Tag Archives: Jesus

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!

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Living With Cancer: It Is Well With My Soul

StormWaves_ItIsWellWithMySoul2_web
During and after five hours of chemo yesterday I had several people comment! “You poor woman!” My response delivered with a grin is generally, “Ahhhhhhh……..it could be worse.” In Pat language this can be translated to quote the title a hymn called……..”It is well with my soul.”
 
Long ago after Doug and I had lost our second baby and I was hospitalized for a suicidal depression for over a month. I had bled out and at that time there were no transfusion given as AIDS was in the blood supply. The huge loss of blood and hormone changes trigger the depression. Then, too, our insurance had no coverage at all for mental heath and oh how those bills were piling up.
 
During that darkness, I had many fellow Christians who professed to love me and God question me over and over again about what I could have done in my life for God to punish me so harshly. I was a twenty-year-old kid for Pete’s sake!
 
I remember receiving a phone call from out of the blue. It was a pastor from a nearby Lutheran church calling at random doing outreach. When he said his name I recognized it, he had been the pastor of the Lutheran church in Litchfield , MN where my three great aunts Doris, Hilda and Esther attended. I used to go with them whenever I stayed with Aunt Doris.
 
He was now the pastor of the Lutheran church nearest me in St. Paul. He was surprised he had not seen me at worship since I had lived here for months.
 
I told him I couldn’t. I was mad at God.
 
I told him the whole sorry story and when I finished I cried to him, “Try as I might I cannot understand why God hates me so….I had asked Jesus into my heart as a little girl, been a good kid, taken care of my grandma and grandpa, respected my elders even when I thought some of them were nuts, not only had I attended church regularly, I had been one of the first female ushers, and the first girl to light the altar candles, I had taught Sunday school since I was 15 years old, memorized the catechism, been a youth leader at church, never went to parties no matter how much I was mocked or bullied at school,
 
I had never drank alcohol or tried drugs. Up until recently I did even not swear, had been a virgin when I married, read my bible and prayed often.
 
Why am I being so punished? I know that I have not led a perfect life. Pastor caught me playing cards in the balcony with the guys when I held my cards too high and he spied them during his sermon and told me to hold them lower right from the pulpit. I once accidentally sprayed him with water when I had been demoted to dishwasher after the naked lady pancake incident during an Easter breakfast.
 
Ok, maybe soaking down a blushing pastor is a grievous sin. And, yes, it was also wrong to put the fox paw in the pocket of the cheerleader’s winter coat at school. Especially, since it was already several day’s old. But, she was such a bully and it was trapping season.
 
I know, I rarely obey speed limit signs and more than once opened a hunting season early when the temptation of a good shot got the better of me. I am far from perfect and know it.
 
But, God took my babies that I wanted so desperately and people all around me pop out kids they don’t want or are even kind too. I cannot come to church because I am so angry with God all I would do is sit in a pew and cry the whole time!”
 
Pastor Wallrod never made a sound as he patiently listened to my entire tirade. Then, his quiet deep voice drifted into my ear and went right to my brain. “Oh, Angel, (it was the nickname he had for me) God does not hate you. You are not being punished….what kind of a God do you have that would not understand the anger of a young woman who has had such a huge dose of this imperfect world. God is crying with you and for you. Come to my church Angel and cry and we will cry with you.”
 
On the phone that day he finished with, “to those “Christians” who reaped more grief and suffering upon you by saying your loving Heavenly Father has not only deserted you but is punishing you and then went about their lives leaving you to this struggle alone no less…….all I can say about them is if faith is never tested is there faith?”
 
“Angel, I will see you Sunday.”
 
He did.
 
He was standing in the doorway with a box of Kleenex, open arms and a bear hug.
 
At that moment I knew what it felt like to know that, it is well with my soul!
 
We were members of his church and after yet another pregnancy loss he eventually baptized our only daughter Aurora.
 
Aurora is Latin for dawn. Our daughter is named after the Psalm, “Weeping may endure the night, but joy comes with the dawn.”
—————
The hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul” was penned after traumatic events in the life of hymnist Horatio Spafford. The music was composed by Phillip Bliss.
 
