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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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Monarch Butterflies, Francis of Assisi, and You

The Monarch Butterflies are Migrating Haven’t all of the Monarch’s already passed through Gladbrook? Apparently not, I saw one solitary dash of orange and black winging down my street today. He was bobbing up and down, but headed in the right direction. As with all the Monarchs that I see, I offered a simple prayer for him. “May God help you to fly safe and free, old boy.” Our beloved Monarchs are not as populous as they once were. But, it does not lessen the beauty and wonder I feel when I see one. My friend of today may have been traveling from as far away as south Canada. He will go to the mountains of Mexico for winter. If you have enough time and money, guides can take you to his home there, where blizzards of orange and black Monarchs are clustered together until it is time to wing back home. Somewhere along the RAGBRAI route in July there was a group determined to help maintain Monarch populations. They passed to the riders a mud ball. Tucked inside was a milk weed seedling. (The preferred home of Monarch caterpillars). RAGBRAI riders were asked to toss the mud ball into a ditch or pasture in hopes the seedling would establish itself and grow strong enough to welcome the Monarchs home in the spring. Perhaps to lay their eggs. It is a tradition for Christians to have a high regard for nature. Francis of Assisi believed nature can be used as a window through which the religious will gaze upon the majesty of God. In legend it is said that once, while Francis was traveling with his companions, they came to a place in the woods where birds filled trees on either side of the path. Francis told his companions to wait while he took time to preach to his brothers and sisters, the birds. The legend continues by stating not one of the birds flew away. This is why statues of Francis commonly show him with a bird in his hand. I won’t say the legend is factual. But there is some truth in it. Francis noticed things in the natural world and cared about those things. Likewise, God calls us to notice and to care about the natural world too. Perhaps one day someone will hand a mud ball that is home to a sprouting milk weed to you too. If someone does, then I hope that you will plant it. In what other simple ways can you offer a helping hand to Mother Nature? Prayer: “Dearest Lord, our tender shepherd and wise counsel. Help us to do our part to keep the...

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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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Monday Morning Musings

So, today I want to talk to you about Wildly Important Goals and ask your prayers in helping the church define one. Some know about W. I. G. through the work place. Others who use a Franklin Planner may have heard of them too. And now the Iowa Annual Conference is introducing them to the churches. We are going to be asked to spell out ours in the not-so-distant future. The idea of a WIG is that employees (church members) can only concentrate on one or two big projects over a period of time. At the same time, if the goal is not accomplished, the organization (church) will fall back. When the sole task of the work place is to accomplish this one, big goal, then things change in several ways. Likewise, if all employees have their own W.I.G. (which is a sub-set of the over-arching WIG), then folks don’t work at cross-purposes and the contribution of each team member matters. Workers have a clear focus, understand their role, and recognize their individual importance to the whole workplace. The right W.I.G. might even change attitudes around coming to work every day. Some faithful readers may think I just went off the deep end and I know all this writing is lofty stuff. But I am trying to talk sense. Really. Just think what it would mean if all of us agreed that God could work through a W.I,G. set for our local congregation. Let’s say the goal was “We are meant to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Breaking down this goal would help us recognize a few obvious things we can do about it right here in Gladbrook. It is possible the church could tale a close look at the ministries we offer right now. Some of our groups might be re-purposed, and other task forces added so we would be more focused in the message of hope God calls us to more clearly of-fer with our church members, in the community and to the world. So, just what might be our Wildly Important Goal? Well, all us know nothing ever stays the same in the life of a Christian nor in the life of a church. We have known many joys and we know too much about struggle. Perhaps the creation of a Wildly Important Goal will help us see the path forward so that our lives will be filled with the knowledge of God and our greater community be blessed through our faithful service. Please join me in prayer and discernment about the W.I.G. God is formulating for us. I look forward to its revelation. R....

