Tag Archives: Jesus

What Is On My Mind Today? Ash Wednesday/Valentine’s Day Love

 

Jesus heart

What is on my mind today?  Love.

Today is a day to think about love and those we love.  And, perhaps pray for a few that we don’t.

As it would happen this year Valentine’s Day is the same day as Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian observance of Lent.

Ash Wednesday is more than a time to stand in line and get black ashes in the shape of a cross temporarily tattooed on our foreheads. Or, a time to make fun of people who wear the mark of their Christian faith in public.

On Ash Wednesday, we acknowledge that our God given human lives on this earth are just a wisp in time. From dust we were made and to dust our bodies will return.  Lent and death are serious business.

Lent is not the time to invest in fish and tofu futures or McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish stock.  Most of us know someone who observes Lent by giving up doing or eating something they enjoy or who do not consume meat on Fridays. However, I believe that Lent is not so much of a time to do without, as it is a season to seriously feed the soul.

Lent is a time to walk with Jesus the Christ and experience the love, mercy, acceptance and forgiveness of his ministry.  It is a time ponder the suffering and death on the cross of a truly innocent and just man.  It is a time to feel the devastating despair and disappointment of his disciples when they fear all is lost as Jesus’s breathes his last and his pale blood-spattered lifeless cold corpse is taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb.

Lent is about being human. One of the most amazing things about the Bible is the humanity of its humans.  Good, bad, warts and all. Jesus’s chosen disciples were absolutely and imperfectly human. No heroes here. In his time of need, they deserted Jesus and scattered like frightened sheep.

Have you ever wondered why these normal cowardly people changed and courageously, without compromise spent the rest of their lives, most dying very nasty deaths, proclaiming the divinity of the risen Christ? What steeled their spines?

After all, they had seen Jesus flogged and beaten to hamburger, hung on a cross with spikes through his hands and feet, breathe his last, his dead body put into a solid rock tomb, the only door of the tomb sealed by the authorities with a huge boulder and guarded by soldiers. The authorities were determined to end, once and for always, the heresy of this man who proclaimed himself the Messiah, Son of God…Jesus of Nazareth.

Reality oftentimes is a very dark thing and so it must have been for the followers of Christ immediately following the Crucifixion. At that moment in time those men and women were surrounded by darkness. Darkness of the heart, mind and soul.

They had to be questioning everything. Had they been betrayed by a smooth talking impostor? Lunatic? Or, worse yet an evil magician?  Jesus had died!  Where was their eternal king?  Where was his kingdom? Dead kings can’t rule! Why didn’t God send angels to save Jesus? He just let him die on that cross!

Jesus was gone!  His comfort was gone, his miracles were gone, his strength was gone, his love was gone! Death! Yes, they were well acquainted with death and their Jesus was dead!  And, now their very lives were in danger.

Would anyone who valued their lives as much as you and I, give up their lives for a liar? Fake?  Madman?  Magician?  I wouldn’t. I bet you wouldn’t either. And, neither would those men and women who personally knew Jesus.

What was it then that changed them into courageous lions for God?

They actually, and really, saw the risen Christ!  Been there!  Done that!

Nothing short of that could have created such great change in ordinary frightened powerless people. His early followers preached, were persecuted, tortured and often died violent deaths, because they had personally witnessed Christ’s resurrection from the grave.

I think it is sad that the disciples did not truly believe he was the Son of God until they saw him alive after death!  Sad, but true.  However, it would have been the human thing to do. It is probably what I would have done, in those same circumstances.

It is obvious to me that they did not fully believe when they lived with him, walked with him, were taught by him and were told by him that he was the Son of God. If they had understood that he truly was the Messiah, they would not have mourned his death.

Jesus spent his time with his disciples planting seeds of faith.  So many parables. So, many little tiny mustard seeds. His resurrection was the disciples “AH HA” moment.  The arrival of the Holy Spirit nourished all of those seedlings of faith Jesus planted to maturity.  Preparing the disciples, minds, hearts and souls to fearlessly spread the Gospel and harvest for heaven.