The first catastrophic event was the death of Spafford’s son at the age of two. On the heels of that loss came the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre.
 
In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he finished up some business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire.
 
While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone”.
 
Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had die..Bliss called his tune Ville du Havre, from the name of the stricken vessel.
 
The Spaffords later had three more children. On February 11, 1880, their son, Horatio Goertner Spafford, died at the age of four, of scarlet fever. Their daughters were Bertha Hedges Spafford (born March 24, 1878) and Grace Spafford (born January 18, 1881). Their Presbyterian church regarded their tragedy as divine punishment.
 
In response, the Spaffords formed their own Messianic sect, dubbed “the Overcomers” by American press. In 1881, the Spaffords, including baby Bertha and newborn Grace, set sail for Ottoman-Turkish Palestine.
 
The Spaffords settled in Jerusalem and helped found a group called the American Colony. Colony members, later joined by Swedish Christians, engaged in philanthropic work among the people of Jerusalem regardless of their religious affiliation and without proselytizing motives—thereby gaining the trust of the local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities.
 
During and immediately after World War I, the American Colony played an important role in supporting these communities through a time of  great suffering by operating soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages and other outreach initiatives. 
 
The colony later became the subject of the book Jerusalem written by the Nobel prize-winning author, Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlo.
 
The hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” was first published in Gospel Songs No. 2 by Ira Sankey and Bliss (1876).  It has become the favorite hymn for many Christians including me. 

It Is Well With My Soul
(Original lyrics)

 
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to knowa
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
 
Refrain:
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
 
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
 
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
 
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
 
But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.
 
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!
 
“know” (at the end of the third line) was changed to “say”.”
A song in the night, oh my soul” (last line)
was changed to “Even so, it is well with my soul”.
Click on the link below to hear a most beautiful rendition of this heartrending hymn. 

 

 

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today: The Shadow of Death and Then….There Was Light!

 

sunrise

Genesis 1:4
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

My favorite time of the day is the early morning.  Specifically the crack of dawn. I like its silence, coolness and potential. This morning, like most mornings, my dogs got me up just as the first rays of sunlight escaped the eastern horizon.  The light danced across the landscape and bathed my backyard in a gentle golden haze.

As I was searching for recipes in my computer’s archives, I found this poem I had written well over thirty years ago.  I guess my likes and dislikes really have not changed much through six decades.

The Child Inside

When I was a child, meek and young
I vowed to myself to never miss a rising sun
Excited to greet the hues of new day
Determined not to let life slip away
This morning I watched a new day evolve
I wondered what happened to that small child’s resolve
Her promise was honest
Discovery was real
This morning’s sunrise, again, held a childlike appeal

I love light. It is reassuring, revealing, comforting, illuminating, clarifying and brightens up its surroundings.  Most importantly though, light chases away shadows. Which is important to me, because I have always been afraid of the dark.

Darkness is frightening. It blinds and disguises. Evil seems to be forever lurking within its depths just out of reach of light’s illumination. Light exposes the ominous secrets of darkness and erases its shadows.

Having light at the ready to chase away the shadows of life is essential. Darkness can descend without warning and at any time…like an unexpected pounce by a large wet puppy. Sometimes dark shadows just muddy you up a bit, but there are those times when they knock you completely off your feet.

It doesn’t matter if you are good, bad or indifferent. Christian or not, life’s shadows befall all. Nobody….nobody….gets to dance in the sunshine their entire life. There will be days of illness, anxiety and a time to face your own or someone you love’s death. Morality is a kept promise and death the black hole of shadows.

Matthew 4:16
“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”

Job was a fellow in the Bible whose life and very existence became consumed by shadows. One right after another. Really, really dark ones.  His home was destroyed. All of his children killed.  He became sick, covered with sores, homeless, bankrupt and the object of disdain, ridicule and mockery by his former friends and neighbors.  His wife, instead of supporting him and providing help, told him to just hurry up and die.  Yup, Job definitely experienced the shadows of life.

