concluded his foraging operation by peeing or pooping on top of the garbage he’d so enthusiastically released from its captivity.  Truman, always the gentleman, is much more surgical…he only takes what is right on top.

When Walter was still alive…Truman was the follower.   When Oliver joined our family, Truman became king and Oliver his puppy follower.

image
Lots of puppy cuteness
image
The boys.

Oliver's first 4tho 3o 11

Oliver

Oliver is adorable and at three years of age still looks and acts like a huge fuzzy puppy.  His paws are still way to big for him.  Although Oliver has a bit of the Walter in him…he is a rambunctious, yet thoughtful…everyone has to have a turn…Frisbee addict with a talent for domestic administration.  If he finds a deficiency in form or protocol he immediately reports the anomaly to the appropriate entity. Day or night.

Unlike my husband, his favorite method of nocturnal message transmission consists of waking me up by licking my hand.  If that doesn’t transport me to consciousness, he licks my foot. Foot licking requires an immediate response as it is usually a “potty dance” type of situation.

My first response upon being awakened by husband or dog…is to ask, “What is the trouble?”

Before he answers, Oliver always sits and patiently waits until I get my back brace on.  Then, he responds to my query by leading me to the problem. If their water dish is empty….he points at the water dish. If their food dish is empty… he will point at the food dish. Then, Oliver will slowly walk back to the room where their dog food is kept, stand in front of the door, only to enter the room once the door is opened, and point at the bag of dog food.  Obviously, Oliver feels that his dog parenting skills surpass ours.

So, the other night at around 1 a.m.,  I was again awaken by puppy kisses on my hand.  Oliver waited ever so patiently as I put on my back brace.  When safely harnessed, I asked him to, “Show me the trouble.”  He turns and headed towards the living room.

When we got there he pointed right at Truman who was “sleeping” in the middle of the room.  “Oliver”, I skeptically asked, “Truman is trouble?”  At that exact moment I turned to look out our patio door and saw that there had been a garbage can raid.   “Truman!”  I admonished as that big white king of a German Shepherd feigning sleep lifted his head off of the carpet and looked over his shoulder at Oliver as if to say, “Snitch…I deal with you later.”

Then, I made them both go outside in the cold and the snow to think about what they’d done.

 

What Is On My Mind Today? Neighbor Don….There’s Nothing Left To Do, But The Crying.

don
Donald G. Simonson  “Neighbor Don”

Don, Jackie and their son Nathan have been my next door neighbors for over 30 years.

I have spent the past year and a half watching my dear “Neighbor Don” fight against the inevitable loss of his life to a very aggressive glioblastoma….brain cancer.

Don by no means had a comfortable or easy death. He fought and fought hard.  His cancer threw hurdle after hurdle. The care he received from his wife and son can only be described as heroic and heart-rending.

God called him home this past Sunday at 5 p.m.

It has always seemed to me that we all have a choice of whether or not to be a coward on this earth.  Bravery like cowardliness is a choice. Regardless of personal and emotional cost, I truly believe that faith and friendship is action.

So, tough or not, from the moment Don and his family were thrust into the cancer war, myself and several other neighbors formed the “Simonson Care Committee.”  Our committee’s goal was to be there…all the way…for our dear friends and neighbors.  We were resolved that they would never feel alone.

All of the members of the Simonson Care Committee have recently and personally been affected by cancer.  And, I know it was very hard on on the entire committee to watch someone we love so dearly slowly lose his battle with this disease….cancer is cruel.

Yes, cancer is cruel. It doesn’t discriminate by age, race or gender.  Some cancers, like Don’s, are as deadly as a car accident….the only difference being there is time to say good-bye.

Well, the goodbyes now have all been said and it’s like my grandmother used to say,  “there’s nothing left to do, but the crying.”

Donald G. Simonson Obituary:  

https://obittree.com/obituary/us/minnesota/white-bear-lake/mueller-memorial–white-bear-lake/donald-simonson/3700313/?fbclid=IwAR0HhYQU-jW4VzKhhqGV7ECX_n3RnihTb-cBI_Re7Z_QCj2ufSAoNqDn2uc

What Is On My Mind Today? The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow….God Is Good

cancer hats

What Is On My Mind?

My cousin Sylvia will be having quadruple bypass surgery on Monday. She is currently in the ICU at Mercy. Neighbor Don, hospice, had a much better day yesterday. Last reported sitting up in his chair eating ginger snaps. I have reason to believe his son installed his new trail camera yesterday. As reported by Oliver and Truman as they were either loudly directing the entire installation or begging for butt scratches. Poor, Nate, did stop to give the boys back scratches through the fence.

