Winter Seasons in Life


 

Winter season is on us. Usually that’s great, for skiers and snowmobilers. Right now, with the rain and cool weather I am not sure what to make of winter. All around us are bare trees; everything is covered with snow; the days are short and nights longer. Outside, the world seems to be silent and dead except for chickadees and cranky crows.

However, nothing can be farther from the truth. For example; last spring I noticed that some of my cedar evergreen shrubs were brown and dry. They struggled to green up. I found out that evergreens turn brown because the leaves lose moisture in extreme cold and will dry up and die. I didn’t consider that my shrubs, though they look dead, continue to be active even in the coldest and frozen times of winter. Some plants continue to function beneath the surface in the winter like tiny clocks ticking away. Flower bulbs you’d think would freeze and die, require cold to make them bloom and blossom in the spring.

Had you considered that freezing and thawing cracks open the surface of the earth to receive seeds that have been lying dormant on the surface of the soil? Then they germinate at the first signs of spring. The season that to our senses appears to be a time of nothingness, silence, and death is actually a season of preparation for a soon-coming burst of new life and new strength. So it is, in the life of man.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8  ESV For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;  

There will be seasons of nothingness in all our lives. To deny those seasons in our lives, is against the design of our Creator to cause us to grow and mature. I’ve heard believers say, “My life seems to have dried up. I don’t feel like I hear the voice of God or sense His presence in my life. I look around and my life seems to be so unproductive and dead. Where is God?”

But it’s like the world of nature around us. God is always at work in our lives even when it seems to be a season of winter. Our senses are the worst indicator of that reality. What we feel, see, and hear is a poor indicator of what God is doing behind the scenes in our lives.

Let me tell you about Doubting Thomas. Thomas was one of the disciples of Jesus. He saw the miracles and he actually heard the incredible teachings of Jesus. Yet when the disciples told Thomas that Jesus rose from the dead and actually appeared to them, it says in John 20, that Thomas replied:

25 “Except I see in his hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the print of the nails and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Faith does not rely on our senses. It believes the Word of God despite what we feel, see or hear.  Jesus appeared to Thomas, and Matt. 20: 29. This is what Jesus replied to Thomas’ unbelief;

Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.”

We don’t need to be afraid because we do not feel his hands at work. We do need to pray for His hands on us.

Isaiah 41:10 “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

He is there. As believers in Jesus Christ, we believe and have faith, that God is active in our lives even though we are in a long lifeless winter or dark days in our lives. Maybe we haven’t seen or felt His presence in our lives in a while but God is always at work. Maybe there has been pain or darkness in your days lately, but God is working behind the scenes in your life. Train yourself to see beneath the surface. God is perfecting whatever concerns you. Without those days where we don’t feel or see His hands at work, how can our faith be tested, strengthened or refined? Do I need faith when I get or see what I want or choose? Resistance excercise makes your muscles strong. It is the same with your faith.

And I think faith seems to see best in the dark. You may seem to have “lost your green leaves” or the freshness in your life. Things may seem to be “dark and lifeless.” But as in nature, movement and activity continues below. The true believers’ life is always moving toward maturity so let the seasons in your life produce new growth, give life to new seeds, blossoms to living plants. Let all seasons, whether good or bad, produce deeper and stronger roots in you. Let all seasons produce a greater trust and dependence upon the Lord who promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us.

Another spring will come along with its future growth and strength, to make you even stronger for the next winter season of growth in your life.

Isaiah 35:1-10 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

Repeat this verse to yourself, 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged (because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him,) for there is a greater power with us than with him.

II Chronicles 32: 7

Let the Secrets Die, on Amazon


https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/s/ref=is_s_ss_i_0_19?k=let+the+secrets+die&sprefix=let+the+secrets+die

Read about Andi Wittwer on APG news.

http://www.apg-wi.com/spooner_advocate/news/local/author-to-talk-about-let-the-secrets-die/article_a977a4bc-4514-11e6-b217-87618a468638.html

Wittwer will introduce her new book, “Let the Secrets Die,” the first in the Jewell Johnson Mysteries series. She also will discuss the “family” next door, an important part of the series.