Amazingly, though severely tested, Job’s faith in God never wavered.  He wrote, “The key to surmounting life’s shadows is and always will be light.”  No matter how dark and overwhelming the shadows became, Job looked to the light…..God.

As a Christian woman who has lost several babies, loved ones, suffered through a major depression and who has fought cancer twice, I know a bit about how hard it can be to see light at the end of a long dark tunnel.  In truth, that tunnel often felt more like an escape-proof, inky black quick-sand filled bottomless pit. At times the darkness seemed to suck the air from my chest and light out of my soul.

I have sat alone in darkness and learned that even during vicious shadow attacks when  I couldn’t see God, he always saw me.  Believers in Jesus Christ don’t need to fear that disease, death or any of the other multitudes of shadows in this world have the power to separate them from the love of God.  God and Jesus are the hope for the hopeless.  They do not abandon their children in times of need.

John 10:27-30 

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

There comes a peace that passes all understanding when you cease worrying about holding on to God, because you know that he holds on to you.  He will never let go.

Deuteronomy 31:8
And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

During those times when I was overcome by shadows and my heart and mind silently screamed, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me!.”  I may not have seen light, but there was light. The light of God’s love shown though others. It was there when my husband cared for me, when a nurse was extra gentle just to be kind, when a doctor provided hope or humor, when family, friends and neighbors stopped by to provide love, help and encouragement.  And when complete strangers let their lights shine by praying for me.

Matthew 5:16
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Shadows will come and go. Light lasts forever. Look for it. Choose to seek and love the light.

John 8:12 . 
Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” 

What a wonderful promise! 

 

What is On My Mind Today? God Is Dead, Nietzsche, Ego and a Miracle

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“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

Yes, Nietzsche was on to something. Too bad that his quote,”God is Dead,” has too often been removed from the entire context. I like this quote by Friedrich Neitzsche….it seems so very true. God is dead to many people, because they killed him.

When God died, the human experience changed. Life ceased to be precious, as people became addicted to being precious.  Human existence no longer had any meaning, life became merely a “journey”.  Suicide is an acceptable end to the journey and death a celebration.  The loving God, that cannot do evil or tempt anyone with evil, only resurfaces from his public demise when a scapegoat is needed each time evil rears its ugly head.

Reverence and fear of God has been exchanged for worship of science, nature, wealth, power, social justice, atheism, gender, fashion…basically anything and everything. Becoming gods, humans worshiped at the alter of self-esteem.  Sometimes, I fear our generation’s entire earthly existence will be represented by the “selfie”…the symbolic moralization of self-absorption.

Why did humans kill off God?  They had too!  It became obvious that human brains had evolved to be smarter than God, especially the Biblical God. Nihilism replaced hell and eternal life in paradise.  When nihilism was combined with scientific advancement and social justice God became obsolete.

Obviously the Creator of DNA and all of the laws of physics and chemistry that makes life on this planet possible did not mentally, morally or socially keep pace with human intellectual development.  Those in the know, understood that as humans increased in intellect, reason and stature, God did the opposite.  He became an impediment to the advancement intellectualism and the social goal of extinguishing personal responsibility, conscience and guilt. He had not kept pace and it was time for Him to go.

And, these folks were right!  It is true.  God does not change.  It says so right in Bible.

Hebrews 13:8 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” 

Jesus himself said,

Matthew 5:17-18
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Revelation 22:13

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

So, did you ever wonder why it took thousands and thousands of generations before humans convinced themselves that they were smarter than God because they could ponder the mysteries of the universe?  Thinking requires free time and a certain amount of wealth.  It’s hard to delve into complex theoretical concepts with an empty belly while fighting a saber-tooth tiger trying to save yourself and your prodigy from an unpleasant end with stone tools tied on to a stick. Deep thinking requires uninterrupted time in a safe environment.

