Woodlawn CC

Woodlawn CC

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

Well, another Christmas has come and gone.  Here in Omaha, it was a beautiful day with a high temperature for the day of just shy of 50 degrees.  Of course, this year it was not a white Christmas.

On Christmas Eve this year, Maddie had to work until 6:00 pm, so we were unable to attend the Christmas Eve Service at Benson Baptist, since their service started at 5:30 pm.  So I Googled a bit and found a 7:30 service at a ELCA Lutheran Church and we decided to give that a try.  Creath was home for the Holiday and so all four of us attended the service at Saint Michael's Lutheran Church, located at 132nd & Blondo.  Years ago, I was actually a member at St. Michael's, but I hadn't been inside the building for many years and they've added on at least twice in these passing years.

Saint Michael's has a beautiful facility, though I will confess the decor is a bit too contemporary for my preferences at this stage in my life.  Their service however, was wonderful.  They have a Minister who is a very talented speaker, and they had a soloist who had an absolutely marvelous voice.  Going to the service just to hear her sing, would have been well worth it all.

Pipe Organ at St. Michael's Lutheran Church, Omaha, NE
WmRoy Karlen photo
After the service we went home and had a bite to eat.  We had planned to go down to St. Cecilia's for their Midnight Mass, but Gail and the kids were too tired to go.  Going to St. Cecilia's Midnight Service is for me one of the highlights of my year, so undeterred, I set off and attended the service alone.  This year I walked in the front doors (we've always parked beside the building and gone in the side doors) in order to see the sanctuary in all it's glory.  Saint Cecilia's is a magnificent building, and I love to go down and hear the choir singing in Latin.  There is just something ethereal about this building and it is especially so when there is beautiful music.  The acoustics for the sanctuary are incredible.

Gail and I, once went to a performance there of an a-capella quartet, singing Irish Folk Hymns.  The four women came from the curved hallway that goes behind the Altar, two came out from each side.  You could hear them singing long before they appeared in sight, and they sang the entire performance without any amplification.  It was just their natural voices and the amazing acoustics of the Cathedral.

During the service of Midnight Mass, I sat along the center aisle and the entering and exiting processions went right past me.  Even the next morning, I could still smell the incense on my coat.  On the drive home (about 2 am) there was almost no traffic, and that peaceful drive, along with the smell of the incense was in itself almost a spiritual event... very serene and almost surreal.

Christmas morning we of course opened gifts at home and then went over to Mary Alice's (Gail's mom) home to open still more gifts.  After everything was done at Mary Alice's and the rest of the folks had to run off to Christmas events with other relatives, Gail, the kids and I took Mary Alice over to our house.

Mary can't walk on her own right now and the simplest way to get her up the stairs and into the house, was for me to just pick her up and carry her inside.  She is not heavy at all, the only thing I was concerned about was that she has a terrible habit of reaching out and grabbing the railing or something else and just won't let go, even when you need to keep moving.

Before I picked her up (each and every time, as I carried her into, and out of the house and also carried her into the bedroom so she could take a nap) I told her clearly to NOT reach out and try to grab anything as I was carrying her.  I told her to grab ahold of my shoulders and to not reach out for a railing or doorknob or anything else.  Honestly, if she grabbed and pulled on the railing as I was taking her up or down the steps she could have caused both of us to fall.  She listened well, and we had no troubles at all getting her wherever she needed to be.

Gail told me "you do come in handy sometimes".  To which I replied, quoting the famous trainer Mark Rippetoe "strong people are generally more useful, and are harder to kill".  There are times in all of our lives when we need the assistance of someone either stronger physically, mentally, or spiritually than we are ourselves.  There is no shame in this, it is just part of being a human being.

Mary's trying to grab ahold of something while you're helping her, is a lot like how we are when we're in God's guiding grasp.  All too often when we're faced with difficulty, we pray to God for help, and then we reach out for something else... rather than, putting our faith in his strength and guidance to get us through the situation.  We reach out to crutches such as alcohol or drugs, we have extra-marital affairs, or any of a number of other things that we put our faith in, rather than God's guidance.  Take your troubles before the Lord, trust in Him to get you through these difficult times.  Do not reaching out in fear, but trust in the love, guidance, and healing that God can and will provide.

