been rethinking church

Church…..as a child it was Catholic.  Holy Water, Cathecism, Confirmation, little white gloves on Sunday, a veil, rosary, white bible.  The priest spoke alot in Latin.  Communion.  Candles.  Confession.

Church today…..We need people to volunteer in various ministries.  Don’t sit there with tightly clenched fists.  Board meetings.  Assistant treasurer position.  Routine.  Same format over and over.  No growth. Communion once a month.  Never going deeper into scripture.  Bring food for this, food for that.  Contention.  Judging.  A controlling leader.  A knot in my stomache every Sunday morning.  But what if church was…..

Where 2 or 3 are gathered, there shall I be.  Communion—the most intimate time with the Lord.  Where we receive his special graces and the whole process should take more than 7 minutes.  Church…not a meticulously kept building but a body of people loving the Lord and spreading his word.  Church…a place where people want to come and are excited about what will inspire them for the REST OF THE WEEK

Church..where it is ok for a child to make noise and bring a toy.   Where the poor are helped and broken hearts are healed and the Spirit fills each and every believer.  Church….a sermon by the river.  A bible reading in the forest.  A prayer group in the city park.  No frills, no spread sheets, no certain way to dress.  Give what you can, whether it be monetary or material….it will be put to work for the Lord.  Where hands are laid on one another and physical healings take place.  Where testimony brings tears to the eyes.    Where praise and thanks never end.  Where babies are dedicated to the Lord and marriage is sacred. 

Many churches out there.  It is a Sunday thing.  “I showed up”. Monday through Saturday it’s a different thing.  The bible gets dusty, misplaced, left in the car.  The flock gets scattered Monday through Saturday—they get rounded up on Sunday. 

Been rethinking church…..

 

 

 

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Fourteen/Thirteen

My father died of COPD.  Yes, he smoked for years, but he had problems with asthma and bronchitis also.  I don’t think we should say, “oh yes, so and so died because they smoked, because they ate the wrong foods, because they drank. ” Because people who do none of these things develop COPD, cancer and numerous other diseases.  We live in an age of tainted air, food and water.  The disease forced him to have a portable oxygen tank, an inhaler, steroid injections.  Because the air did not move over his lungs like it should when he took a breath, like  air skimming over a lake, and instead soaked into the holes of the lungs, every breath was an effort.  It robbed him of doing simple things that he loved like getting into his car and taking pictures of old barns and sunsets.  Getting to the bathroom was a chore.  Gone were the days of just doing what he wanted.  Each day was all about being able to breathe.  But in spite of all this he retained his sense of humor.  My dad never called anyone by their real name.  My brother (Chris) was Scootsie.  My daughter (Hilary) was white fang because her teeth were very white before she started drinking coffee.  A man named Jeff was Schmen.  Places of business had unique names too.  Ruby Tuesday restaurant was called Sapphire Saturday by my dad.  He like to reverse letters in words so a sentence such as “Get on your shoes” was transformed into “Shit on your gooz”.  But the expression that stands out in my mind was “Fourteen/Thirteen”  You could ask him what time it was and that was his answer.  It was the answer to mileage, prices,  the date for that day, ages of people. 

There was a surgery performed on his foot.  I still say it was a botched surgery.  It was done twice because the first time he kept feeling like his heel was “floating” in his foot.  It was…something came undone or wasn’t done right to begin with.  Infection set in.  Do you know where infection goes?  To the weakest part of the body.  The frail part, the part screaming for air.  My brother was here and we went to see my dad and there was a dry-erase board in the room and he was supposed to rate his pain on a scale of one to ten.  We changed the board, drawing faces for each number.  One was great, ten was death.  We drew X’s for eyes and a mouth with the tongue hanging out.  Little did we realize that two days later he would be dead.  I sat in the ICU watching the numbers change on the machine that monitored heart rate.  The tube was in his mouth, he did not know I was there.  His lungs were saturated and there was no way to relieve it.  The priest came in and we talked about my dad and his sense of humor, his cartoons that he drew, the way he could make a tiny airplane, cannon, windmill out of  nuts, bolts, nails, sockets.  He had a vision of something and he produced it.  He could not produce his vision of being able to breathe on his own though.  The numbers were falling.  I knew that when they got to a certain point the doctor would take away the tube and wait for him to take his last breath. …….Which he did—in a huge gasp, eyes open and looking straight ahead as if seeing something glorious.  When Jesus comes for you he doesn’t send his angels, he comes himself.  Time of death: Fourteen/ Thirteen.  I still encounter Fourteen/ Thirteen.  A receipt from the store, an address, a score from a game.   Dad is breathing again.  The pure air of heaven.  And if that is the only thing he has to do up there I am sure he is content with that.

