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Monday Morning Musings

So, yes. Bishop Laurie Haller will appoint me to be the next District Superintendent of the North Central District in Iowa. Wow, just typing those words causes me to swallow hard and blink twice. There were few things the Bishop could offer to me that might cause me to consider leaving Gladbrook. But God showed her one. The five years I have spent here have been good years for me and, I pray, also for you. You have risen to some interesting challenges and taken on a few new projects. God has called us to venture outside of the church doors and to be his agents in this community. We have touched new lives and hearts with the love of Jesus. It seems like the light is a little brighter. (And that’s not just because the Trustees have found out the best bulbs to use here.) I believe the church is growing toward the Light. The lighted city upon a hill is a descriptive phrase found in the beatitudes. Jesus tells his listeners, ‘You are the light of the world, a city that is set upon a hill cannot be hidden.’ (Mt. 5) This verse was used by John Winthrop, the 17th century Puritan, as he cast his vision of a new society for the colonists who were leaving ship and setting foot on American soil. While anchored in Boston Harbor, on the Arbella, Winthrop shared that vision. He saw their new city becoming a Christian model of communal charity, affection and unity for all the world to see. We may not use the same terms, but we understand their meaning. Charity is an old word for aiding or assisting one who needs help or support. Affection describes a gentle feeling of fondness within a relationship. And unity is a desire for all people to be included, respected and protected. I think it’s interesting that John Winthrop, known as a great Puritan preacher, focused his vision upon the way society should be ordered but he did not speak of a personal relationship with God. Maybe he did that in other speeches. Or he believed that the way Christians treat other is a clear indicator of their relationship with God. If John Winthrop came to Gladbrook, I think he would cast a similar vision for the church. He would call you a shining city upon a hill. Returning to those old terms he would see you as Christ’s agents of charity, affection and unity right now. Surely we can agree that these qualities are desperately needed as darker forces try to pull us apart. Furthermore, he would add a word in the description of our...

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Monday Morning Musings

People in my profession tend to have a lot of nativity sets in their homes. A minister-friend of mine (who retired to Colorado) has over ninety. At Christmas time her condo in the mountains must be quite the sight. I wonder if she has room for any visitors at all? My number of nativities is modest in comparison to hers, but I like mine and enjoy setting them up for the holiday. So on Christmas Day I set out the very last one. While I took the set out of the box and found the perfect place for each one of the pieces, I found myself thinking about the shepherds. They have their moment in the spot light, but I find that they are not the first ones that I look at when I reflect upon the nativity sets . Baby Jesus is front and center of all the sets. He gets the spotlight (as he should). On either side are stationed Mary and Joseph who are major supporting characters. An angel glows near the manger. The three kings seem to command a strategic spot where any one can admire the camels and those gifts that made an impression. Even the animals of the stable have spots. I like placing the donkey as close to Mary as I can and I will turn the cow so that her gaze is upon the precious child. But the shepherds don’t have a special spot, I seem to fit them in to balance out the nativity scene. In one of the sets they really do look best standing out in a side pen with the sheep. If you saw them you would agree that those shepherds were meant to watch over things while everyone else gathered in the stable. Who knows what would become of a church that did not have a team of shepherds to watch over things? I think of all the volunteers and quiet workers who serve Christ by tending to so many little things that happen inside the house of God. So much of their work goes overlooked and under appreciated. But without their thought and care, the church would suffer. There are shepherds who keep the flowers watered, the projection current and the sanctuary orderly so there are few distractions to worship. There are shepherds who pay attention to fiscal matters and talk about a greater stewardship of our personal and shared resources. There are shepherds who are planning Sunday school lessons, making costumes, and helping our young people open the Bible. There are other shepherds who encourage everyone to open the Bible and invite it to live within our hearts. We...

