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.

History’s Little Mysteries

One of the things I love about studying history is the sense of how interpretations are overlapped by time. So often what we think is “truth” is opinion, even when we are looking at “facts”.

In my Jewell Johnson Mysteries I hope to recreate the past and then several possible interpretations. In book one, “Let the Secrets Die”, I introduce the central character, Jewell Johnson’s father. In Epitaph, Sigurd Johnson meets his untimely end. Do we know why? Maybe.

You meet Sven, Mary and Jewell Johnson who each will play a big part in his life. Sven and his brother Nels come to Northern Wisconsin from Sweden and the things they see are real, from Minneapolis’s Depot to Lake Makoons. By the way, Makoons is the Ojibwe word for ‘Little Bear’. When I was a girl swimming at Round Lake there was a big old resort that sat on the side of Hinton Bay. I used to swim out into the lake and stare at that big ol’ place. It is no secret that Anthony Judson Hayward and Philetus Sawyer were very important to the past in Hayward. The man who did most to begin the town is Robert Laird McCormick and there is not a street or a monument of any kind left to remember him…why? That remains history’s mystery.

I studied local history, genealogy, anthropology and archaeology all of my life, digging into local history in towns and villages all over America. I love the little inside stories and I will sit and listen for hours when elders tell their personal history. Have you ever seen a swarthy guy and wonder why he is so angry looking? I did-and I would make up stories about him in my mind. What about teachers, waitresses, clerks, bank tellers, bag-ladies and everyday people you meet and chat with? I am always interested in their stories no matter how big or small. Gangsters, lumberjacks, a sheriff or Tribal Elders are all fascinating to me. Those collected stories have become part of Jewell Johnson’s story.

Jewell’s next adventure again begins with a chapter called “Epitaph” and more details about how Sigurd died. In “Done Running” and book three, “The Secrets of San Pedro La Laguna” the reader will uncover deeper and deeper levels of the peculiar secrets of Sigurd Johnson and how events led inevitably to his death.



Büyük Menderes and Why I Call My Blog Andi’s Meanderings

Büyük Menderes means Meander(Μαίανδρος) which is the longest river in western Turkey, well known -already in Antiquity- for its fluvial deposits.

So, what is a fluvial deposit and why would I name my blog after a long river on the other side of the world?

Good question.  A fluvial deposit is

Meander was a Greek river god described in Hesiod’s “Theogony”. When I was a kid I read alot about gods and goddesses from Greek, Roman and Norse mythology.  They were just stories about long dead beings in my mind.  I never considered them as real or a part of any spiritual world. My name is Andrea and my father would call me “andereea”. I signed my letters Me, Andi and that became over time Meandrea.  It made my parents smile. Besides, I meander quite a bit. So there you are: I tend to wander physically and spiritually and I leave mental deposits wherever I go. hmmmm.

Financial Peace

This is definitely not a cozy house.

I was just wandering around at the internet and thinking about finances…mine are just a  tad strained. I have a book called “How to Gain Control of Your Finances” by  Stan Toler and it made me stop and think very hard. It is a biblical look at  how we can control our desires and let God handle our needs. I just want to say  that the God of the Universe and Father of humanity is doing a far better job  than Andi Wittwer.

Look at your real  needs: food, water, shelter, clothing, warmth. Prioritize them: that’s pretty simple. You need to figure out how to use your tools both physical and mental to acquire and maintain your basic needs.

How you try to  deal with those needs? We all have built up around us a protective mental shield about how much money we need to have ‘stuff’ around us. Will you die if you don’t have an IPad? Please don’t answer yes. As I look around me I see a cozy house. I have clothing, coats and shoes. In the cabinets I have food. All this other ‘stuff’ around me is just to keep me busy and not thinking.