 

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hanson pond

hanson pond

reflections of fall

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Not What I Expected

In October of 1976 my husband (at that time), and my six month old son drove  eight hours to the town of Marenisco in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  We had been there in the late summer with another couple looking for a place to rent.  We were going to live where it was less populated, less expensive,  grow something, maybe raise something, treat our illness according to herbal lore, hike with our babies on our backs and enjoy the beauty and solitude.  My parents followed us on that slow-moving trek along US-2, carrying the belongings we could not fit in our truck.  We had 5 dogs with us too. I stood on the cold linoleum floor surrounded by boxes, hearing the hum of the old refrigerator and smelling fuel oil from the stove that would be our heat. So quiet outside. No street lights.  The town had 500 people and 12 bars. If you wanted clothes and a good restaurant you had to go 26 miles “up the line” to Ironwood which had a JC Penney and Town and Country restaurant. In November of that year my husband burnt his hands terribly trying to light the fuel stove.  According to what we had learned grated potato was good for burns.  We ended up calling an ambulance.  The landlord fixed the stove, and I took note of what I had to live on.  Pork, oatmeal, dried beans and soup.It was the end of the month and things were tight.  No dog food and all those dogs to feed.  I cooked oatmeal and pork for them.  I ate the beans and soup and nursed my baby.  This was such a different environment–harsh, in control.  The freezer should have been stocked.  I should have had warmer socks.  I was only 19  and came from parents who sheltered me.  I did not think the temperature could drop to 52 below.  I did not know how to change the flat tires on the truck.  I did not know enough to be in this setting.  There was no one to call.  I never saw so much snow.  The landlord’s wife invited me to Thanksgiving dinner with her family as my husband was still in the hospital.  I ate, produced abundant milk for my son, and she gave me plates of food when she dropped me off at my house.  Thank God for angels.  “The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” played continually on the radio.  I scrubbed the linoleum with hot water and ammonia.  The husband’s hands healed, I learned to make pasties, use a pressure cooker, made trips everyday to the laundromat to wash diapers.  We got to know the people.  One woman talked of how she had to change her bed sheets everyday because of all the sex going on between her and her husband.  She made me blush.  Come to find out, it wasn’t just her husband in that bed.  Another woman sat everyday in the same bar with curlers in her hair.  As far as I knew they never came out of her hair unless she took them out right before bed to make herself attractive for her husband.  The two smaller than average kids down the street made our house their refuge when the alcoholic parents started yelling at one another.  One night someone hung four dogs from trees and in the morning there were their lifeless bodies swaying back and forth.  It was horrible and there was never any explanation.  A mentally challenged couple just had their 4th or 5th child and without the mother’s consent, the doctor sterilized her so she could not bring anymore children into the world that she could  not care for properly.  Most of the woman were strong, big-boned, ruddy complexions.  They were born and raised  in this area and knew how to split wood, hunt, fish, gut something.  They made sure there was wild meat in their freezers.  They fueled themselves with venison, biscuits and coffee.  One woman  looked like the girl in Saturday Night Fever who wanted to “make it” with John Travolta.  Could have been twins.  She sat in the bar with perfect make-up, nice clothes, and always bedroom slippers on her feet.  She would visit, have some beers and then go home and clean her house.

There was a mix of Indians and Norwegians And some looked just strange–that inbred look.  Some were downright poor: Bad teeth, no hot water, no electricity.  Some women didn’t shave.  Most  just looked older than their years.  Sometimes we would drive to the dump and look at the bears.  Everything got celebrated in the bars and I had my first taste of Yukon Jack and Peppermint Schnapps.  A big taste–knocking back shot glasses like it was water and thought I was going to die the next day.  I was so plastered I wet my pants and dropped my baby face first in the snow.  Baptist women came to lay hands on me when I could hardly walk because of tendonitis, bursitis, and cellulitis in my knee.  Because of washing those floors.  The knee wasn’t healing and the drugs were only taking away the pain, but after they left, the swelling went down and I walked normally.  I grew up.  I toughened a bit.  I was more prepared for the next winter. But that next summer we headed back to where there were friends and family.  Found a place with some acreage and a fireplace in the house. 

Today I yearn for that solitude, that harshness.   I am tired of hearing traffic, national guards  practicing their shots, lawn mowers, leaf blowers.  I am sick of having a neighbor next to me. Maybe I will go back one day.  When my hair is long and gray and I wear it in a braid. A new chapter in my life will unfold. 

 

 

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Coma–I was so out of it

I had contracted spinal meningitis in 1974–the virus version–the big poison.  “We can’t do anything for her”, the doctors said.  “If it was bacterial we could treat it with antibiotics.”   It all started with a headache.  One that would not go away in spite of numerous over the counter and natural headache concoctions. Then came the fever.  And then the stiff neck.  A neck so stiff I thought it had turned to brick.  Bricks like the house I lived in on Centralia–strong ,unyielding, fortress bricks.  My father took me to the ER three times and each time I was sent home.  “She has the flu–just keep up with the liquids and rest.”  Then came the dizziness, loss of appetite.  Almost ready to pass out for good.  But God said “No!” (He actually thundered the word).  The angels got up, shook off the gold dust and guided my father back to the ER.  Me, a lump  of aching flesh in the front seat.  ER rooms are cold, not comfortable and the colors are putrid.  One just knows that whatever is done in these rooms is going to hurt.  Thank God for those who retain what they learn.  A young doctor took one look at me asked how stiff my neck was.  “Like the bricks of my old house,” I said.  He did a spinal tap–meningitis confirmed. Isolation.  Everyone must wear a gown, gloves and mask.  Except the angels who were standing against the wall.  I went out coma style for 3 days.  Fluids were administered, tears were shed by family, prayers were spoken.  I remember a nurse saying something about the color of my skin just before I “left”. 

