Fast away this old month passes – New one enters, cold and blue. Never have I felt such distance Separating me from lovely you.
My arms long to hold your heartstrings; My soul aches to feel your touch. Never did I think I’d feel so lonely- Never have I missed you so much.
I miss my church friends in the pew; I miss singing our hymns with you. I long to gather at your table And sip a glass of wine or two.
I miss the chance of volunteering Where I can go and serve with glee. I miss the sound of great crowd cheering. I pray you’ll soon be here with me.
Fast away this old month passes – No one knows where the end will be Of this dark and deadly outbreak. Won’t you pray for a cure with me?
Looking on the Brighter Side
Fast away this old month passes I’m reminded of how much I love Being safe and feeling healthy, Hearing coos from nesting doves.
I have much for which to thank God – And as April nudges through my door, May my heart be ever grateful For my safety and for so much more.
May I thank God daily for his watch Over friends and family – oh so dear. May I remember to show gratitude For all the blessings I have here.
Keep my eyes on all the wonders God has strewn across my path. Food to eat, a loving family, and Friends with texts that make me laugh.
Fast away this old month passes. I won’t let the new be blue. I’ll keep looking for God’s miracles And send His love daily to you.
My Thanks and Condolences
Thank you, dear blogging friends, for visiting JanBeek. You represent about 80 countries, my WordPress stats have told me. Some of you have lost loved ones during this pandemic… or you know people who have. 11,600 deaths in Italy alone?? It is unfathomable!! The USA’s latest toll is 2,900, according to today’s news… with no end in sight. No place, no person on our planet is immune!
My Heart Breaks
My heart breaks for all who suffer, who have lost loved ones, whose family and friends have tested positive, who are feeling the loneliness and the vulnerability I wrote about in the beginning of this blog. It is not a situation we should make light of! It is deadly and it is on the rise. Bee Well, my friends. Bee safe!
Let’s pray together: “Dear Lord, please make this COVID-19 go FAST AWAY!!“ Amen.
O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee; I give Thee back the life I owe, That in Thine ocean depths its flow May richer fuller be.
O joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain That morn shall tearless be.
Today’s Worship Service
In the absence of a worship service in our church today because of COVID-19 and the need for social-distancing, our worship service was e-mailed to us. The hymns I include in this blog were chosen by our pastor Steve and our music director, Fran McNeill, and then e-mailed to us from our Madison Valley Presbyterian Church here in Ennis, Montana today.
The following sermon by Pastor Steve Hundley was printed for us to “hear” in the privacy of our homes. It is powerful!
Please take your precious time now and hear it with me:
TRUSTING GOD IN THIS DARK TIME
Read: Psalm 130
Read: Romans 8
Some years ago, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book entitled, “WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.” He wrote this book in response to the death of his 14-year-old son, Aaron, from a rare disease called “Progeria” which causes the body to age and die prematurely.
In his bestselling book, Rabbi Kushner concluded that we must decide between a God who is infinitely powerful, but not loving enough to prevent such tragedies as the suffering and death of his 14-year-old son, or, a God who is all loving but not all-powerful. “You can’t have it both ways,” he says, “we must choose: all-powerful or all-loving.”
Yet as Christians, we believe that:
Evil exists in this world, causing bad things to happen to good people, so evident in these past weeks of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Secondly, we believe that our God is all-powerful; and
Thirdly, we believe that our God is a loving God.
Now, I admit that our dilemma is that we can reconcile any two of the above philosophically, but not all three. For example: If evil exists in the world, how can a loving God be all-powerful? Or, if God is all loving and all-powerful how can evil possibly exist?
Still, the Bible does not deal with human, philosophical questions, as much we would prefer it be so. Instead, the Bible deals with divine faith questions. So, even if we cannot know philosophically how evil can exist in light of God who is all-powerful and all-loving, what we “can” know from scripture is that “no matter what evils or tragedies we face in life, our God will not desert us.” And, knowing that is enough.
Yes, it is enough for most of us—most of the time. But, in moments like this, that alone may not be enough. When our entire world is paralyzed by this current pandemic, it is difficult in this dark hour not to cry out to God: “WHY, OH WHY, GOD?” I don’t mean to make you feel guilty, for It is only human to want to know “WHY?”