The writer of Ecclesiastes 3 says “12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.”  We can busy ourselves in this life with all the stuff. Some people gather and store it like squirrels as if it had integral meaning and thinking it can satisfy them. When they die, someone cleans it out and throws it away. It doesn’t bring any comfort at the moment of death. Consider the next line, ”14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.”

So often folks brush off the eternal aspect of life, the spiritual life. Don’t do that. Life is only temporary. Eternity with the Lord is such a marvelous gift and I think we should pursue it.

Is Your Umbrella Insideout?


Do You Feel Winter In Your Soul?
Can you hear the wind blowing through the cracks around the door and see the clouds outside the window scudding across the sky? Winter is coming, that’s for sure. Sometimes I kind of dread winter, how about you? The days are so short and dark and it’s hard to be warm. Snow is certain to fall soon and spring seems far away.

There are times in our lives when it feels like winter has overcome us. There is a pervasive cold somewhere deep down inside your soul. Perhaps you have been struggling with winter in your life.  Maybe someone taken away from you too young or just too early. Perhaps it is your health that troubles you, perhaps it causes you to worry and grieve. Maybe it is a lost job or home. Joyce Meyer recently wrote: “Worry is like a rocking chair. It is always in motion, but not going anywhere.”

That is so true. Often we really need to find a way to refocus our vision on something a little further away but it seems just too hard to do that. Be determined; hunker down and put your shoulder against that problem. Try to think about it in a whole new way and give it a good nudge to see if you can move it. Ask the Lord to give you a hand. Scripture says “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13. Trust in the Lord and give it everything you have, there is nothing in this life that He cannot handle. Don’t hold back. Have faith, pray, place your life in His hands and watch for the answer patiently. He’s listening!


Tangled Trees

July storm damage near Danbury

Sometimes our lives begin to look like the woods after a storm…the trees are bent over and broken like toothpicks. It is hard to move around in this tangled mess. I remember hunting in the Big Slash near Seeley, WI.  I couldn’t get through the brush unless I straddled the saplings and pushed forward with all my might. Sometimes I had to tiptoe along a downed log clutching my rifle tight.  In those days I was so skinny that I felt like my rifle weighed as much as I did! In fact, if I stumbled I didn’t even fall, the thick brush held me upright. I had to check my compass every few steps to finish the drive at the right place.

Now when I go back those saplings are tall trees waving gently in the wind. The brush is gone and deer paths wind through the shady grassy hillsides. Have faith, after the storms of life, there will be shady paths to walk again.  The breeze will cool you and the sun will warm your face. Chin up; struggle through the messy times knowing that better times are coming.

Velvet Elvis: Are you rich in Christ?

How rich are you? Is money everything? Isn’t it easy to say that Christians are rich in the Holy Spirit and money doesn’t mean anything to us? Flows right off your lips doesn’t it? Last week one of my friends asked me what we are going to do now that I don’t work at the Co-op. I said we would get by; we live pretty close to the bone anyhow and now we will just tighten up the old budget. She gave me the look that said “big talk, don’t believe you…” Well, it is true. We have seen poverty in its many forms. Things are not important if you have shelter, clothing, food and family…oh, yeah and one more thing. What would that be? Jesus is the foundation of all riches in this life. Raise your hand if you agree.

I was just perusing the internet and ran across an older article about Rob Bell, the former Pastor of Mars Church and more recently author of a book called “Love Wins”. At age 34, Rob Bell took his message national in 2005 with “Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith,” as his first book. The title is inspired by the actual black velvet painting of Elvis he has tucked away in his basement. He said that whoever “painted” that picture was creating a work of art for a time and a place but that time and place have now passed. Bell says Christianity is a lot like that painting: it is not static and artists paint a new one for each new generation.

So Rob Bell is equating the Christian faith with what most of us would consider a cheap and worthless painting? His simile is that perhaps old fashioned faith it had value in its time period but then loses value to a new generation. Is Bell rich? Mr. Bell, I says to myself, I says, “Mr. Bell, you don’t believe in the Bible. You have built your church on shifting sands; you and it are going to collapse under your own weight.”