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Monday Morning Musings

Today is filled with sunshine. Days like this one have been few and far between. That makes sunshine more precious today. The days are shorter now and common indicators of winter are on the scene. What will winter be like? When I was a kid on the farm, my bedroom windows faced the western sky. During winter, I recall doing my homework there while looking out the window to see the sunset over a frosty horizon. My goal was always to complete it before Venus shined in the darkening sky. Although planets do not have a self-generated source they can twinkle with the sun’s reflective light. Jupiter, Mercury and Mars twinkle and if there was a colony on any of them, their people would say that Earth twinkles too. Still, I watch for the beauty of winter sunsets. Certainly, a long winter night can usher in dangerous temperatures and threatening weather. This fact does not stop me from appreciating the sunset. Besides, the winter sky at night cannot extinguish the starlight. Not really. Even when clouds are thick and heavy, the stars shine higher above. When I watch very closely they will peek through to prove their presence every now and then.. Soon we will celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. The timing of this event is so fitting. Jesus was born during one of the longest nights of the year as winter chills settle. To humanity it is a reminder that our bodies need light and warmth to make it through cold, dark winter nights. In the same way, our spiritual bodies need the gifts Jesus brought by way of his birth. These gifts allow us to survive exposure to hard trials and seasons of hopelessness. We cannot do this on our own. It is possible only because of the love of God revealed to us through Jesus Christ. He is the source of spiritual light. This truth forms the basis of the scriptural message from Isaiah pro-claiming, “Arise and shine, for thy light has come. The glory of the Lord has risen.” (Isaiah 60) Allow me to invite you to watch with me for the sunset and then stars to appear. Our physical life is dependent upon the sun, and our salvation is dependent upon Jesus Christ. God gave him to this world as a sign of his everlasting love. No matter the thickness of the clouds nor the length of the night, he has promised to shine forth on our behalf. It is a promise upon which we can count. So praise God with me for the precious gift of his son and we will encourage each other to trust in...

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Monday Morning Musings

Not long ago a friend of mine sent an email of a cartoon strip. In it there was a sheep walking on two legs. The sheep addressed a wolf who blocked the pearly-gated entrance to a green pasture. Standing by the sheep was a familiar looking bearded man who wore a robe and carried a staff. He had an unstated look of authority. The sheep spoke to the wolf while pointing to the man and said, “I’m with Him.” The sheep’s trust is in his Shepherd who gave him protection and led him to green pastures beside still waters. On the day Jesus died, three crosses rose in Golgotha. And Jesus was crucified between two criminals. One of them mocked Jesus. But the other one had a repentant heart of a believer. He asked Jesus “Will you remember me when you come into your kingdom?” Jesus replied, “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” Can you imagine how much those words of assurance helped that man? He knew for sure that in his hour of great need, Jesus would pay the price of his sin and lead him to pastures eternally green. He was now a child of God.. Perhaps he acted just like the sheep did when it approached the pearly gate by gesturing to Jesus and saying that wolf, “I’m with him.” This is the November newsletter and Thanksgiving will be observed on the 23rd. (That day would have been my mother’s 88th birthday.) As with all citizens who gather around Thanksgiving dinner tables, we will have a lot of reasons to offer our thanks. Along with them, many of us will mention our families, or our friends, or our health, or our community. But, as Christians we are most thankful for the precious gift of Jesus Christ. Scripture states “God gave his only begotten Son that who so ever believed in him would have life ever lasting. For God gave his son to the world not to condemn it, but that the world would be saved through Him.” (John 3:16 & 17) Just like the thief on the cross, we do not deserve what God planned and Jesus did for us. These things are a precious gift from God’s hand and we have been changed forever. So, I hope that along with the blessings you will count, there will be a time when you point to heaven and say with a clear, loud voice. “I’m with Him!” Have a safe and blessed holiday R. Carol Kress Gladbrook,...

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Monday Morning Musings

It is true, I celebrated a mile-stone birthday. I joined all of the other Baby Boomers who are at least 60 years of age. Thank you for flooding my mail box with well-wishes and laughter. Here are some of the better one-liners – – At 60, your birthday suit requires regular ironing – At 60, fortune tellers begin reading your face instead of the palm of your hand – At 60, the candles on the cake threaten to set off the sprinkler system – At 60, your parties don’t even wake up the dog, let alone cause the neighbors to complain. Now that I am 60 my ideas about older people have changed – a lot. When I was young, I envisioned most 60-year-olds as folks who sat in a rocking chair watching the corn grow. Now I think we should trade in those rocking chairs in for golf carts. The old people that I know are on the go! There are Asian cultures where it is seen as a handicap to be young. The Chinese believe that as a person grows older, they grow in wisdom and resourcefulness. When asked ‘How old are you?’ A 55 year-old might fudge and claim to be 60. Perhaps we need to adopt their point of view. Then we would better resonate with Psalm 90:12 which states, “Teach us to number our days, O Lord, that we might present to you a heart-full of wisdom.” The aches and pains that loom in my future don’t occupy my thoughts as much as you may think. However, I do have a prayer I say daily: “Lord Jesus, help me be true to you by loving and serving you and also your people.” There are days when I am closer to the ideal of this prayer than others. But I hope that by staying persistent with that prayer I’ll be more aware of the coaching God gives to me and I’ll keep moving closer to that goal until my the clock runs out and the game changes. This leads me to an observation and an invitation. If it is true that I have grown wiser over the years, then I have observed that when people pray together big things happen. Therefore I am issuing an invitation for you to pray my little prayer too. I believe that God is up to something and by lining up our desires with his that good things happen. When our Christian family asks God to show us how to best love and serve Him and his people, then something big is going to happen. It has something to do with being his hands and...

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