Rural Wisconsin is a perfect place to “hide out.” Low population density, deep woods, swamps, back roads, and beautiful lakes are great for refuge. Some of those refugees were actually escapees — folks running away from something, and up in the Northwoods they could lay low or even disappear.

While some of those “lying low” were political dissidents, others were criminals and gangsters from the cities who had worn out their welcome in the south. Northern Wisconsinites knew great poverty so accepting a little bribe, selling goods and services or working for mobsters was accepted as fairly normal routine — don’t ask, don’t tell.

In “Let The Secrets Die,” Wittwer uses time as a medium to dig up some of those secrets that underlie Northern Wisconsin communities. In the Jewell Johnson Mysteries the reader will be a kind of historical archaeologist, digging up layers of secrets that include gangsters, politicians, the FBI, and others to answer the question, “Why did Sig die?”

There’s No Honest Retail


I met an elderly glove salesman many years ago, when I was working at a hardware store. That may seem rather uninteresting. He was nondescript as well. He drove an old car and wore an old brown overcoat. For many years, he would show up out of the blue one time in the fall and then in the spring. His white hair was a little too long but his handshake was strong and his smile was kindly under his shrewd blue eyes.

I enjoyed talking while I picked out gloves for our store to sell. It was complicated. There’s so many categories – kids, womens, and mens, working gloves, gardening gloves, hunting gloves and then many sizes. I made spreadsheets about how many gloves we sold by season and what kind sold the best. I had a list of customers who had specific needs. That old guy wasn’t our only glove salesman; young, pushy, hurried, etc. but this guy was my favorite. I would listen to him tell me what was the best buy and then his best sellers and I would choose several hundred pair of gloves to purchase out of his trunk. His prices were always the best.

I loved this process, the buyer’s sense of retail vs the seller’s need to earn. One day the old man sat down with me in the hardware breakroom, and proceeded to tell me his personal story – about how all his life, he had sold gloves out of his trunk in three states. He said he knew this kind of business was going away and wanted to know if I would type up his story. It was hand-written on notebook paper. I agreed and we parted.

Not long after that I received his story in the mail and over a period of a couple months, in my spare time, I typed it into book form. Then I mailed it back to him. I never heard from him or saw him again. For many years, I kept his story in my computer. He was a very interesting man.

This salesman taught me a very important lesson about life and salesmanship. When I asked him what he thought I should sell gloves for he said “There is no honest retail.” He said that nothing has a real retail but it does have a true cost. Knowing the real cost is what we all need to know in life. He said that the big stores were no better than a canny glove salesmen. He had been able to live in the margin between his cost and his sales but the big companies undercut that margin to the point where he and other salesmen couldn’t survive.

Now I find myself that old person. I look around and see small businesses are disappearing. Everything I buy has an inflated retail. In this modern economy, how do we interpret the lesson of the canny traveling glove salesman? Businesses and government know what people want and what they are can pay. But nowadays, how do we establish the real cost? What is a life or survival worth, for example? Can you pricetag happiness? What are we deserving of; and what must we earn? I don’t think I am as shrewd as that old glove salesman. I can’t answer these questions.

Define Character


Character is what defines you as a human being.

It’s what people see in you.  It’s what people will say about you when you turn your back or after you pass away.  Character is one of the most important things you have.  Do you invest in yours?  Do people see your faith in what you do? Is your character reflected in you service to God?  Remember, when you die, Jesus will say, “Welcome brother/sister; job well done” or “I never knew you!”

Character is something that you hold fast to inside, and that people see in you on the outside. More importantly, it is something that God sees in you always.

Romans 5:3-5 – “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5 shows us that in suffering true character is formed which pushes us to hope because we have God’s love “poured into our hearts”.   

Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Character is shown in how you respond in any situation. Your actions can speak louder than words. You and I have to be on guard against the devil, so that when adversity comes our way we can still exhibit the fruits of the spirit in word and deed. How can we shine for Jesus, if we reveal darkness through our actions in the world?

Colossians 3:12-15 – “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.”

Your character defines how you live your life.Your character is your judge. How do you treat those near you?  Do you truly love them or retaliate against them? Focus on the future… eternity.

1 John 4:8 – “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

The poor man who walks with Jesus, can rejoice in his passing.

Proverbs 28:6 – “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”

 

You make provision for your flesh and the world when you sin.

Romans 13:14 – “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Matthew 12:35 – “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

Are you a blessing to those around you or are you a ‘stumbling block’?

Matthew 23:25-26 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

You may fool men with fake “character”, but you can’t fool God. He’s knows our hearts and our intentions.   

Titus 1:15-16 – “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.  They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works.  They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”

You may say you believe in God, but your actions and words, will prove if you do or do not.

Acts 20:36-38 – “And when he (Paul) had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.”

Most of all, character is something that you hold fast on the inside, not just what people see on the outside.  More importantly, it is something that God always sees in you. You can see your own character through Him.

Is That a Crown of Glory on Your Head?


“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:20

I was downtown yesterday at the Fall Festival and a lady I saw had beautiful white hair, and she was so pretty and active! But the interesting thing is –  no, the INTRIGUING thing  – about her hair is that it was purple on the ends. She had this sweet halo of purple that exactly matched her outfit! I thought to myself, I want to do that-but then I realized I don’t have all white hair-it is kind of grey, and black, and red, and brown, and white! But oh well. I sure admired her hair!

This led me to think about my hair. The Bible says that your wisdom makes your silver hair a complement – but it could be an insult, or a crown. If you have wisdom to match your gray hair, then the hair color and your wisdom complement each other. If you have more gray hair than wisdom; the Proverbs say your hair is visible evidence you are a fool.  But if you have developed wisdom, then your silver hair is a crown of glory, for it declares a godly life, lived well.

“Respect your elders” is a common expression and an important Bible commandment. We are supposed to show special honor to those who are older than ourselves. The Ojibwe, our neighbors at LCO; say that our elders are always to be honored and cared for…Our Father said it this way, in Leviticus 19: 32 “‘Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Clearly, we should respect those who have hair that is their crown of glory! Yesterday I sat with a 92 year-old great-grandma at a funeral, and while we waited outside in the cemetery she shared fascinating anecdotes about her life with me, while she held my hand. I was intrigued and interested by her stories about her marriage and her life, and her hand warmed my own, cold one. Her white hair literally gleamed in the sunlight above her snapping blue eyes as we sat there.

In the King James Bible it refers to grey hair as “hoary” or aged. A “hoary head” is gray or white hair, where aging has replaced the hair color of youth with gray or white in Isaiah 46:4. You may have noticed that the hair of our Presidents often turns grey in only four years of their being in office. Perhaps, graying hair is just related to stress and worry?! Hoary in the Bible means anything white or gray. And such hair color on old men is considered a beautiful thing. “The glory of young men is their strength; (it says in Proverbs 20:29), and the beauty of old men is the gray head”.  (I think we have to imagine that guys with bald heads are really gray.)

But remember that both old men and women are to be respected. This is God’s ordinance. In Isaiah 3:5 it says the community of an ungodly and wicked generation, despises their old people. “Let us not be that generation” is my prayer. Proverbs 23:22 says-“Though age will reduce a mother or father’s abilities, they is still to be honored”. The Gospels in the New Testament commands that older men and women should be respected: don’t you love that quote from Timothy’s first letter:

I Tim 5:1-2 5 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

Gray or white hair on an older person should be a badge of honor – a crown of glory! It is a change that God has ordained in our hair color that indicates age, maturity, and experience. American women are sometimes ashamed of their hair color, but I think aging should mean greater wisdom, holiness, love of Christ, and godly example. Now, some may say that this is not always the case, so Solomon, the Wise limited the proverb to those who actually seek these virtues.