In another post I found he wanders back to the Bible and get philosophical about who Jesus is when Bell says, “For many people the message of Jesus was presented as an individual message of salvation for their own  individual sin: “Jesus died for you.” I affirm that wholeheartedly, but in the scriptures, its scope goes in the opposite direction. It begins with the Jesus who dies on the cross and rises from the dead. But as the New Testament  progresses,  you have writers saying that “by his shed blood he is reconciling everything in heaven and on earth.” Peter says in Acts, “He will return to restore everything.” So it is a giant thing that God is doing here and not just the forgiveness of individuals. It is the reconciliation of all things. It is the putting back together of the whole universe how God originally intended it to be. One way to look at it is that the message is an invitation into God’s giant, global universal purposes that “I” actually get to be a part of.””

Somehow I feel like when Bell said this he lost the main theme of the New Testament and I think he is lost out there somewhere.
Colossians 1:6-12 is talking to individuals and to each of us personally; Paul was speaking to the individual Christians of Colossa. Paul is writing this due to an assault on the believers in Colossa. Many different heretical teachings were being thrust upon this new church and they were confused about the identity of Jesus the Christ. Paul exhorts them to return to their roots, remembering the joy of knowing Christ because He first knew them, not just as an amorphous group but one on one, as individuals.

I found a later post on where Bell said; “I don’t follow Jesus because I think Christianity is the best religion. I follow Jesus because he leads me into ultimate reality. He teaches me to live in tune with how reality is. When Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” he was saying that his way, his words, his life is our connection to how things truly are at the deepest levels of existence. For Jesus then, the point of religion is to help us connect with ultimate reality, God. I love the way Paul puts it in the book of Colossians: These religious acts and rituals are shadows of the reality. “The reality…is found in Christ.””

I would not dispute his reasoning here. In Colossians 2:5 Paul says “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. 6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

So I was thinking about Bell’s revelation that reality is found in Christ. Whoa! Surprise! He talks about religious acts and rituals and that they are shadows of the reality of Christ. My heart tells me that communion is not an empty religious act or ritual. As we take communion today go ahead and ask Jesus if His sacrifice is worth remembering now and then. I’ll have to read his book to see if baptism is an empty ritual, perhaps marriages and funerals are archaic too. Bell is the son of a Federal Judge, a water skiing instructor and rock band member before he went to Fuller Seminary in California. He said that he didn’t do so well in classes for preaching because he tried different methods to get the message out. No disrespect intended but his credentials are a little thin. Of course Rev. Billy Graham was a farm boy with little to commend him when he started preaching Christ crucified and about how his faith was grounded and anchored in the Bible.

Bell also more recently wrote “Love Wins” and quit his pastoring position at Mars church to reach a wider audience with his love
message. Mr. Bell says that one of the most controversial issues of faith is the afterlife. He asks if a loving God send people to eternal torment forever. Bell says he is putting hell on trial-he says that eternal life doesn’t start when we die. His book asks if Gandhi is in hell because he wasn’t Christian, or whether only those who accept Jesus can go to heaven. That takes you back to your childhood doesn’t it; wasn’t that a kind of question you asked of your parents?

Well, what do you think, is Gandhi in hell? Have you considered it? Mahatma Gandhi once said: “A man who was completely
innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”
Who is he talking about? Jesus Christ. Do you think he understands the man Jesus? There remains doubt about if he knows Christ as Savior…and I would dare to say only God knows the answer to that.