The early church, specifically the Catholic Church, provided that safe place.  Christianity and science have not always been diametrically opposed and in reality they are not now. The early church encouraged and helped finance scientific discovery.   After all, what does the church have to fear from science?  Science will not ever prove the existence or lack there of…of God. Science is the study of the known and unknown.  Religion is, by faith, the acceptance of the unknowable.

An example of an unknowable that science cannot explain are miracles.  Most scientists will admit that miracles do occur.  Such as the story this week about Trenton McKinley who was brain dead and woke up after his parents signed organ donation papers.  Even, his doctors attribute his miraculous recovery to God.

Trenton McKinley recalled, “I was in an open field walking straight. There’s no other explanation but God. There’s no other way. Even doctors said it.”

Saints preserve us, but educated doctors in the year 2018 acknowledge that God is alive, well and still performing miracles.  The miracles performed in biblical scripture are no different, than those that defy explanation today.  A miracle is a miracle.

I do not believe that humans will never have the ability to out think the creator of the universe. To think so elevates arrogance to a whole new level.   Only God is all knowing and He is not mocked.  Did you know that God laughs at those who plot against him?  It says so in scripture:

Psalm 2 1-4

“Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.”

 

Many great cultures that no longer exist have rejected God and worshiped secular humanism.  Human rejection is nothing new to God.  All the same, he continues to love us unconditionally.  His loving and merciful nature provides humanity with a pathway to reject and escape nihilism, give earthly lives meaning and ensure spending eternity in heaven.

John 3:16 

16 God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.

The real miracle is that God is the same yesterday, today and forever and he loves us. 

 

 

 

What is On My Mind Today: A Recipe for Human Greatness…Back-Pew Christians

church pew

It seems to me that human greatness is rarely found these days because it is sought in all the wrong places.   I am not even sure that our society even knows what qualities define human greatness anymore.

Human greatness is not measured by the size of bank accounts, popularity, power, appearance or charm.  Nor, does it result from attaining higher education or belonging to social movements.  Human greatness can only be found in the very thing that separates us from animals….our God-given soul.

I am not saying that human greatness cannot be found among the rich, famous, showy, socially or politically motivated, rarely it can.  It seems to me that human greatness is most often found in people who avoid drawing attention to themselves as they go about their daily lives.  You know, common people.

One of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes is about common people.  He said that God especially loves common-looking people, that is why he made so many of them. Common people spend their lives minding their own business and working hard to provide for their families knowing that their very existence will be judged as unremarkable and earthly history will remember them no more.  Objects of ridicule on this earth, common people, like my grandmother Esther, tend to keep their eyes focused upwards on heaven and God.

Aviary Photo_130940613078927949
Grandpa George and Grandma Esther

My relationship with my Grandmother Esther was very special, because she was special.  I bet you could count the number of store bought dresses that woman had in her entire lifetime on one hand. She wasn’t physically beautiful, had only a fourth-grade education, never had the opportunity to travel much and expressed most of her opinions in Swedish or just kept them to herself.  She was common all right. Yet, she was uncommon in her Christian faith.  Grandmother Esther served God, because she knew God.  She was a back-pew 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 and assist the needs of other members of their faith family.

Grandma knew her Bible and loved the Lord.  She would never have dreamed of shouting out a hallelujah in public for fear of being mistaken for a Biblical Pharisee.  Prayer was private, on your knees and between her and God. To be moved by the Spirit meant seeing human hurt and need and doing something about it. Faith was action. Grandma would stealthily go about doing good whenever and wherever possible, not needing or taking credit for those deeds.

My grandmother would have never stood for anyone teaching a Biblical falsehood. She 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.”  Grandma believed in right and wrong, she also believed that everyone, including herself, 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.

Back-pew Christian people, like my grandmother, are quick to turn the other cheek. Their people patience is often misinterpreted as weakness. I will point out that mistaking mercy for weakness is a mistake. These people are strong.  Inside and out. Their steel has been honed. For,they have been tested hard and have survived body and soul.