Aunt Margie’s situation with dementia continues to rapidly decline. She has not known me for several weeks now. Still, I call her because I know her and love to just hear her voice.

My pup Oliver has developed a growing bump on his head and will be seeing the vet in the morning.

And, it’s 2 a.m. In the morning and I am wide awake from the steroids that I have to take every week for the rest of my life to fight my cancer.

As I lay here thinking about all this I still feel like one of the luckiest SOB’s on this planet.

I am a Christian and have a loving God.

I was born in the United States. That is a lottery win right there. My country is filled with people who do not think alike. It is when everyone thinks alike that liberty is truly in peril.

My parents and my brother and sister have had a wonderful trip to Hawaii this week and Dad called and held up his phone so I could hear the ocean.

I am pretty sure I managed not to tick off any of my children. I needed to focus elsewhere this week, I will have to get back to that next week…..just saying.

I am again strong enough to not only have made gingersnaps, and lemon black raspberry muffins this week, but a whole meal for my neighbor who is battling brain cancer and his wonderful wife. Productivity is a blessing.

I no longer take anything stronger than Tylenol for pain. And, that is rarely. I am not saying I do not have pain, I am saying it has declined to ignorable levels. Chemo sucks ….chemo and narcotic withdrawal really bites.

After all those years spent in a body cast sleeping away from my husband in the hospital bed in the living room, truth be told I kind of treasure these steroid induced hours of being awake and knowing he is sound asleep right next to me. Mostly, I just lay here listening to his CPAP machine and count my blessings for there are so very many.

As I wait to watch the sun come up again in my east facing window and it will. I pray that God watches over all of those I love, and those I struggle to find any upside to at all. I ask that they too will come to know Jesus and be filled with his peace that passes all understanding. Best gifts ever!

Tonight I pray especially for Mark Rosen and his dear wife……AND thank God that Jamie Closs is safe.

Well, since I am obviously “woke” there are some cancer patients at Regions that need some bright and cheerful Grandma Pat hats and mittens. I think I have gotten five sets done this week. Every hat as unique as each precious person battling cancer. Last week when I was there getting chemo, a mother actually showed me a picture of her daughter sound asleep getting infusion wearing one of my hats.

So on with my headlight! Wearing that thing is just plain joyful. Always makes me feel like I am camping. LOL.

I will leave you with prayers on my lips and my favorite inspirational Christian motto…..onward and upward.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Update:  Sylvia had another angiogram yesterday.  Her doctors inserted three stents.  They feel that this will resolve her blockage and that the quadruple bypass is not necessary, at least for now.  She will still remain in the hospital for several days.

My pup Oliver’s head lump turned out to be a plugged oil gland.  These are common and usually resolve on their own.

The first night of trail camera surveillance of our backyards revealed several visitors.  A raccoon and a fox.  

God is good.

Have a blessed Sunday!

What Is On My Mind Today? Living With Cancer: Myeloma Relapse, Uncle Mrywin, Good News and Great Fudge Bars

possum 5
Errrrrrr!

I have had a busy, if not sedentary and solitary past six months.  In July, I suffered what my doctor told my parents was a “Horrific Setback.” Even though, all of my lab tests at that time still indicated that I was in remission, my multiple myeloma had silently returned. Its presence revealed one evening, when I arose from bed to make the very short trek to my bathroom.

As I stood up, I told my husband that my spine felt really weird and weak, just like it used too when it would break.  As I hung onto the wall, he assured me that after all of the years of bone-hardening drugs, that was not possible.  So, I lifted my foot to step over my huge white German Shepherd and my world and back exploded.

My legs became instantly useless and a pain like electrical liquid fire enveloped me. I fell right on top of my dog.  My dog never moved. He just laid perfectly still until Doug was able to lift me from on top of him.

It was obvious something had gone terribly wrong.

My husband half carried me down our steps, out of the house and got me into the car.  We drove to Regions hospital. There in the emergency room, a doctor asked me to wiggle my toes. I tried and the pain became extremely intense as a spasm coursed through my body so harshly that it arched my back in off of the bed about six inches, then froze me in that position until the spasm stopped.   Then, it would do it again and again….and again.  It was unpleasant.

I remember almost nothing of the next three weeks that I spent in the hospital.  I do remember being conscious for a moment inside and MRI, because I was waving at the technicians. I felt foolish. Then, I was put out again. I remember a nurse standing next to my bed describing to someone else a patient who was in so much pain she was levitating 6-inches on top of her bed.  I felt sorry for that poor soul. I remember staff both Christian and Muslim asking me if they could pray with me.  I experienced angels.

The cause of all of this trouble was due to Myeloma lesions having grown on the base of my spine. My bone marrow biopsy showed over 40% myeloma.  The great news was that no bones had actually broken. Too bad whatever was causing the paralyzing painful contractions could not have celebrated that fact and left me alone.