Ghandi also said : “Thus if I could not accept Christianity either as a perfect, or the greatest religion, neither was I then convinced of Hinduism being such. Hindu defects were pressingly visible to me. If untouchability could be a part of Hinduism, it could but be a rotten part or an excrescence. I could not understand the raison d’être of a multitude of sects and castes. What was the meaning of saying that the Vedas were the inspired Word of God? If they were inspired, why not also the Bible and the Koran? As Christian friends were endeavouring to convert me, so were Muslim friends.” Christian Universalism is the belief that God is all Sovereign, loving, powerful, wise, just, and ultimately rules over everything. It includes the belief that salvation is only by faith in God and was finalized by Jesus Christ “who gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6). The definition of Christian Universalism includes the belief that God “will have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Some folks have taken the step to believe that all religions are the same and equal. No religious group wants to believe that God might have communicated to some other group and not to them personally. That would be letting go. Jesus the Christ tells us to let go and hang on to Him. The Bible tells us throughout the written history of mankind that God was represented here on earth by one Christ who was born, killed, rose and sits on the right hand of God the Father. I have faith that this is right.

In his book (which I will not read) Rob Bell is apparently saying that Jesus is right, Buddha is right, Brahma is right, Confucius was right, Muhammad was right and Lord Krishna is right. How about you? What do you think? Who do you think is right? Do you choose Jesus Christ? Mr. Bell’s supporters says he is a poet and artist with a unique way of communicating. I find myself very uncomfortable with his offering theological questions and then being unable to make cogent intelligent responses beyond tweets and colorful big stage productions.

Consider Colossians 2:3, “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

In Philemon 6: “That the fellowship of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.”

Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Can you hear the voice of God calling out to us not to listen to the voices that draw us away from Jesus the Christ? Rob Bell and his
followers are not Satan but they are clearly misled into believing that Jesus Christ does not make a difference and have a presence in our daily existence. Have you experienced Jesus the Christ? I believe that folks like Bell have fixed their eyes on fallen angels, not on the Son of God. Do not believe for a minute that He is not here with us right now, almost visible because of our faith. This former hardware store clerk will stand nose to nose with the former water ski instructor and say, “I don’t think so

A collector who spent $4 at a Pennsylvania flea market in 1991 for a dismal painting because he liked the frame found himself the
possessor of a first printing of the Declaration of Independence. It is expected to bring $800,000 to $1 million at auction. A man found an interesting picture last year in a Nashville thrift store and paid $2.48 for it. The 1823 copy of the Declaration of Independence sold at auction for $477,650. That describes some Christians. They seem to think that Jesus is hanging around, but
they just don’t realize what He’s worth. They don’t realize the fortune that they have in Jesus Christ. My dear friends, let’s not forget the supreme treasure we have that is Christ!

Reading: John 12:31-32 “31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

The Blessing of Loss, Sermon September 2010

This is a sermon I gave last year, abbreviated a little for space. We were still recovering emotionally from Ara’s accident and I was feeling very reflective about losses and how they affect your life.

I have been reading JoAnn Lyon’s book, the Ultimate Blessing, in her chapter about the blessing of loss. Last week I talked about the blessing of holiness, what it is, why we need it and how we can find it in the chaos of this world. God calls us to be holy and expects us to be holy but we can’t get there without loss. Ecclesiastes reminds us that we are born to die, that is our lot in life. How can we face our mortality without a sense of sorrow or fear? Yes, the reality is that all things will end; we may lose our jobs, our spouses, our friends, our favorite hunting dog. You might miss the kids when they go off to school for the day or for a semester. Your best friend, your confidant, may move to another town and you experience a sense of grief or sorrow. The stock market may crash and you might lose a million bucks. How can you face the losses in this life? In 2005 in some of my darkest hours I found this poem by Elizabeth Bishop, called: “One Art”

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

As you grow older you lose your memory, not the one with the kids laughing and the best birthday party you ever had, but the shorter memories like where you were just going, what was on your short shopping list and that last thought you had that was so good. But the loss is not terrible, just irritating. Sometimes I wish I could forget those events that dig down deep and hurt so badly but they seem to be stuck in my soul. They are terrible and painful but I have learned and important lesson on how to cope with them. I have learned the hard way to lay everything down as an offering to the Lord, to depend on Jesus and let the Holy Spirit teach me daily how to deal with my life.