But God did not limit our respect to those who are the examples, He says the elders should be treated with respect, cared for and uplifted. Jesus made a point of how widows, children, the handicapped and the ill should not be neglected but they should be cared for by their community. He didn’t say they had to be the smartest or the best members of the community-he said we should care for each other and pay respect to each other, especially the aged.

Think about the silver hair of the old couple Zacharias and Elisabeth (Luke 1:5-7)? They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless. What glorious silver crowns they had! And what did God do for them? He gave them John the Baptist, the precursor to Christ!

Simeon was an old man, whose goal was to see The Christ (Luke 2:25-35). The old widow Anna, presented herself to the Lord in holy and sober worship (Luke 2:36-38). Paul, near death, did not “count his assets” but rather he took the time to describe his faithful life (II Tim 4:6-8).

For a father to be a great father; he should train his children in the fear of the Lord as seen in Ephesians 6:4. Every one of our children and grandchildren is another opportunity for you to build a family tree in the kingdom of God. And today we hope they will honor your gray head as a crown of glory for the investment in their souls.

The Lord Jesus Christ in His glorified appearance has head and hairs white like wool, as white as snow in Revelations 1:14. It is definitely a crown of glory to Him, for He is the Ancient of Days and Everlasting Father though He is absolutely ageless in Revelations 1:18!

So I think I would love to show off my “own crown of glory”, through aging and gaining greater wisdom, holiness, love of Christ, and a godly example. What a joy it is to have made it to where I am in my life-and I hope you feel the same way! I thank God for your presence here today, not just the young – but the elders, because it shows we are on a path to gaining that shining solver crown! Maybe mine will have a light tint of Purple!

Let us pray together:

Heavenly Father, We love you deeply. You have brought us here today to share our love for You in song and scripture. You are so wonderful, so marvelous, so good to each of us. We lift our voices in praise for your infinite and generous mercy and grace for us.

Even as we struggle with the aches and pains of aging, even as we find it harder to reach out to You; we have faith that you will continue to be with us in our souls, and in our memories.

Father we ask for healing and strength for those of us who are ill or struggling. We ask for comfort and safety for those of us who are simply waiting and resting here at Water’s Edge. We especially ask for wisdom, discerning, love and gentleness for those who care for the residents here in the nursing home, in the hospital and in the offices of the Medical campus. Bless their hands and hearts Father that they would hear your guidance as they work here each day. We ask for that silver Crown of Glory, to be ours as we seek your heavenly Kingdom. Fill us with wisdom, love, grace and mercy so that we can know holiness here on earth.

Thank you Father for your Holy Presence here at Water’s Edge today.

We pray through the Holy Name of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Chapter Eight, Done Running


Because I Could Not Stop For Death   Emily Dickenson

Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –

      It is autumn, October- cool and impending rain. Jewell wakes up after the break in at the Inn, to find Abby staring in her face waiting for her. Malin and Jake join her for breakfast in the dining room and then they leave. Jewell learns that Tom is working on a strange investigation. She realizes that her friends, the Widmers are worried about her taking pills. Ben brings a horse carriage and Jewell rides with Abby and Ben back to the farm, has a panic attack and is taken back to the Inn. She and Jake relax in the parlor and Peter shows up. They go out to the veranda and see an eagle over the lake.  Peter talks about the significance. They sit on the veranda in the cool evening as it gets dark and the lights come on. Peter shares his story about his life. Peter and Jewell discuss losing parents, then Jake and Peter talk about war. Finally talk turns to the story about the skeleton and Peter reveals what he knows.

What, Me Worry?


Peace

Did the news today make you feel over-worried and insecure? Are you struggling with fear about daily things in your life? Perhaps you should adjust your focus.

Normally we don’t worry about lack of gravity or about the solar system. Our planet is a tiny blue bubble of water and rock, compelled to swing around the sun in a grand waltz by an invisible pull that holds her and her seven sibling planets in orbit. A teeny-tiny deviation in those orbits would affect you and me in a huge way.