Well, that's enough for today.  May you each and everyone, know the peace, grace and strength of God in your lives.

In His Love & Joy,

Prayers please for:
Connie Surat, Kelly & Patti Wills, Don & Laura Fletcher, the Huntzeker family, Sylvia Schafer, Edsel Buchanan, and remember to pray for yourself as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Saying Goodbye and Celebrating Re-Birth

Last week a family friend from back home (Reliance, SD), Lowell Surat passed away quietly at his home.  There was a prayer service Sunday night, and the funeral was Monday morning, both services were in Chamberlain, SD.  After the funeral, the internment was in the cemetery near Reliance, SD and after the burial there was a luncheon and fellowship time in Reliance.

The prayer service Sunday night, was very touching; with folks sharing stories and memories of Lowell.  Lowell, was a man with a strong Christian faith, and he was likely the happiest person I've ever known.  In fact that was his nickname, from his childhood through the remainder of his life, he was known as 'Happy' or just 'Hap' to many.

Lowell's life was a great testimony of enduring during adversity.  He had suffered from poor health for many years of his life and his attitude was a testimony for those that were fortunate enough to know him.  I wasn't aware until recently, of all the struggles that he and his wife had endured due to Lowell's poor health.  But, through all these challenges everyone talked about how happy and positive he was able to remain.  I know that the few times through the years that I'd been back home visiting, and had run into Lowell, I don't remember him even once complaining about his health and he was always in a great and upbeat mood.

It is individuals such as Lowell and Connie, that we should look to as role models in our lives.  For you see it's easy to be gracious, charitable, kind and cheerful when you are in good health, fortune and without want or pain.  But, it's those people who are the model of kindness, joy, love and grace when their own lives know so much suffering that are the true reflections of what God wants us to be in this world.  Not that God wants us to suffer, (if you've read this blog at all you know that I do not subscribe to the theology that God makes us suffer) but rather that in these individuals we see genuine joy, kindness, charity and grace for it radiates from the kernel of the divine that resides in their hearts, not from their ego wishing to put on a display of their generosity.

Now please don't think that I'm saying that individuals in abundance cannot harbor the Holy Spirit within them.  By all means the wealthy can and do give out of compassion and through the grace of God working through them.  I am however, more likely to believe it's God and not ego, when their giving and charity is done as quietly as possible, or even anonymously.

I have always been one who believes in going to funerals.  To me it is a time to show respect for the loss of your friend. relative or loved one; it's a time to be there to support the family and friends who are now dealing with the loss and the grief of death; but perhaps most importantly for me I go to recognize and rejoice in the 'birth into heaven' of the one who has passed.  Funerals often are considered primarily as times of mourning but that really should not be such.  How wonderful it is that our cherished one has passed from this world into the very presence of God the Father.  Praise God!

Personally, I have told my family that at my funeral I do not want tears of grief, but tears of joy and celebration.  For I shall be having the time of my life and I want none to be filled with sadness over my passing.

Now don't get me wrong of course we mourn the loss of our loved ones, we have lost that relationship as we knew it in this world.  I still mourn the loss of my Grandmother Karlen, my Father, my Mentor Jesse, and many others.  But as I mourn them, I sing a song of praise in my heart for their presence in Heaven.

This past Monday, we gathered to celebrate Lowell's entry into Heaven and his reunion with our all gracious and all loving Lord.  Praise God!

I was happy after the funeral to have the chance to visit briefly, with an individual who was very dear to me in my youth.   This is a person who has held a place in my heart for the better part of forty years now, and it did my soul a great deal of good to learn that she is in good health and spirits.  I pray that she and her family will continue to enjoy good health and prosperity.  It was wonderful, to see that same smile that I remember from my childhood.

As I have said before in this blog, one of the things that bothers me about my life, is having lost contact with so very many of the people I have held dear through the years.  Unfortunately, staying in contact is a very difficult thing to do, and I'll confess my own personality doesn't always help to further this desire to remain in contact with friends.  I'm not one who remembers to send cards either at birthdays or Christmas for that matter.  It seems I get too busy, and I just don't think about these things.  Couple this with the fact that for most of my life, I have been a typical male who isn't free with stating his feelings for others.  I have tried to change this aspect of my personality, but I'll admit I sometimes slip back into my old ways.  We really should make sure and let others know that we care about them, and their well being, you just never know when it might be too late to do so.