I don’t know about you, but I find myself cringing every time I hear someone in the media refer to this COVID 19 pandemic as “AN ACT OF GOD.” In all fairness, I realize it is an accepted way for referring to any such natural disaster. Still, I am uncomfortable attributing such death and tribulation to the will of God. As someone said: “If God is light,” according to Holy Scripture, “then why should we impart darkness to God?”
Visiting a young couple who stopped coming to church after their only child died of cancer, their pastor pleaded: “You can’t stop believing in God because of what has happened, can you?” “Oh, I still believe in God,” said the grieving father, “I don’t come to church anymore because I hate God!”
It is for people much like that father that I have chosen to venture further out on the “thin ice” of what is called “the Theodicy Problem”, that is: “Why do bad things happen to good and innocent people?”
So, I humbly dare to venture forward on behalf of all around this world who have suffered or lost loved ones in the midst of this unprecedented natural disaster that has and will continue to cost so many lives.
Let me begin by saying that the Bible, as I understand it, speaks of our all-powerful God who does not completely control everything in our fallen creation because of the limitations God has placed on God’s self in order to allow us freedom of faith. Without freedom, there could be no faith. Faith, by its very definition, requires us the freedom to love and believe in God, or to reject belief and love for God. God does not desire us to be puppets, manipulated into having to believe in or love God. Therefore, our God has granted us, and creation itself, freedom by relinquishing total control over our lives and the world.
The Bible speaks of Satan—and other dark forces at work in this world. And, our own human experiences confirm that there is a dynamic evil force that exercises a powerful presence in our world contrary to the will of God.
“Yet, God in Christ,” writes Paul to the Roman Church, “broke the power of these dark forces on the cross,” which means that we are dealing now with mortally wounded, though still very dangerous “principalities” and “dark powers.” Bad things continue to befall good people because these dark forces are still alive, powerful, and enemies of all that is good in this world.
As Christians, in this Easter Season, we have hope and assurance that through Christ and His resurrection, God’s eventual victory over the evil in our world is a foregone conclusion. But, until that time “when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord,” our God will do all that can be done to drive back these dark forces and utterly destroy them, as we continually pray and serve Him until God’s Kingdom comes on earth as it is in Heaven.
Until that time, says Paul in Romans 8:19-23:
Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
In his book: “Christ and Time”, Oscar Cullmann uses the analogy of WWII to illustrate our and creation’s struggle against the powers of darkness. He makes a clear distinction between two definitive days of the war: D-Day and V-Day. D-Day was the day Allied Forces landed in Normandy and established a beachhead. The strategizing generals on both sides recognized that the outcome of war was decided on that fateful day, June 1944.
They understood that if the enemy had driven the Allies back into the sea, the Nazis would have won the war. However, the Allied Armies prevailed in Normandy and sealed the doom of the evil Nazi regime. Still, in spite of the triumph of D-Day, the Allies had not yet totally subdued the enemy. Between D-Day and V-Day (Victory Day), there would be many months of suffering, death, and struggle. There would be horrendous battles as the Allied Army, little by little, pushed back the Nazi forces. Still, the ensuring battles would culminate in “Victory Day,” which marked the complete surrender of the enemy and the total liberation of Europe.
So you see, the cross and resurrection of Jesus were our D-Day. God in Jesus won the decisive battle over evil and death in this world. However, God and His children, as well as nature itself, continue to face struggles while driving back the forces of darkness whose power has been broken. Still, dark forces are alive in the world and free to raise havoc. God’s V-Day is not yet here! However, we can be confident in God’s triumph over evil and death (and COVID 19), because we know how it will end.
Or, as Paul says:
Who (or what) shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril, or sword (or this COVID 19 pandemic)? As it is written, “For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither, death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 35-39)
(Written by Rev. Steve Hundley and printed in our worship e-mail)
“In midst of life, O Lord, our lives have been interrupted by death: the death of our normal routine, the death of worship as we have always done it, the death of life as we have known it, the death of our personal plans, the death of innocence, the death of institutions, the death of promises, the death of those we love, the death that works in our own bodies.