Yes, grandma weathered the great burdens that often drove her to her knees.  Too broken and weak to rise again on her own, she sought strength through prayer.  Relying on Jesus’ invitation to, ” Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) 

The grace from God she experienced during those hard times steeled her character. She developed the patience of a saint; learned that a kind word turns away wrath; forgave and bestowed undeserving mercy.  Most importantly to the best of her ability she followed the moral law of God…to do onto others as you would like done onto yourself.  The law of human greatness.

On this blog when I write history lessons disguised as letters to grandchildren, I deliberately choose examples of good and bad leaders.  The historical record provides many examples of famous leaders whose epitaphs should read, “what goes around, comes around.”   Many of these historical figures spurned the law of human greatness in exchange for earthly pleasures and in the process brought much pain, suffering and death to common people.  They turned their backs on God and humanity in pursuit of self.

Oh, sure these men and women from history had great wealth, power, oratory and leadership skills and found much earthly success, but they never achieved human greatness, because they had no fear of God and lacked a moral compass.

Today common people who value a moral compass are constantly mocked. While common people maybe ridiculed, the Bible tells us that God is not mocked.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7   

And,  

“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.”  Psalm 2:4

The good news is moral compass can be restored.  The Gospel of Jesus found in the New Testament is the perfect recipe to help find a moral compass that has gone missing and unleash your human greatness.    However, when it came to practical moral application Grandma Esther had her own recipe.

Grandma Esther’s Recipe for Human Greatness 

…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)
…have you lost your mind (do not make blatantly stupid decisions)
…if your friends all jumped off a cliff, would you do that too (think for yourself)
….who do you think you are (practice humility)
…who do you think you are talking to (show respect to your elders, they are your betters
enough is enough (there are times to stand up, stand firm and fight)
…if you aren’t the limit (Love, “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7)

Human greatness is, as human greatness does.  It can only develop through the consistent utilization of the God-given parameters of the soul…conscience.  Souls need feeding as much as the stomach.  God’s holy word, found in the Bible, is nourishment for the soul.  It will make any conscience grow.

Conscience is like a grandmother….listen to it more or ignore it at your own expense.

Just saying……

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Bloggers Note: After teaching Sunday School for over 30 years and being a Christian mentor to middle and high school young adults for decades,  I have been asked lots of questions about my faith, Jesus, God and the Bible. Maybe answers to some of your questions can be found in these blog posts:

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
God Bless You!

 

 

 

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today? Happy Easter!

Easter quote

Charles Wendell “Chuck” Colson was an Evangelical Christian leader who founded Prison Fellowship, Prison Fellowship International, and BreakPoint. He served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973.

Here are links to other recent blog posts I have written about Easter, the Bible, the Historical Jesus, the Bible, Science and Scientists and who were the witnesses to the resurrection.

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

Jesus, has risen, he has risen indeed!

God bless all of you!

Recipes: Emergency Easter Brunch Recipes: Overnight Mexican Egg Bake, Homemade Hash Browns, Cinnamon-Sugar Donut Hole Muffins and One-Hour Cinnamon Rolls

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First of all Happy Easter!  Blessed Passover!

Here are some last minute recipes for those looking for Easter brunch recipes.

Overnight Mexican Egg Bake

12 eggs
½ cup half-and-half or whole milk
1 (11-ounce) can Green Giant Mexicorn (or 1 cup of a frozen corn/pepper mix, this mix includes whole kernel corn, red and green peppers)
10 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas, cut into quarters
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack cheese (or a combination of both)
2 cups mild salsa
1 cup dairy sour cream
1 cup guacamole

Generously grease a 9 X 13-inch (3-quart) baking dish. In large bowl, combine eggs and half-and-half; beat slightly.  Stir in corn. Place tortillas in bottom  of greased dish.  Pour egg mixture over tortillas.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Cover; refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cover casserole with foil.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until eggs are just set.  Let stand covered 5 minutes.  Uncover; spoon salsa over eggs.  Serve with sour cream and guacamole.

Serves 12.