When we are faced with loss, no matter what kind of loss, we have to make choices. We have to choose first of all, how we are going to deal with the loneliness, fear, anger, grief and gnawing pain of loss. Some folks may choose to make it into a public issue, a drama like Shakespeare. Young people can empathize with Romeo and Juliet, the drama of lost young love and death.  The loss here was to the families who lost their children and who had to learn a new sense of right and wrong. The young couple wouldn’t come back, they have gone on, but the parents have to continue to get up and face the day for years to come.

In our personal lives, how can we develop a good attitude toward pain and suffering?  By being in a right relationship with God and most of all, choosing his offer of comfort over our desire for drama. There are promises of help for God’s people in times of suffering

Psalms 46:1-3  1 God is our refuge and strength,  an ever-present help in trouble.  2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,  3though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

Consider the emotions Jesus went through in Matthew 26:39: “39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Could any of us say that we have suffered as Jesus suffered?  But Jesus showed us that we must let God rule in our hearts and in our lives. Accept God’s kingship in your life and accept His guidance. Jesus was fully obedient to His Father, laying down His life as He was called to do. Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” We need to focus on a daily life that is as pure as we are able in this distorted and evil world. 

Listen to Lamentations 3:19-26   19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly  for the salvation of the LORD.

We trust in Him who is our Savior, He who sacrificed so much for us. We try to emulate Him in our lives. “Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Said Mark Twain.  Our lives may not seem so clearly laid out and easy to respond to the call from God, the issues can be confusing and hard to see.   That’s why we need friendships and a
community to help us. In community we also need to remember that others may also be experiencing a sense of loss. Friends and counselors can help us sort out issues to make them easier to handle. In Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Fear not, He says in  Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Healing after any loss takes time. Losing financial security, a home, a family member, or developing a serious illness such as
cancer all require changes and loses. 1 Peter 5:7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Try to relax into the fear and let time heal some of the pain. The following prayer might provide you with a way to ask God to bless and heal those grieving from any loss, that they may find wholeness in the midst of their pain: “God, You wept as Lazarus was laid into the tomb, yet You also gave him new life. Grant us new life, too, as we journey through losses like a cancer diagnosis or loss of spouse. Hold our hand no matter how rocky the path, and remind us, no matter how badly we feel, remind us that we are Your beloved children, with whom You are well pleased. Heal me, Lord if you will, in body, mind, and spirit, and make me whole again in You. Amen.”

Grief takes time and energy as an individual heals from a loss. With prayer, you can invite God on the journey through grief to wholeness and rely on God’s power and presence to heal, guard, and bless all who mourn. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 a chapter
called: The God of All Comfort 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

Grieving a loss takes time, but there may be joys along the way, such as a remission of cancer, a new relationship, and new healing within a grieving family. The following prayer thanks God for new life in the midst of grief.  Grieving the loss of a loved one, job, or period in one’s life is normal. The following prayers —prayer for grieving a death, blessing for healing from loss, prayer for tears, and thanksgiving for new life — invite God into your grieving process.

      In this case it is also important to know that we are not victims, and that maybe we cannot avoid feeling pain due to our loss, but that suffering is optional. We choose to suffer. We need to recognize our part in the loss and then we can give our loss, worry, or struggle to God. We can lay it on His altar, to repent and ask for His guidance. We need to know that sometimes people appear in or leave from our lives and it gives us new opportunities. These times can be a gift, a blessing. They help us recognize the things we need to change and work on in ourselves.  If we decide to accept 100 percent of the responsibility and abstain from reacting or blaming, we can really find ourselves and discover how truly powerful we are. Sometimes losses help us find our real inner core, the strength that God gave us to rely on. Then we realize we can change our lives without depending on anything or anybody outside of ourselves.