In spite of our broken dreams we give You thanks for the gospel of Jesus Christ, whose message is not death but life: the life of the Spirit, the life of dreams, the life of faith, the life of love, the life of justice; life for the small people of the world, life for the meek, life for the broken and rejected, life for the diseased and afflicted, life for our loved ones, and life for us.
Lord, we pray for those who need hope, healing, and grace. We hold up before you those who are alone and isolated, those who are sick, and those who are scared of what the future holds for them. Lord, help us to discover new ways of living: living for Christ, living for those around us, living for this frightened world, living for Your Kingdom. Let the Christ of the empty tomb make empty tombs of all our disappointments and fears. Come and reign over us, now and in the days ahead and forever and ever. Amen”
Verse One: God be with you till we meet again; By His counsels guide, uphold you, With His sheep securely fold you; God be with you till we meet again.
Chorus: Till we meet, till we meet; till we meet at Jesus’ feet; Till we meet, till we meet, God be with you till we meet again.
Verse Two: God be with you till we meet again; ‘Neath His wings protect and guide you, Daily manna still provide you. God be with you till we meet again.
Verse Three: God be with you till we meet again; When life’s perils thick confound you, Put His arms unfailingaround you; God be with you till we meet again.
Verse Four: God be with you till we meet again; Keep love’s banner floating o’er you, Smite death’s threatening wave before you; God be with you till we meet again.
(Back to chorus)
Spread Love and Hope
I pray you found love and hope in these songs, these words, and these prayers.
If you did, as I did, you can spread love and hope by forwarding this post to your friends and family. Or you can sit with those in your household (as I did with my husband this morning) and read/sing these messages together. Or you can do both!
The outside pressures Try to squeeze peace from our souls But we can’t let them
Treat yourself to this beautiful rendition of “It is Well with My Soul” by the First Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.
This hymn has a special meaning to me because when we were members of the Harvest Presbyterian Church in Ceres, CA, a dear family who were charter members there had a son, Robert, who was dying. His dad, Homer Jorgensen, was at his bedside with a hymnal. He was turning the pages of the book, asking Robert to blink when he came to a song he’d like to hear. Blinking was all he was capable of doing at that end-point of his earthly life. Robert blinked when his dad came to “It is Well With My Soul.”
Homer was reading the words of this hymn to Robert when his son took his last breath. Since then, both of Robert’s parents have joined him in their heavenly home. Rest in peace, Jorgensen family. I am praying for the beauty of your legacy to live on in our hearts as we listen to this gorgeous, meaningful song and consider the beauty of its words.
Let the Words Be Your Prayer
As you listen, my friends, pray for all those you know who need the peace this composer wrote about. It is the peace that only God can give. Lift your family and friends up as you enjoy these beautiful voices and appreciate the phenomenal, majestic organ.
God bless you!
Psalm 46:1-3 – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.”
I will find the peace That comes from deep within me And I’ll sit awhile
Sometimes this COVID-19 feels like we’re walking through the “Valley of the Shadow of Death,” especially when we see the staggering statistics from Italy and realize how quickly the virus is spreading in places like New York City.
A friend told me today he feels we’re living in a period akin to the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl era. Songs are being composed about it. There are thoughtful essays being written. Scientists are creating impressive graphs showing the statistics of known contagions to death tolls and analyzing the relationships to age and climate. Novels will be written that will be classics in the decades to come.
How do we live through this “Valley of the Shadow of Death” without fear?
There are the usual responses: pray, sequester and meditate, have faith, bury your head…
But, while I do believe in the power of our Maker, and I pray daily for the Source of all comfort to bring us healing and peace, there are a few other ways I keep myself FROM feeling the gloom that seems to be enveloping so many. You probably have a list of ways, too. I’d love to have you share yours with me.
Here are my four favorite remedies for avoiding the paralysis of fear:
Music – sing, play, or listen to uplifting songs on YouTube or XM Radio. I love seeing those folks on their balconies in Italy making joyful music together, don’t you? I just listened to Bono and Will.i.am singing a song they wrote for/to the Italians. Google it! Music soothes the soul and uplifts the spirit.
Write – as a blogger, you know how therapeutic it is to put words on paper, in a journal, on a card to a friend, or here on WordPress. Write about what keeps you positive and passionate.