Some of the disciples, just like so many of us, were skeptics. Even seeing Jesus alive again, was not enough.  So he spoke with them, walked with them, ate with them, let them touched him where the nails from the cross had pierced his hands and feet, appeared to additional multitudes of people so that there were hundreds of witnesses to the resurrection.  Then, they even watched Jesus ascend into heaven.

Regardless of the vast amount of persecution of those early Christian believers the Gospel spread and the church grew. It grew without social media, the internet, television, radio or even printing presses.  It was over a thousand years after Christ’s death before a man in Germany in 1440, named Johannes Gutenberg, invented the “Gutenberg Press” and made God’s holy word, the Bible, available to the public.

Lent is a time to get those Bibles out, if necessary dust them off, and read about these very ordinary people who were chosen by Jesus to be his followers.  It is also a time to anticipate the joy felt by the women who came to embalm a dead body only to find an open tomb and a living Jesus on that first Easter morning.

It is good that today is both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. The message of the whole Bible can be condensed into one word…love.  Our love of God and his undying, merciful, forgiving, love for us. So, why did Jesus die on the cross?  It was for love.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” John 15:13. 

We will never know a greater love than the love of God.

Today and everyday is the perfect time to celebrate and share love.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34-35. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!
Love to you all!!
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Children’s Story: The Very First Christmas

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

Every Christmas Eve I would read three stories to my children.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is first,
That mean ol’ Grinch is really the worst.
He stole all the Who’s pudding and presents with glee,
Then he went back and stuffed up their tree.
The Who’s celebrated Christmas when the Grinch thought they shouldn’t.
Stop Christmas from coming? Even a mean ol’ Grinch couldn’t.

Next, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” is read,
after the children have been tucked snugly in bed.
Their eyes aglow with happiness and joy,
As they hope Santa brings their favorite toy.
When, what do their curious little ears hear?
A television announcement, “Santa’s sleigh drawing near!”

Then, it is time for the last story to be read.
Heads go down on pillows and the bedtime prayer is said.
The moment has come to tell of  Joseph and his Mrs.
Now it’s time for, “The…

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Thor Stories: Thor Saves Christmas

Thor had to think fast and his backyard friends had to work hard to help Santa save Christmas when all of the elves came down with the flu. Will Thor’s arch enemy Morton the Squirrel finally get off Santa’s naughty list?

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

295a8z94ty52pnlixjmfx34h8.1000x666x1Thor Saves Christmas

Thor woke up and stretched. What a great day! It had just snowed, it was the day before Christmas and he’d been extra good this year. He’d protected his mom, dad, chicks and the backyard from trolls, Morton the squirrel, leprechauns, rogue roosters and dinosaurs and saved Grandpa Walter from a Bigfoot. He knew for certain that Santa was coming and he was going to get lots and lots of presents.

Today was the day that Thor and his mom were going meet his dad for lunch, then go to see Santa and tell him what he wanted for Christmas.

His dad was hungry as a bear and ready for lunch when Soren and his mom arrived. To get to their lunch destination, they had to walk through the mall. That was when Thor saw him, a very sad looking old fellow with white whiskers and a green and…

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Recipe: Noodle Knocking, Nursing Home Romancer and a Whole Lot of…Sugar Cookies

After reading today about Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor getting fired for sexual harassment, I have decided that what this country needs is a whole lot more uncompromising grandmothers, hat pins and canes!  Or, as was the case in our family when a young woman reached dating age, a Great Uncle Ed that would make her a “noodle knocker”.

This device was a small oak baseball bat that could fit into a purse or backpack and was used to knock upside the head (the noodle) any male that crossed the line. If you did not have a “noodle knocker” a well aimed fist could and should be substituted.

Grandma Esther strongly insisted upon hat pin, noodle knocker and cookie baking expertise. This recipe for sugar cookies is really the best.  Actually, I made them yesterday.