I am told I had ten rounds of radiation.  I remember only the last three.  I can recall that after my last one my parents were in my hospital room as I returned. When the bed I was on moved too fast, a spasm was triggered and as usual during the contraction my head would be arched completely back.  At that moment my dad was standing right there with the most awful look on his face.  I felt bad that I had scared him so.

When I was eventually released from the hospital, I left too weak to walk on my own and was again trapped in a walker.  And, I faced months and months of weekly, four and a half hour, chemo infusions.

During those months, my life as a cancer patient reminded me of my grandmother’s embroidered kitchen towels.  She would embroider them with the name of each day of the week.  Each day of the week was set aside for a different household task.  Monday for washing, Tuesday Ironing….etc…  My entire autumn schedule became much like those old dish towels of grandma’s.  Each day’s task the same as it had been the week before.

dish towels

It went like this….on a Friday, I received infusion. On a Saturday, I thought I was Hercules powerful and bursting with energy from the massive dose steroids given with the chemo.  On Sunday, the effects of the steroids, such as not sleeping for 48 hours, would begin to wear off.  Monday arrived accompanied by severe fatigue, body pain and nausea. Tuesday was an amplified copycat of Monday.  Wednesday was a slightly more productive day.  Thursday was the best.  Friday morning was outstanding… right up until you began swallowing the half cup of pre-med pills needed for your next chemo infusion signaling it was time to hop on the cancer chemo carousel and take another spin.

Whether it was a real or carousel horse, I have always been an excellent rider.  My dad still brags about how as a small child I would grab onto the ears of a a small pig, jump onto its back and away I’d go.  I only rode the pigs because the adults in charge felt I was too small to have my own horse. He still marvels that I never fell off.  Riding a pig is a lot like riding the cancer carousal. If you loose either your focus or grip the situation is going to become very stinky quickly.

Where there is breath there is hope.  With that in mind, regardless of how I felt, I kept busy. I completed several oil paintings, crocheted over two dozen hat and mitten sets for charity.  Still managed to visit my World War II buddy in the nursing home. And, when my back had recovered enough to lift a cookie sheet…I baked gingersnaps for him and to help relieve my neighbor’s nausea in his battle against brain cancer.

I had no interest in laying around and letting all of my hard won muscles turn to mush again. No pain, no gain. Besides, what doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger. By the end of August, I had graduated from physical therapy and nurse home visits, and  I had escaped the walker was again using only one cane. And, I was strong enough to enjoy a Saturday at Fort Snelling State Park with my family.  I wasn’t up to my usual miles of hiking, but I did walk from the car parking lot to the picnic grounds and sat up for hours.  I am not saying I did not pay for that outing later, but and it was so very worth it.

Just over a week ago, I had another bone marrow biopsy.  To be honest, my husband and I were both just hoping for single digits.  However, to our and my oncologist’s delight no abnormal cells were present….at all!  I am again cancer free!   What a great 60th birthday present!

Which brings me to this morning.

As I took lots of butter out of my refrigerator to soften for a robust Christmas cookie baking session, which will commence shortly, I thought of my Uncle Mrywin who passed away in early December a couple of years ago after a long a courageous battle with dementia.

Somehow, I always grin when I think of my Uncle Mrywin.  A fabulous earthly legacy!  In my mind, Uncle Mrywin was defined by three things.  His love for God, people and sweets.  So, I guess it is only natural that, whenever I begin baking my Christmas cookies I think of him.  Especially, since so many of the recipes I use are his mothers.

Several years ago, I wrote the following blog about my Uncle Mrywin, his stuck tractor and a recipe for Fudge Bars.  The story of the stuck tractor really does capture the essence of my uncle and the importance of good-naturedly attempting the seemingly impossible, attacking a task with determination, giving it your all, recognizing when you are just spinning your wheels and knowing when to seek help…earthly or divine.

Throughout my life and especially during my cancer battle the following bible verses are the ones get my wheels unstuck.  I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t have the words to these Bible passages pass through my mind.  I guess my confirmation pastor was right when he told me that memorizing these verses wasn’t a waste of time, and that knowing them by heart would pay off in the long run.  It certainly has.

Psalm 118:24 (Everyday is a gift)

“This is a day that the Lord has made, We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 121 (My help comes from God)

“I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand;  the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

Psalm 23 (I am never alone)

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

So, if ever you should find yourself stuck in the mud up past your axels, and it is easy to do especially this time of year, remember that a God of Love loves sent us something sweeter than Christmas cookies…a baby…his son our savior…Jesus Christ.  The Son of God who came to give hope to the hopeless.