The Native Americans realized at some point that the power of the invading force of Europeans was more than they could resist. Although some didn’t grasp the huge advancing body of people, others realized that their way of life was coming to an end and just gave up. The pain and sorrow was too much, they were walking around dead like sleep walkers.  Others suffered the loss of their culture by drinking alcohol to drown out the pain. Some gave up their lives in quick suicide and despair. Others turned to God and found solace in submission. I found this Native American prayer called:


“And now, Grandfather, I ask you to bless the White Man. Heneeds your Wisdom, your guidance. You see, for so long, he has tried to destroy my people, and only feels comfortable when given power. Bless them, show them the peace we understand, teach them humility. For I fear they will someday destroy themselves and their children, As they have done so Mother Earth. I plead, I cry. After all, They are my Brothers.”

And then I found this Pueblo Indian Blessing:

“Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth. Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself. Hold
on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here. Hold on to life even when it is easier letting go. Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.”

Yes, even loss can be a blessing sometimes. You don’t learn much from basking in the easy days but you learn much about yourself and others when the tough times force you to think. Remember to relax, take a deep breath and stand straight and tall. Let God direct you on your path to happiness and you will find joy lurking there. Amen.

Dreams About Chocolate

I am happy to say that I made it through the week without incident. My goal was to maintain my dignity and Christian values each day. I was able to explain without rancor that my job position was terminated. Angry customers and friends were pacified and life moves on. “Perhaps this is my reward for faithfully not eating chocolate”, I thought. It has been a year since I vowed obedience and  perhaps now I am being released to do God’s work in the world. This is my chance to be His hands and feet! Rock on! I looked up and said ‘thankyou Jesus!’ for his guidance and sustenance. But you know, Jesus is not just my personal support system, someone I call out to in times of trouble…He is Lord and Savior, King of Kings, Lord of Lords. He is not my buddy, my pal. He is so much more.

   In his first letter to the Colossian church, Paul iterates and reiterates that Jesus is is Lord and that He called us to faith and repentance like the prophets of old. Jesus is the center of our lives, as God and Son of God. This relationship is inexplicable to most, difficult to share for the rest of us. Can I say to you that Jesus cannot be extricated from my life?  How about you? Let’s explore Colossians 1:16-23. There are churches that have done research and used focus groups to study what people want to hear and see in church. What they got back has made some denominations want to ‘deemphasize Jesus Christ’.  They have begun to believe that the name of Jesus Christ excludes people. They believe that because you believe in Jesus you are somehow judging others about what they believe…and in some sense Christ believers are because we are saying what we believe is the truth.  Others may quote Hindu and Zen, mingling in a few verses from the Bible and lines from Willie Nelson songs and say that they are enabling people to discover God themselves, maybe through Jesus, maybe through Buddha or  another natural universal spirit.  As Christians we invoke the name of Jesus the Christ as we have for thousands of years.

What about you? What do you think about this minimalist Christology? This means that pastors and leaders in the evangelical church community are not calling people to faith, repentance and submission to the supremacy of Christ.  You might hear that Jesus wants you to have a happy marriage, a stress free job or cheerful life. And while Jesus will certainly help us with those things when we accept His Lordship in our lives, I believe we need to step away from “What Jesus can do for me” and get much closer to “Am I living in the light of His lordship?  You can’t just add a little Jesus to our lives like creamer in your coffee or a fuel additive in your gas tank. We need to refocus and accept Him into a full partnership into our lives.

In Colossians we are hearing the false teachings that showed up in the church that were minimalizing Jesus as Christ.  People thought He was important but not central.  They gave Him a place at the table and in their lives but didn’t recognize that He demands and deserves the head of the table. Paul talks about three major misconceptions in Colossians 1. He says that  the false teachers taught that God did not create the world because in their view matter was evil and God cannot create evil. They believed that matter was evil, they argued that God would not have come to earth as a human in bodily form. They did not believe that Christ was the unique Son of God but rather one of many intermediaries between God and people. And Paul refutes these in verses 15-17.  Jesus is paramount over everything He has created and He is preeminent over all that he has redeemed in verses 18-23.  He is Lord of everything He has made and He is Lord over everyone He has saved.