Connect – on the internet or by phone, through a window or across a fence. I just installed a new app on my phone and iPad. It’s called ZOOM. Do you know it? The basic version is free. It’s like FaceTime, but it works on other platforms besides Apple products. My friends in California and Bob & I had a great conversation. It was like sitting across the table from our friends who are 1200 miles away from us. We miss them and it lifted our spirits to see and reconnect with them.
Walk – when the weather permits, go for a walk with your dog or a friend or both. I did that yesterday in our Lion’s Club Park. Yes, we practiced social distancing, but we could chat and laugh and encourage one another. It’s good for body and soul. And TazE loved it, too.
Do tell your dog he’s gotta walk, too!
Tell me, what ways do you avoid walking in the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” these days?
For God did not give us A spirit of cowardice, But rather a spirit of power and of love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7
Do we have enough self-discipline To take advantage of this time – This time to just BE and just LOVE And make the world a better place?
Ann Weems, in Putting the Amazing Back in Grace, wrote: “Remember, you’re in charge of remembering that God is in charge, and that’s a big job that will last a lifetime.”
God’s got this!! Have a peace-filled Sunday, my friends.
Oh, and in case you, like us, missed church today, here is the sermon for today that our pastor, Rev. Steve Hundley sent out via e-mail.
Find a comfortable chair, grab a cup o’ tea or coffee, and augment your Sunday with a worshipful, inspiring message:
INSTRUCTIONS FOR LIFE
Read Psalm 23
Not long after becoming the pastor of three small churches in the mountains of Virginia, I was asked to give the Baccalaureate Address to the graduating class of Bath County High School. It used to be, at least in the Bible Belt where I grew up, that local high schools have both a Baccalaureate and Graduation ceremony. The Baccalaureate was held one evening, a day or two before the actual Graduation Commencement. And it was tradition to invite a religious leader in the community to speak. However, I’m not sure that the message I delivered was what the school administration, or even the students, had in mind.
In most cases, the message given would be a positive one meant to motivate the students to go out and change the world, such as: “You are God’s ambassadors, the hope for a broken world!” Or: If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.” Or, perhaps: “Shoot for the Moon, for even if you miss, you’ll find yourself among the stars!” Most Baccalaureate, as well as, Commencement speakers would have them believe that they can be and do anything they set their minds to, (but with God’s help, of course).
I, however, felt that it was my duty to inform them that they were nothing but a bunch of “harebrained” sheep. I saw that! You raised your eyebrows, didn’t you? (Note from JanBeek, see the picture of sheep I put at the end of this sermon!)
Yet, that is what the Bible says. Yes, as much as we would like to think of ourselves as having the heart of a lion, we share more in common with sheep.
You see, like sheep, we tend to stray easily and lose our way. I’ve have been told that if one sheep spooks and tears off in one direction, all the others will follow. Imagine a bunch of sheep running up a hill. Suddenly the one in front makes a sudden left turn, and all the others, with no questions asked, mindlessly follow. If the one leading heads right off a cliff, tumbling to its death, all the others follow right off the cliff as well. But, you say, “We’re not like that!”
I heard recently about a young married couple. The wife bought a country ham to cook for her husband’s family who were coming over for dinner. Before putting it in a pot to bake it, she cut both ends off. “Why did you do that,” her husband asked. “I did it because that is the waymy mother always did it,” she said. Calling her mother on the phone, she asked: “Mom, why do we cut the ends off a ham before cooking it?” “I don’t know. I do it because it is the way my mother always did it.” Calling up her grandmother, she asked, “Grandmother, why do we cut the ends off a ham before baking it?” “I don’t know why you and your mother do it, but I always did it because it wouldn’t fit in my small baking pan.”
Yes, if one sheep spooks and tears off, all the others will follow. Still, you say, “We are smarter than that!” (Try to find a roll of toilet paper, or a bottle of hand sanitizer these days. Just saying.)
Attending a Montana State University lecture not long ago, the speaker, a journalist professor, pointed out just how partisan our country has become. He said that we have lost the will, and therefore, the ability to listen and dialogue with those who disagree with us. “We only listen to those news networks that confirm what we believe to be true,” he said. “We socialize with those who believe like us. In other words, we are like sheep who follow blindly our own flock.” Oh, by the way, did you know that a flock of sheep are called a “MOB?” Google it.