Day before yesterday, my little three-year old neighbor boy asked me over the backyard fence, very politely, if he could have some cookies. He is a brave little lad as both of my hundred plus pound German Shepherds were barking him. They wanted to be petted through the fence.

It was then, to my horror, I discovered that Grandma Pat was out of cookies. I couldn’t even find my emergency child stash in the freezer. (My husband later confessed to having found and eaten them.) I did give my little neighbor some homemade bar cookies, but that is just wrong for kids. Kid cookies require either sprinkles or chocolate chips.

This generational family recipe for sugar cookies is always a great Christmas favorite. They look wonderfully festive when covered with bright holiday sprinkles.

Enjoy!

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

Aviary Photo_130940614679318455Aunt Esther, known as “Little Esther; Grandmother Esther and Aunt Hilda

For a while when I was in college I lived with my Great Aunt Doris.  Aunt Doris was a very kind soul and spent many hours each week voluteering to care for patients in our local nursing home where my Grandmother Esther resided.  One day Aunt Doris came home just chuckling.

It seems that in her youth my grandmother had garnered quite a bit of interest from young fellows and had more suitors than just grandpa.  As it turned out one of those fellows, who had been sweet on her so many years ago, was also a resident at the same nursing home. He was quite happy to see her and had been chatting her up and frequently tried to secure a seat at the same dining table during meal times.

Grandmother Esther was a very polite woman blessed with…

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What is On My Mind Today: A Good Habit to Have….Reading!

In addition to working on the same oil painting for the past six months, I have been reading lots of books.

Many of the books I have been reading are historical diaries.  It is fascinating to read first person history to learn about the situations and challenges faced by past generations from those who were actually there.

As a college-educated woman, I took several courses dedicated to instilling fear into the hearts of historians regarding the twin bogeymen of bias and braggadocio and how they taint first person historical accounts. Being able to discern fact from fiction is a good skill for any reader to have…especially historians. It seems to me that too few of today’s “historians” or historical experts immerse themselves in primary sources before diving headlong into the the shallow water of secondary sources such as the ever present, easily accessed and factually challenged internet.

A good example of this type of study would be of the Christian who reads a lot of Facebook posts about scripture and who can expertly google biblical verses required to further a narrative, but who neglects spending time reading the actual Bible.

While I do read my bible frequently, I must confess that I have never read the whole Bible from cover to cover.  After applying some thought to the matter, I found the situation unacceptable.  So,  I have spent the past several months doing just that.  I am through the New Testament and am in the Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament.

What a wonderful experience it has been!  I have learned so much.  There is definitely only one God and he’s it;  Jesus is the Messiah; and creating us humans and giving us free will must make God constantly bang his Holy Head against a heavenly wall. And yet, he still loves us.

In addition to working through reading the Bible, my reading list from this summer has been somewhat extensive and I must say there has not been a dud in the bunch. Well, one was close to being a dud, but I muscled through.  I strongly recommend picking up any of these books and giving them a read.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  This World War II story will clue the reader in pretty quickly as to why you stand for the national anthem and our flag.  This book puts you right along side the downed airman and his trials adrift in the ocean and vividly describes the horrors he experienced as a Japanese prisoner of war.

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The Classic Slave Narratives edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr.   This book includes:
The Life of Olaudah Equiano; The History of Mary Prince; Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.  These accounts are real and heartrending.

Eyewitness to the Alamo by Bill Groneman.   I may have never physically been to the Alamo nor seen the American’s fight to prevent the Mexican Army from taking the fort; however, after reading this book, I have in my mind.

Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel.  This is a thoughtful read even though about two-thirds of this book is dedicated to Ms. Schlissel advancing her theory that women were the great bulwark and victims of western expansion. According to her, they did more than their share of the work and suffering.  Not only do statistics undermine her conclusions, but so do the actually women in their diaries. This book is a good example of a modern Monday morning quarterbacking type of historical bias.  As to  her repeated claim that women cared more for the dead along the Oregon Trail than did men, because women kept count of the graves in their diaries and the men just noted the death.  I would like to point out that the men were driving a large oxen team and the women were riding in the wagon or walking behind it.   Once the gals made sure that all of their kids were accounted for, and not likely to fall out the wagon, what else did they have to do?  It’s not like there were telephone poles to count.

These Is My Words, The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1902, Arizona Territories, by Nancy E. Turner.  This book is a fictional adaptation of the author’s great-grandmother’s diary.   For those who are familiar with the desert southwest, this is a quick must read.  Good story.

The Ox Team on the Old Oregon Trail 1852-1906 by Ezra Meeker.  Ezra was there, did that and then, many years later, did it again to teach a nation just how hard pioneers on the Oregon trail had it.  It is a great read and a “how to” book on going west with oxen. Theodore Roosevelt even gets a mention.

The Fetterman Massacre by Dee Brown.  This is a military history about the second largest massacre of United States troops by Indians where no white soldier’s survived.  I had never heard of this event and thought it would be good to learn about it. The battle of Little Big-Horn where General George Armstong Custer died was the largest Indian Battle with no United States military survivors.

Captivity of the Oatman Girls by R. B. Stratton.  The Oatman Family was massacred in 1851 by the Gila River while on their way to California.  Two of their daughters, Mary and Olive, were taken captive by those who had slain the rest of their family.  One brother, Lorenzo, also survived the attack when he was left for dead.  I decided to read this book, because I saw a picture of Olive Oatman and her facial tattoos.  I wanted to know her story. It’s quite a story! It includes Mormon church history, bravery, love, cowardice, slavery, and freedom.  What a strong beautiful young woman!

Olive Oatman
Olive Oatman

Adeline and Julia, edited by Robert Myers and Janet Coryell.  These two sisters kept diaries.  The younger girl describes a very thorough picture of what growing up in Victorian times meant for a principled feisty female child who liked to be a tom boy. The older sister and a couple of her friends, decide to try their luck at homesteading in Kansas Territory.  These girls have a good time, survive hardship and always seem to make money in their business adventures including running a sod house boarding house.  This is a great book and should be required reading for all young women.

Butter in the Well by Linda K Hubalek.  This sweet bit of fiction is based on the Swedish homesteader’s experience.  It even comes with traditional recipes.

Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart.  This is the best woman’s diary I have ever read!  I read it a second time, because it was hard to believe that it is a real account of Elinore’s life, but it is.  Ms. Pruitt-Stewart has many virtues that I admire: bravery, independence, kindness, practicality, a sense of adventure and excellent marksmanship skills. I strongly recommend this book.

 

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Elinore Pruitt-Stewart

Life in the Far West by George Fredrick Ruxton.  After reading so many stories about people who decided to leave everything behind and go west.  I decided to try and find one of the books that these early pioneers had read that inspired them to take on such an adventure. Mr. Ruxton, an Englishman,  died before reaching the tender age of thirty, but he packed a lot of living into those few short years.  This book was first published in 1849 and describes the life of a fur-trapper in the Rocky mountains.  Surprisingly, this book is written like a novel using the vernacular of time which has been sprinkled lightly throughout with wit and where the author adds a pinch of  ironic humor and observation now and again.  It is a book that is hard to put down once began. He ends this account of his life in the mountains on a surprisingly pleasant and happy note.

ruxton

I also have read a book on German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel and a rather long history of the Rothschild banking family.  My current read is a book called, “A Woman in Berlin.”  It is an anonymous diary that a woman began keeping in April of 1945 just as the Russians entered Berlin at the close of World War II.  This book graphically tells about the fall of Berlin from a woman’s prospective including her victimization by Russian soldiers.

I hope you find time, even if it is just a half hour a day, to pick up a book and read!

 

 

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Just Saying: Soft Christians, Politicians and the Media…If they aren’t just the limit!