Colossians 1: The Supremacy of the Son of God  15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”

     Verses 15 through 23 are so important in defining for us who Jesus Christ is and His relation to us. He is God, and Paul doesn’t mince any words or skirt around the subject. Jesus is “the image of the invisible God,” Yesterday I did a wedding and the groom slipped a lovely diamond band around Ariana’s ring finger. That wedding ring represents that they are a couple, it is a constant reminder of the love that brought them together.  When you see an American flag there is a reaction quickly that might be emotional. That burned and tattered flag flying over the location of the former trade towers in New York evokes even a deeper reaction. But as powerful as these images are, they are only representations of the reality.  The ring doesn’t make Alan and Ariana married, the ring is a symbol of that marriage. If Ariana loses her band she will still be married. The American flag can be ripped, shot at, torn to shreds or burned but it still represents a country that honors freedom. The flag is a powerful symbol but it only represents what our country is all about.

This is the distinction. Jesus doesn’t just represent God.  He is not a just a symbol of God. The truth is that He is God himself.  That is what we believe. The word “image” in Greek is “eikon” and it refers to “likeness or replica”.  In that culture the “image” was a die or stamp that was able to make exact reproductions.  Passports in Paul’s day ad a section called “eikon” or distinguishing marks that said something about the person that set him apart from everyone else.  Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. He is the precise copy because He is God Himself: He both is the manifestation and the representation or image of God in the world.

In John 14:9, Jesus says about himself that “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” In another passage Hebrews 1:3 says “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.” 2 Corinthians refers to Christ as “the image of God”. Jesus is the First born over all creation. Some evangelical groups teach that Jesus was a created being and therefore not God. We believe that Jesus as first born ranks above everything else and was the true Son of God. Jesus was, always, and eternal. Paul also taught that all the thrones, dominions, principalities and powers on heaven and earth of the visible and invisible world are under the authority of Christ because he created them. He says that Jesus has no rival either; neither the angels, the seraphim or cherubim or even Satan himself are greater. Jesus is Lord over all. Jesus is the creator of all things. Jesus is the sovereign creator, not created. And as the creator all creation should glorify Him.  Jesus is protecting us from chaos, not just a generalized support. In verse 17 you see that He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Jesus was, is and
always will be. John 8 says “Before Abraham was born, I am.” Jesus is the glue of all creation, everything is held together with His powerful Word. If He were to leave us on our own, everything would dissolve into disorder.

My experience this week has shown me again that God answers prayers to His faithful and that we don’t have to flip out and get nuts when things seem to spin out of control, because they are not out of His control. Through His Word, Jesus holds everything from spinning out of control. There are no crises in heaven, Jesus upholds everything by the power of his Word.

I tossed and turned the first night after I was told my job was done at the Hardware Store. I was more excited than hurt or angry.  After I looked over my budget and tightened up a few bootstraps, I realized that Ron and I have always lived pretty simply and so letting go of a few luxuries like Friday night fish fry or having friends over on Sundays to eat with the family was not a big issue.

We will turn the lights off earlier, hang clothes on the line and eat more venison and rice. A big worry will be health insurance but alot of people don’t have insurance. We will park one car and ride together; my little pickup is not good on the winter roads anyway. God has been talking to me about not buying anything for a few months and my accountant Randy told me to quit donating money last spring.

I am excited because I have wanted to spend more time pastoring for several years.  I loved being at the hospital’s nursing home and preaching, now maybe I will have more time.  I want to visit the sick, comfort the dying and encourage the discouraged. I pray that God will release me long enough that I can serve Him with all of my heart and soul.

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