I hope you enjoy this humorous farm story about my Uncle Myrwin and his stuck tractor.  A yearly spring ritual as I recall. I also would encourage you to try this recipe for Fudge Bars this Christmas Season…they are tasty and would have made my uncle smile.

Stuck tractor 2

My dad and my Uncle Myrwin farmed together for most of their lives. The brothers and their families were all very close. In fact, when I was a child the phone would ring bright and early every morning and it would be my uncle calling to talk to dad about the day’s farm business and work. I cannot remember a day while growing up when I did not talk too or see my Uncle Myrwin.

About five years ago my Uncle Myrwin had to move from the farm into a nursing home, because he had developed memory issues. He has been there ever since and over the years his cognitive abilities have declined.

From the first week he entered that home, I decided that he was not going to ever be forgotten by his niece and so I began to write him a letter every week. I have continued this practice for the past five years except for a short time during my cancer fight when I was in a nursing home and too sick to write. I even got letters off during my stem cell transplant. I have never told him of my illness.

Yes, I know that my uncle would no longer recognize me. That does grieve me, but I know that he still enjoys getting my cards and having them read to him. I will continue to write to my uncle for as long as God allows either one of us to remain on this earth. You see it doesn’t matter one bit that he doesn’t remember me, because I remember him and that is what counts.

For the past year I have found pictures online and made my own “farming” cards for my uncle. This picture of a stuck tractor is this week’s card. I thought I would share this week’s story of my memories of farm life with him, dad and stuck tractors.

Dear Uncle Myrwin,

I hope this finds you having a good week and feeling good. It looks like spring is almost here and there are a lot of song birds again at my bird feeder. Their song sounds wonderful!

I really like this picture of a tractor stuck in the mud up to its axles. Boy, does that bring back memories of stuck tractors on our farms.

It seemed that the vast majority of stuck tractors occurred in the spring when we were in a big hurry to get into the fields and plant. I recall many a time riding on the back of a big red tractor, standing on the hitch behind the driver’s seat and holding on for dear life to the back of the driver’s seat and the wheel fender.

As we would drive into the fields to check field readiness, there would eventually be a dip or ditch that was extra moist looking. Sometimes there was even standing water in them. It was at this point the tractor’s driver would shout loudly above the roar of the engine, “Hang on, I think we can make it!”

The driver would then speed up and make a run at the wet spot. As we would hit the moist mud the tractor’s engine would moan in exasperation at being so rudely stressed while the tractors big back tires would slide first to one side, then back the other way as they cuddled into the rich slippery black dirt. Eventually, we would come to a complete halt with the rapidly spinning back tires furiously spitting mud chunks high into the air.

With mud raining down on us from the heavens, the driver would then start the process of rocking the tractor. First, forward,then in reverse. This was done to try to get out, but in my experience it only served to sink us deeper. Eventually when the big rear tires were sunk to the axles and the back hitch was level with the water and frogs, the driver would shut the tractor off.

As we climbed free of the stuck tractor the driver would then slowly walk around the entire scene with narrowed eyes and a set jaw. Then, he would walk up next to me, grab the bill of his green seed corn cap with his thumb and pointing finger, slide it to the back of his head while he scratched the top of his head with his other fingers. He would slowly replace his cap into the original position, breathe a deep sigh and with a proud smile declare, “Well, we almost made er.”

Sending lots of love and hugs,

Pat

There is one thing that Uncle Myrwin always appreciated as much as he did good farming and that was excellent baking. There was always great cakes, cookies and bars to be found in either family’s farm kitchens. Fudge Mud Bars are still a favorite treat served in my mother’s kitchen.

Fudge Mud Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease at 9 X 13 cake pan.

Crust:
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups of flour
2 cups quick cook rolled oats

In a large mixing bowl cream together butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and salt. In a separate medium-sized mixing bowl combine and mix together the dry ingredients: flour, oats, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture and mix well.

Firmly press about two-thirds of the dough into the bottom of your greased 9 X 13 pan.

Fudge Filling:
2 Tablespoons butter
One, 14-ounce can of sweetened and condensed milk
One, 12-ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium-sized sauce pan, on top of the stove on a low-medium heat, add butter, chocolate chips and milk. Stir continuously until the chocolate chips have melted. Add vanilla and stir to combine.

Spread the fudge mixture over the dough. Drop teaspoons of the remaining dough evenly on top of the fudge mixture.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until the dough starts to brown.

Letter writing has become a lost art which is a shame, because the written note immortalizes the writer while bringing so much joy to the recipient. I would encourage all of you to take the time to send off a card or note to someone who is ill, lonely, a child, grandchild or anyone in your life who needs encouragement. I can assure you that it will make their day!