With that I need to be running along.  I would ask that you all might continue to pray for;

Connie Surat - Comfort and Peace
Mary Alice Engleman - Healing and Strength
Kelly & Patti Wills - Healing and Serenity
Don & Laura Fletcher - Adjusting to new Situations
Sylvia Schafer - Peace and Comfort

Someday, I'll see old Lowell Surat again, and who knows maybe we'll work together again in the fields of heaven, or work cattle on the plains of eternity.  God Bless...

In God's Absolute Love & Grace,

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Second Sunday of Advent - Peace

Today, Gail and I were asked to light the 2nd Advent Candle, along with doing a reading, for the early service at Benson Baptist Church.  Last week the Hope Candle was lit, and today we were lighting the Peace Candle.  In a World that seems so filled with violence, it almost seems futile to speak of peace.  But, our view of this world is so fleeting that we fail to realize that the world has always been filled with violence.  Violence, is a horribly unfortunate side effect of the free will that we enjoy.  We are given the ability to decide for ourselves whether or not to do good, or to do evil in this world.  Sadly, each of us is affected in some fashion by those that chose unwisely, as well as those that follow the darker side of their souls.

It has been said that "Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God".  There is so much truth to this statement, and of course we cling to God as our strength in times of trouble.  

As I have said before in this blog, God does not cause bad things to happen in this world, but He can, and and so very often does, use these incidents to bring something good into this world.  Let us always prayerfully watch, for the opportunity to be God's hands and feet in bringing these blessings out of the ashes of human ego and destruction.

Jesus did not promise us a world of peace, but he left us his peace and he instructed us to not be afraid.

John 14:27(NIV)  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Today for Sunday School, we started off by taking our class down to the sanctuary to rehearse their lines for the Christmas Program, that will be next Sunday between the early and late services.  Unfortunately, not all of the children were there today, but the ones that were there were able to run through their lines with the microphone.  One of the girls that is reading is only in 2nd grade, and when she spoke into the microphone it was so loud that it frightened her.  We encouraged her to go on, but she wouldn't speak and just kept shaking her head 'no' with her eyes very wide open in fear.

I stepped up beside her, and told her she would be okay, and she then read her lines beautifully into the microphone.  She even pronounced 'Deuteronomy' perfectly.  I gave her a high five and she was now smiling.  It's such a joy to work with these children and witness their little victories.

If I might I'd like to continue to ask for prayers for the following individuals:

Lowell & Connie Surat - comfort and understanding
Mary Engleman - healing and encouragement
Don & Laura Fletcher - healing and reassurance
Sylvia Schafer - peace and comfort
Kelly & Patti Wills - strength and healing

Thank you all, and please remember to "Be a Blessing to Someone Today".

God's Grace & Love,

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sunday School & yet another book...

Yesterday, I was a helper rather than the lead teacher for Sunday School.  The woman who was leading asked the kids to create a card or letter for somebody who had helped them at sometime or another.  I was happy that two of the girls gave their cards to me at the end of the session.  One of the girls wrote a very nice note to me and I was very touched that both girls thought so much of my efforts with their class.

It just goes to show that no matter what you're doing, you can be having an impact on another person.  Do your best to make sure that this impact is a positive one.

After Sunday School we stopped at Half Price Books and of course I had to purchase something.  I was excited to find a perfect hardcover copy of the book "The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ" by Robert Eisenman.  This book is a follow-up to Eisenman's book "James the Brother of Jesus; The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls".  I already have a copy of his first book and I started it a while back and have been trying to get back to it.  It's a bit of a daunting book though at nearly 1,000 pages, and not at all an easy read.

It is a fascinating topic though, and this is one time I really wish Jesse was still here, as I'd love to discuss this topic with him.  Jesse of course was a scholar concerning the "Dead Sea Scrolls", and spent part of his career working on translating them.

I finished a book last night and so tonight I will dive back into Eisenman's first book and try and drive my way all the way through both volumes.