Think about your focus. We humans tend to only see things that are right here in our faces, like today’s weather report, politics, family issues, community affairs, or network media. But WebMD.com says that chronic worrying can affect your daily life so much that it may interfere with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and job performance. People who worry excessively can be so anxious that they seek relief in self-harming lifestyles including overeating, cigarette smoking, or using alcohol and drugs. Can you focus on the things you can control and allay your worries?

Write down a list of those troublesome issues. When you write worries down, it helps to visualize which ones are actually not in your control. Perhaps having someone review the list with you will relieve your fears. Cross off those fears that you can’t or won’t deal with. Focus on the issues that give you the most satisfaction to handle right now and cross them off. If you are worried about politics, write a letter to your representatives expressing your fears and opinions. Give your worry about the weather and the universe to God. Psalm 34:4 “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears”.

The J J Mysteries


 

In the spring of 1971, Jewell Johnson graduates from high school, and spends her summer at The Linger Inn, in Northern Wisconsin near Hayward. Her grandparents built up the lakeside bed and breakfast and their farm over many years–and now it hides many secrets. Jewell is the catalyst as the mystery in her family’s history unravels and the truth about her father’s early death is revealed. The first in the trilogy, “Let the Secrets Die” introduces Jewell and her family. “Done Running” will reveal the historical the warp and the weft in the fabric of her own life. “The Secret of San Pedro la Laguna” will reveal the facts of her father’s secret life in Guatemala as she collects the threads to understand him.

Andrea Marple Wittwer is an educator, longtime historian and pastor from Hayward, WI. She works for the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College.

SUNDAY MORNINGS, Picture by Theresa Kocha


I love Sunday mornings. There is a special aura in the rising sun and a nuance in the song of the birds.  I wake in confusion usually…I always struggle to figure out what day it is and what my schedule for the day is…and then I remember that it is another blessed Sunday. I will either preach or sit back and listen. I am filled with the beauty of His Word and feel transformed. I read His Word and converse with Him every day but I find that when another preacher is teaching and translating – it takes on a different glow. It isn’t about the sanctuary or the building- it is my attitude of feeling more, inviting more – yearning for more. In my praise and worship there is a sense of giving and servanthood in giving up myself to another.

Growing up, Sunday morning meant the CBS  Sunday morning program which I loved.  But as a kid, I rolled over and groaned on Sunday mornings when I realized there would be no school and most neighborhood kids would be unavailable because they were at Gramma’s house or at some church activity while I had to avoid the darkened living room where my father was watching football on two TV’s. There was no reason to go to town so we were stuck at home to entertain ourselves with games or in my case-immersion in a book in a corner.My Gramma lived thousands of miles away and didn’t cook.

When my five kids were growing up Sunday was a gardening day or extra time to catch up on laundry. Ron and I were usually busy with something on Sundays so church seemed out of the question. I would talk to God about a million things while I worked. He was always available, always ready to comment on my thoughts. On Saturday afternoon our kids went go to church with Leona and Fred (my in-laws), so I didn’t feel I was neglecting their spiritual growth. They went to Catechism on Wednesdays with Gramma and I would have time to clean up after supper and maybe write, work or study for a little while.

Somewhere in the middle of all the chaos of growing older, I discovered that I longed for Sunday morning to be more meaningful. I wanted to luxuriate in the Word. My pastor seemed to speak into so many of the thoughts I had during the week. He addressed my sorrows, my fears – my angst. When I thought I was going crazy from sickness and life strain, I would lean back and let those words remake me and guide me. Fortunately I had a pastor whose message was so loving and full of understanding. There was none of the condemnation I heard from other people. “Come, come to the water…” he’d say. We would sing songs like “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants after You.” Then, I was healed one Sunday morning. I actually felt the wound stop bleeding and the skin close. The pain was over and I was renewed.

Sunday morning is my solace and my prayer. Thankyou Father for resting with me here.

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