Homemade Crispy-Fluffy Hash Browns 

I have perfected how to make crisp fluffy hash browns from real potatoes.  The secret is rinsing all the starch off of the grated potatoes with very cold water.  This usually takes about four rinses. Drain after each rinse.  When the water in the bowl remains clear, drain again. Then dry them thoroughly with a cheese cloth towel or paper towels.  Fry in hot oil with two tablespoons of butter on medium high heat covered for 5 minutes, or until browned.  Uncover, turn and fry other side until browned.  Do not put the cover on again.  Having them covered at first, steams the potatoes so that they cook through while remaining fluffy in the middle. Putting it back on will soften your crust.  Nobody want that.

My greatest culinary discovery so far this winter is a baked cake donut.  My husband loves donuts.  I hate deep frying.  So, I have been trying to find a baked recipe for cake donuts that would meet my husband’s high standards. It has taken me awhile, but this recipe for Cinnamon Sugar Baked Donut Muffins meets and beats all expectations.

I will warn you that they are easy to make, delicious, addicting and definitely a waistline expansion threat.  However, they freeze perfectly and when reheated in the microwave taste like they are fresh out of the oven or from a bakery.

The recipe only yields about nine regularly-sized muffins.  So, if you have a large family, tall husband or are taking them to share at the office, I would recommend making more than one batch.

Cinnamon Sugar Donut Hole Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Thoroughly, grease muffin tins with soft butter.  Do not use paper muffin cups. 

In a large bowl combine:

1-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

With a mixing spoon, stir the dry ingredients together.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add:

1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir until just combined. Do not over beat.

Fill greased muffin tins two-thirds full and bake for 20 minutes.  The muffins will be very slightly browned.  Do not over bake.  A toothpick inserted in middle of the muffin will come out clean when they are done.

Remove from oven.  Cool for 5 minutes and remove from pan.

In a small bowl.  Melt five tablespoons of butter.  Lightly coat muffins with the butter.  I just roll them in the bowl.

Place butter coated muffins, three at a time, into a gallon-sized zip lock plastic bag that contains:  1/3 cup of granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.  Seal bag and shake until muffins are coated with the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Remove and repeat with remaining muffins.  Serve immediately.

One-Hour Cinnamon Rolls

I confess that I did not try this recipe, but a neighbor of mine tested it and said it was outrageously good.

Cinnamon Rolls
3-1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
6 Tablespoons yeast
1 Tablespoon salt
3 large eggs
10-1/2 to 11 cups of all-purpose flour

Cinnamon-Sugar Filling
2/3 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup butter

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4-6 cups of powdered sugar
3-4 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease the sides and bottoms of two 9 X 13 cake pans.

In a large mixing bowl combine water, sugar, oil and yeast.
Stir it a few times, then let it sit for a full 15 minutes

Add the salt and eggs and first eight cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Combine with an electric mixer.  Gradually add the rest of the flour.

When all of the flour is added, continue to mix with an electric mixer for another 10 minutes.  Dough may climb up the mixer, push it down if you need to.

Then, let dough rest for 10 minutes.  Dough should double in size. It will take longer if your kitchen is cold.

Divide dough in half.

Pour a small amount of oil on a clean counter top, do not use flour. With your hands gently press half of the dough into a large rectangle.

Melt the 1 cup of butter in the microwave.  Pour half onto the rectangle-shaped dough.

In a separate small bowl mix together white and brown sugars and cinnamon.  Sprinkle half over the melted butter that you have evenly spread on top of the rectangle shaped dough.

Beginning with a long side.  Roll the dough into a log.  Cut into 12 evenly-sized slices to make 12 rolls.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough.

Place in the well-greased 9 X 13 and let rolls rise.  Let them rise as long or as short as you have time.  The longer they raise the bigger they will be.  Do not let them raise over double or they will collapse. The original recipe noted that many times these rolls were baked after raising only five minutes.  

Bake for 12-15 minutes until nicely browned.  Remove from oven and let rolls sit for several minutes before frosting.

While the rolls bake, in a small bowl make cream cheese frosting.

Makes 24 rolls.

Again, Happy Easter and Blessed Passover!