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Monday Morning Musings

It’s always fun to be with and to talk to the children in our community and of the church. Many of them should be credited for being quite wise. A couple months ago I was talking with some children in Kid’s Club. We were talking about smiles and I asked the group with whom I was chatting a question. I asked “What makes God smile?” Some of the older children had good suggestions. They included being obedient to the 10 commandments. Another one mentioned coming to Kid’s Club or Sunday School. And as I was complimenting those two on their great answers, another child raised his hand. Bouncing up and down, he exclaimed, “I know something better!” When I asked, “What do you think is a better way to make God smile?” He stood up and stated with absolute conviction. “Tell God a joke!” I loved that. And I told him so. Then the whole group tried to think of good jokes that we could tell God.. Here are just a few jokes that might make you smile too. ** Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispered into her mother’s ear. “Why is the bride wearing white?” Her mother whispered back saying. “She is wearing white be-cause white is the color of happiness, and this is the happiest day of her life.” The girl thought about that for a moment and then asked. “Okay, but, why then is the groom wearing black?” ** A Sunday school teacher asked her class why Mary and Joseph took Jesus as a young boy along with them to Jerusalem?” The class thought about the question for a moment until ones had a response. She said, “Because they could not get a babysitter!” **At Sunday school the teacher explained that God had created everything in the universe. And when mortals were created, God produced a woman out of a rib from the side of Adam. After the children went home, a Father noticed that his son was laying on the couch after Sunday dinner. He asked his son if he felt alright. And the son responded saying. “My side hurts. I think I’m going to have a wife.” I hope God did not take offense at these jokes and smiled instead. Did you smile too? Jokes are great. Good ones really should bring a smile to God not just because they’re funny, but because God genuinely wants us to enjoy life—the blessings of life that God has given to us. I once heard a preacher say that when we finally stand before God, the one thing we will be asked is, “Did you enjoy the...

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Of parting the Red Sea and kitchen conundrums

Of Parting the Red Sea and Kitchen Conundrums  — this was written for the Iowa United Methodist Conference to be used during the week of May 21-27, 2017.  The Way Forward Commission has sought all United Conferences pray for their work as they develop a new statement and recommendations regarding all denominational understandings of Human Sexuality by Rev. Carol Kress Scripture: “The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground. The water forming a wall on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:22) An Iowa United Methodist church decided to remodel its out-dated kitchen. So a kitchen design team was appointed and spent months envisioning future needs of the church and designing a new kitchen to accommodate them. It was apparent the project would be expensive so they sought a vote of the congregation which demonstrated its support with enthusiasm. On New Year’s Eve, a party gathered which was eager to celebrate and demolish that old kitchen. However, it did not take long to discover a problem. The party discovered standing water underneath the double sink and its housing. Both sinks had problem pipes. One appeared to be stopped while the other was slow in its work. Unfortunately, the problem did not have a simple solution. Experts were commissioned to take the place of volunteers. Their report to the kitchen design team was sobering. Each sink had separate pipes. One set led east, connecting with the city on the far side of a historic brick street. The second set led west. They ran underneath the entire length of fellowship hall until they were finally under the alley to meet with city pipes. The expert recommended to replace the pipes and lead all of them in one direction, But no one could agree on which direction. Either way created its own set of expensive issues. Although the pastor could be impatient, the congregation was not, They deliberated the kitchen conundrum with great care, The design team studied the matter from every point of view and met with a lengthy list of local engineers, plumbers, carpenters and others, Surely there were more choices than had been recommended to the design team. No one wanted to tear up fellowship hall nor did they want to ruin a historic brick street. The team brought their quest for a solution to the congregation seeking prayers and help. The pastor was inspired to open her bible. She spoke of Moses, the Israelites and their flight from Pharaoh. God’s people found themselves caught between the Red Sea and the Egyptian Army. But, acting on faith, Moses stepped into the sea. It divided, providing an avenue of escape. Although Moses had worried there would...

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