I awoke to faces with masks–one had glasses.  The doctor.Don’t remember what they said.  My mouth tasted terrible and I remembered I was having my period.  “Oh no, I have to change my pad!”  I was thirsty.  I could feel something uncomfortable in me–a catheter.  The angels had gone–their job done.  Family came as soon as they heard I was awake.  But I don’t remember much of that.  But I do remember wanting to slap a nurse, which I would have done if I could have raised my arm, because she told me I needed a sponge bath.  “You’re a bit smelly.”  She failed the course on compassion in nursing school. The next day she wanted me to use the bed pan–how demeaning.  Infants have no problem pooping lying down, but I do.  I was not allowed to get up–“It’s too soon”…so the nurse who failed compassion and probably English came in with an enema.  I went.  And from that point I was determined to walk that eight feet to the bathroom. I eased out of the bed, used that for support until I reached the end of it, used the wall for support, grabbed hold of the door to the bathroom and lowered myself down. Nurse with poor choice of words comes in and says I can’t do that, but I flush and tell her I can.

Meningitis affects the central nervous system.  Some things about the past I cannot remember.  I forgot how to type and had to teach myself.  I was spared.  Some people die of meningitis.  God had other plans.  I will never be able to contract meningitis again.  And I am not a carrier.  I was blessed long  before I took any thought of blessings.  Count yours.

 

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“Now you finally get it.”

With the rising cost of everything, it is becoming increasingly harder to make ends meet.  I decided I would get back into making pillows or creating signs from old boards and twigs like I used to do years ago.  I sold them in a shop under the name of Millie Sidebottom. And they sold well.  The problem was that I was the only one making them and time was limited and therefore mass quantities were impossible.  I also cleaned houses at that time so the money from that compensated for not being able to make enough of the crafts. But after my daughter graduated from her special school things changed.  I had to be home with her and I quit cleaning houses and the crafting finally came to a stop.  Back to the present time….I made up my mind I had to do something for extra income.  A nine to five job was impossible because there is no one to care for my daughter and she cannot stay by herself.  I witnessed friends and family members creating things and selling them, or just selling things they did not want on E-bay and making a substantial amount of money.  I became resentful.  I tried starting up again at being crafty, but the time just wasn’t allowing it, I didn’t have the space anymore to work, and I needed to find raw materials for most of what I wanted to do.  But I have also been working on a monthly  newsletter for friends, and I send a daily thought to friends and family.  I speak once a month at our church on issues  pertaining to women,  and I can’t seem to go anywhere without taking pen and paper. An epiphany finally came to me.  A slap in the head.  Look around you Caroll…..all the journals you have kept,all the pictures you too because they brought inspiration, all the notes you took from listening to pastors on televison….why don’t you just WRITE?????  Why don’t you do what your fourth grade teacher and high school creative writing teacher told your parents you were made for???  Will it ever make money?  Who knows…who cares if it doesn’t.  The money will come from other source.  I can still pursue crafting when there is time.  No pressure.  If  all I ever do is make a difference in someone’s life then so be it—mission accomplished.  I see the statue of Jesus–the one I saw at the cemetery.  Only this time his mouth is upturned a bit and he says “Now you finally get it.”

The Lord will supply all my needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  I just have to faithful and obedient and be a good steward of all he has put in my care–home, family, creatures, the finances he gives me.  And I don’t mean this to sound contradictory to yesterday’s message about striving for the bigger and better.  Times are rough and some supplemental income would help.  I just want to be able to pay the bills.  It is not about new cars and finery.

But if all I ever have is what I have now I will praise my Lord continually for it

 

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small graves,strong horses

Those title words came in a dream.  At first I thought it was a new title of a Gary Paulsen book—a story about life on a farm.  But no such book.  What does this mean? What am I supposed to do with this?  In this world, we are very small.  As a population, we take up alot of space, but the individual is small compared to the earth.  The strong horses is  the quest for more and better.  Upgrade, get better, get faster, save time, save energy.  All this comes across as a need.  The house has to be larger, the car newer, the clothes trendier, the phone smaller and smarter. And so saving time and energy turns into stress, competition.  Fervid schedules that rob us of eating right, resting.  The health falters, blood pressure rises, heart attacks and strokes occur as the strong horses saddled heavily with the what we “have to have” kick at us.Making for small graves.  The strong horses stomping on dreams not yet activated. Chewing up the idea of a simple life that is blessed, filled with gifts, and discoveries.  The strong horses changing shape into billboards and commercials—drilling into us what we have to have to be happy. I envy the Amish—their self sufficiency, their peace, their orderliness. Today, try and bring back the simple into your life.  Turn off the phone, the TV.  Ignore the magazine ads.  Make your home a haven and know that everything in it, including you, is beautiful.

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