Secondly, sheep not only tend to follow their “mob”, they are also fragile creatures. Ken Davis, a comedian, tells of growing up on a sheep farm. He said there was an old ram on their farm that loved to sneak up behind him and butt him when he wasn’t looking. He hated that old ram. One day he spotted the old bruiser coming around the back of the barn. Determined to get back at that old ram, he looked around for something to hit him with. With nothing in sight and ram rounding the corner, Ken jumped out and hollered: “BOO!” It was all he could think to do.
“Startled,” Ken said, “that old ram just keeled over AND DIED!”
Later, his father confronted him, “Son, you hit that sheep, didn’t you?”
“No dad, I said, BOO! and it just died!”
A crack of thunder is all it takes to scare a sheep literally to death. As much as we like to think of ourselves as indestructible, this present pandemic and the fact you are reading this sermon in your own home, shows just how fragile we are. Our Lord Jesus said: “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven…give us this day our daily bread…and, deliver us from evil’.”
Yes, we are like sheep who are in need of a Shepherd. We need help. Going it alone, depending on our own wiles, spells certain disaster. I remember one sheep herder/shepherd telling of turning his flock loose one night in the mountains to graze alone on their own. He knew it was a risk, because sheep cannot defend themselves, much less outrun, even the slowest predators. Sheep tend to go astray, grazing along without looking where they are going.
He did, however, leave them in the care of his trusty sheep dog. Locating them the next morning, he discovered that they had wandered into a rather rugged mountain park. Being the rather clumsy animals that they are, more than a few of them had managed to fall over while feeding on the uneven ground. He found sheep scattered around the meadow upside down on their backs unable to get up. He said: “I had to go around picking up sheep and placing them back on their feet.
The Prophet Isaiah warns the Israelites of the danger of going it alone. “See, the Lord’s arm is not too short to save … to pick you up when you have fallen.” (Isaiah 59:1)
While I doubt that anyone was prepared for me to compare the graduating class of Bath County High School to a “flock”, or should I say “mob” of sheep…the foolish notion that the future of the world rested on their shoulders is categorically untrue! The longer I live, the more I am convinced that what we need to make it in this world is not popularity and success, not financial wealth or even personal happiness.
What we need is Christ, the Good Shepherd, to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and instruct us in the proper order of our lives. For, “The Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not want. He makes us lie down in green pastures; he leads us beside still waters; it is our Shepherd who restores our souls, who leads us in right paths. Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear not evil…”
Notice how Psalm 23 reverses the order of how we tend to live our lives. It is our tendency to approach life head on, burning ourselves out. And then, turn back to God in search of rest and soul-restoration after a week of chasing the illusive American dream. Yet, notice that this Psalm reverses the order. First, there is the Shepherd who provides what we need most, rest and soul restoration. Only then is it possible to find meaning and purpose in God’s emerging kingdom or face dark valleys.
This is the blessing Jesus wanted Martha to see when she was burning herself out by busying herself in the kitchen. Jesus said to her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part…” (Luke 10:41-42).
Notice how the New Testament church began in Acts 2:46-47: “They followed a daily discipline of busying themselves with programs and activities, burning themselves out, so that people liked what they saw and everyday their numbers grew…” ??? NO! NO! NO!
It says: “They followed a daily discipline of worship in the temple, followed by meals together in their homes, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Everyday their numbers grew as God added those who were saved.”
Yes, Genesis tells us that “God created the world and on the seventh day, and then He rested.” That’s true, but WE ARE NOT GOD! Christ died for our sins, our weaknesses, and on the first day of the week He arose from the dead! So, we begin with rest, worship, and spiritual recreation before facing the challenges of daily living and serving our God.
We are His sheep, who find our rest in the arms of the Good Shepherd, so that He might equip us for the facing of this hour even as we face this dark valley of the shadow of death. For we are not alone, for God in Christ is with us. Amen.
Read Psalm 23 again.
In what new and unique way have you felt God’s comforting presence?
See ya tomorrow. Thanks for visiting JanBeek and for hangin’ in there together. Have a beautiful Sunday. Together, in FAITH, we shall overcome!!