Here is a link to the second book on Amazon: 

Saturday was my 55th birthday and I'll confess it was a bit depressing.  Turning 50 didn't bother me but for some reason 55 sounds so much older.  None-the-less, I've shook that feeling off and I'm readying myself for the next 55 years.  LOL

For my birthday Gail & Maddie gave me exactly what I asked for.  They took me to see 'Interstellar' at the IMAX and they gave me a new broiler pan for cooking chicken breasts or steaks in the oven.  I used the pan yesterday, and it was a big improvement over the old pan I've been using for years now.  After Christmas has passed, I'll put it through it's paces as I try and drop around 30 pounds of bodyweight before April comes around.

I must backup and say that if you haven't yet seen 'Interstellar'... GO!  It's a wonderful movie and to be completely honest it was this movie that lifted me out of my slump over my birthday's double digits.  Rarely do I see a movie that I would like to go see again in the theatre, but this is one that I would certainly like to see again on the big screen.  Again, if you haven't seen it yet... GO!!!

I need to get to work now so I'll just leave you all with a blessing for a great week and a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Don't forget to "Be A Blessing To Someone Today".

In God's Abundant & Unwavering Grace,

Edit to add:
Yesterday I did see once again my old friend Edsel.  Sadly, I could tell he had declined even more, since I saw him just the other day.  Please keep close in prayer Edsel and his family, as well as all of the following:

Lowell & Connie Surat - comfort and faith for entire family
Mary Alice Engleman - healing & recovery from broken hip
Don Fletcher - healing & recovery from stroke

Thank you!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Remembering my Late Mentor, the Rev. Dr. Jesse Brown:

Three years ago today, my mentor the Rev. Dr. Jesse Brown passed from this Earth.  

I was alone with him at the time in his room at the Hospice House.  As I sat at the foot of his bed praying over him, I heard his breathing change, and I looked up and watched him take his last several breaths in this world.  I took his hand for a moment, and then went out and told the nurses that I believed he was gone.

As the nurse checked his vitals, I knelt by the bed with his hand in mine and prayed a prayer of celebration for my beloved friend's birth into Heaven.  His family came and gave their respects, and then left again, to go home and mourn.  They were donating his body to science, and I suspect they couldn't bear to actually see the body taken away.

I sat alone again with Jesse, and waited until the University Med Center showed up to take him.  I watched them load him on the gurney, and followed them down the hall and out the door. Only after the door on the van closed and they pulled out of the parking lot did I go home.  

I had attended a conference on the 'Dead Sea Scrolls' with Jesse, and gone out to dinner with him only 10 days prior.  

Year 2 Remembrance

Year 1 Remembrance

I shall always miss my dear friend Jesse, but thankfully he left me with the memory of his friendship, as well his considerable guidance and direction in my faithwalk.  It was a rare honor and privilege to have the chance to study, and converse with somebody like Jesse, and I shall always cherish the friendship that we had in this world.  But I rest assured that someday, I will see him again in heaven, and we can pick up on some old and unfinished conversation, the only difference will be we'll actually fully know and understand the answers.

It is my confirmed conviction that even after a loved one has passed, we can maintain a relationship with them.  If we remember that individual and process our world through the influence that they had upon us, there can be no doubt that in some small way they are with us still.  In the last three years I've had countless conversations with Jesse concerning things that I have read and heard.  These conversations of course are mental exercises, and consist of me as I said, processing things that I encounter through the lens (the way that I see and understand the world) that Jesse helped me grind for my personal understanding of God and religion.

In all honesty, this is much the same as the way that we have a relationship with the risen Christ, with God, and with the Holy Spirit.  Let us always remember the set of lens that Christ prescribed for us are to "Love God", and to "Love our neighbor as ourselves".  If we always process life through these lens, we certainly will not stray far from Christ himself.

Please continue to pray for my friends Lowell & Connie and family (for comfort, strength & understanding), Edsel and family (for peace, strength & understanding), for the Hunzeker family (for peace), for my mother in law Mary (for healing & recovery), for my uncle Don (for healing & recovery) and remember to pray for yourself as well.  God Bless!

I'll just end this blog post with some random photos of my library.  Many of these books are ones that Jesse left to me after his death.  They are very precious to me and I shall cherish them for the remainder of my time in this world.

God's Absolute Love & Grace to you all.

In Christ,