ISAIAH 61:1-4

ISAIAH 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to
Preach the good news to the poor. .
Bind up the brokenhearted,
Proclaim freedom for the captives,
Proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners,
Comfort all who mourn
Provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them
The oil of gladness for mourning
And a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Peace on Earth

"I'll be home for Christmas" by Josh Groban

Home for Christmas

While I was out today, I stopped at a local Italian grocery store chain where I've recently been purchasing a few things. This one was at a different location than my usual. It was so European in flavor, customers and product, that I kept thinking about the stores in Budapest.

I think my mind went to Budapest because I was watching customers who were obviously from widely varied parts of the world: Asia, Eastern Europe, the Mideast as well as the U.S. Families were shopping for Christmas food and looking for traditional ethnic things they were accustomed to. It reminded me of our week in Hungary, looking for breakfast food in the store when we could not read the name of the product. "Is this cheese, Cream cheese or butter?" we'd ask one another. Sometimes we chose well; sometimes we ate sour cream with our bread and jam!

The shoppers would read the ingredients aloud to one another, ask questions and either nod or shake their heads. Since the labels and the conversation were in Polish, Italian, Slavic or some other language I could not identify, I only guessed at the content of their conversation. But I recognize that search for something to remind one of home and traditions while living in a new land. Been there, done that. It's readable in the faces, the anxious pose of the body, the pitch of the voice.

And then there are those American young men and women who are away from home serving their country. I want to remember them too, remember that in their loneliness, discomfort and danger they are protecting me and the freedoms we enjoy.

God this year as we celebrate, help me to remember to be thankful. Protect those men and women who are serving us well in far away places, giving us the privilege of living here in relative luxury. Give comfort and peace to those who wander far from loved ones and home. Help them to find solace in this hectic time. Give us all a thankful heart. God bless us everyone!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Plastic Surgery Check Up

"All Much Better"

When she was three, M1 used to say "All much better now," if we'd kiss her ouchie. My nerves are "all much better." The Dr. pronounced everything normal. My symptoms were just side effects of the Femara. So...that yearly exam is over for the next...oh, 15 months or so. :) It was a bit funny though. He could not spot the reconstruction. Because the plastic surgeon did a bit of repair to the other "girl", the reconstructed one looks better than the other!! My plastic surgeon is obsessed with making a matching pair. Makes me laugh... I can recommend a really good plastic surgeon if anyone is in need of one!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Company's Coming!

As a small child, I remember the excitement those words would evoke: "Company's coming!" It also meant I had to clean my room. We had a small two-bedroom cottage in the country. When anyone came to visit, they slept in the bedroom that belonged to my sister and I. As the oldest, I was responsible to be sure the room was completely clean, including the closet, under the bed, and in that corner I loved to stash things to use "later." I was never very good at cleaning; my mother always had to help me.

It occurred to me today that that's exactly the message Mary received, so long ago. "
Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name, Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:30-33)

Which interpreted (PJ's Version) says, "Mary, you have company coming, very important company who will be very important now and in the future." Hmmm

Mary knew she wasn't prepared for this impressive guest to arrive, so she went to get counsel from her good friend and cousin, Elizabeth. Upon arrival, Elizabeth confirmed the angel's message and affirmed the value of Mary to the future of the Kingdom.

In response to Elizabeth's blessing, Mary responded with the very well-known marvelous Magnificat:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name. " (Luke 1:46-49)

PJ'S Version: I will give thanks to the Lord from the bottom of my heart, and be joyful because God has chosen to take me, a nobody, and give me this honor. Although in my community being with child and unwed is ordinarily a disgrace, now and forever, my name will be honored because God has chosen to do this great thing for me.

"His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts."
(Luke 1:50-51)

PJ's Version: God will extend forgiveness and mercy to people who love and serve him. He is a strong God who will scatter those who will not accept the Work of God, who will choose to make fun of me, choose to believe that I have brought disgrace on myself and my family and refuse to believe that this anointing (child) is from God. God will use his mighty strength against those who "imagine" that they are holier, and can speak for God Himself.

"He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty."
(Luke 1:52-53)

PJ's Version: God has ushered in a new paradigm in which ordinary people will accomplish His great work. God will fill hungry hearts even though they come from poor environments; he will make them part of His Kingdom. But those who believe they have it all and are self-sufficient, he will send away.

"He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers."
(Luke 1:54-55)

PJ's Version: God has remembered to extend mercy to the Jewish people and to Israel. He will continue to do so according to His promises, even to those spiritual descendants, the church, who will later receive the promise.

And Mary stayed with her cousin, Elizabeth, for three months. Together, they prepared to receive the promises of God: John the Baptist and Jesus. They cleaned house and prepared for Company.

God as Christmas approaches, I recognize that I need to clean house. And I'm not very good at this cleaning either. There are attitudes, behaviors and relationships that I need to work on, to "clean up," but I need your help. We're celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ our Savior who lives in my heart, and I want to embrace this Season with the idea that I must prepare for that very important personage. I recognize that I am powerless to "self-improve", I need your grace and mercy. With David, I pray:

"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
(Psalm 51:7-12)

May you have a Blessed Christmas!
Pastor Phylis

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stopping by the Park on Rainy Day

A Rainy Winter Day

We had an ice storm starting about midnight. The roads were a sheet of ice until after 9 a.m., so school was canceled. About 10 a.m. things were fairly passable, but the weather is bleary: gray, dreary and leaving me blue. So I decided to start looking for beauty as I drove. I shot the photos above, but it didn't help much. Pictures don't do justice to that tangible feeling of a gray curtain descending on everything one can see. Vision is dim; the light is dim. It feels like driving through a damp gossamer world of gray veils.

So I decided to go to my favorite spot in Elgin. Anytime I'm feeling blue, the beauty there cheers me us. So camera in hand, I stopped by a park on a rainy winter day.

Stopping by the Park on a Rainy Day

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Driving To Work On a Snowy Morn
December 5, 2007

Enjoying God's handiwork
Pastor Phylis