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I have had the worst writer’s block since my Uncle Mrywin died in December.  Last week my cousin Chris Schneider sent me a few old family photos I had never seen before. I have looked and looked at them. She is right, I look very much like my grandmother when she was young.

The relationship I had with my Grandmother Esther was a very special one.  She was a special person…a soft Christian.

You may not have met many of those.  They aren’t showy and are often found in the very back pews in most churches.  They don’t attend worship services to be seen, socialize or sing. Sunday was the day God set aside for them to worship and rest.  It was a time to humbly meet with their maker in his house to repent for wrongdoings, seek forgiveness, express gratitude for blessings, partake of the sacrament of Holy Communion and assess the needs of other members of their faith family.

Soft Christians were also quiet Christians. They knew their bibles and loved their Lord, but would not dream of ever shouting out a hallelujah in public for fear of being mistaken for a biblical Pharisee. Prayer was private, on your knees and between you and God. To be moved by the Spirit meant seeing human hurt and need and doing something about it. Faith was action. They would stealthily go about life doing good whenever and wherever possible, not needing or taking credit for their good deeds.

These folks would never have stood for anyone teaching a biblical falsehood. They took very seriously God’s admonishment,”that it would be better to have a mill stone tied around your neck and be drowned that to ever teach one of his little ones to error.” While there was still right and wrong, they believed that everyone, including themselves, had fallen short in the eyes of God and had no cause to boast. The, “judge not, less you be judged” was taken every bit as seriously as the drowning thing.

Oh sure, some people would label these folks as meek pushovers. Now there would be a mistake!  Mistaking mercy for weakness is always a mistake. Soft Christians are some of the strongest people that you are ever likely to meet. During their lifetimes this imperfect world forced them down onto their knees many times.  Too broken and weak to rise again on their own, they sought strength to persevere from a loving God and felt Jesus lighten their burden. They serve God, because they know God.

The grace of God they experienced during those hard times honed their character. They are the ones who have developed the patience of a saint; learned that a kind word can turn away wrath; chosen to turn the other cheek when wronged; forgiven when it was hard and bestowed undeserving mercy.

Day after day these humble, at times invisible, folks do their best to share the love of their savior Jesus Christ with a world that rejects, mocks and tries to humiliate them and Him. Determined to set a good example, these faithful followers of Christ understand that actions speak louder than words.  It is what you do, not what you say.  True leadership is by example.

When I was writing all of those history lessons on leadership, disguised as letters to a grandson on this blog, I deliberately chose examples of good and bad leaders.  All of these men and women had great oratory and leadership skills.  However, it was not their learned leadership lessons or excellent communication skills that made them heroes or villains, it was their moral values or lack there of.  The historical record provides many examples of famous leaders whose epitaphs should read, “what goes around, comes around.”

As a child when I had been the target of someone utilizing less than moral leadership by example skills that ended in unfairness, physical or emotional hurt, my grandmother would often comfort me.  Then, under her breath she’d crossly mutter, “Well, if they aren’t just the limit!”

That is how I feel about our nation’s politicians and media.  I think they could all greatly benefit from a good old-fashioned dose of Grandma Esther’s moral lessons.

Such as:
…truth will out (liars eventually get caught)
…cheaters never prosper (be honest)
…well, if that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black (don’t be a hypocrite)
…a kind word can turn away wrath (deescalate)
…leave it go (compromise)
…turn the other cheek (refuse to sink to their level)
…forgive them (forgiveness is good for them and for you)
…move on (accepting that there are things you can change and things you cannot)
…show a little mercy once in a while (everyone makes mistakes so be kind)
…there but by the grace of God go I (have empathy)
…no good deed ever goes unpunished  (do good anyway)
…pretty is as pretty does (manners and social skills count)

Soft Christians, like my grandmother, knew that violence begets violence and hate begets more hate and that no good can ever come from that.  I cannot count the number of times I was told that two wrongs can never make a right.  It never has and it never will ….just saying.