Bring it Back to Jesus | Archives 1
1. Precious Things by Kathy Schreiner
If you are anything like me, you enjoy eating. I have never been a fussy eater. Pretty much if it doesn't try to get away from me it is fair game, so to speak. What could be better than eating for a cause? Well, not much in my estimation.
Today there was a fund raiser for our school, or Christian Academy as it is called. There are a fair amount of these during the school year. The event today was at a mom and pop burger stand. Literally, a stand. This little shack is pretty much a land mark in our area. It has been there for many decades. The line to order your food can stretch for a block or more. The food is good, the service is with a smile and the comradery in the line is usually quite friendly. There are colorful tables, chairs, picnic tables with cheerful umbrellas in primary colors. Flower pots edge the raised patio.
But now we are two months into COVID 19. The little burger shack opened even before our governor's lock down was challenged and overturned by our state Supreme Court. They could do this because they have an outdoor window set up. You order at the window on one side of the shack and pick up your order on the other side, all while being outside. You might think this little place is well suited to the COVID restrictions. Well, maybe they are luckier than some. But they are still dealing with restrictions.
One of them is being the difficulty in getting ground meat at a reasonable price for burgers. They also have ice cream so the plight of dairy farmers having to "dump" milk did not bode well for them either. Yet, in true American spirit they press on.
The young family has three children. Two of them attend our academy. One is too young but will no doubt attend the early childhood center when old enough like big brother and sister did before moving on to actual grades. Like many parents they had to also wear the "teacher' hat during the pandemic. Yet this business-owning family still offers a 20% profit share with the school for fundraisers. They take seriously what is told to us in Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
With their support for the school we are blessed with wonderful teachers, aides, volunteers, office and custodial staff. Everyone is invested in making sure the children learn about their Savior. Psalm 34:11 are words they live by, "Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord."
It is so uplifting to me to see such dedication amidst all the bad news there is every day. It would be easy to become discouraged, especially with the virus on top of everything else. But we persevere.
I went to the fundraiser today. I saw people I have not seen since "staying safe at home" became a way of life. We all followed social distancing guide lines did not hug each other, but still it was exhilarating. Good friends, good food, good times. How precious they have become.
I pray we never need to have God's Word taken from us so we realize how very precious it is. We delude ourselves if we think this could not happen. When the new decade began in January, who thought we would be quarantined less than three month later.
In 2 Timothy 3:1-9 Paul gives us a "word to the wise" about the Last Days. Now, I'm not saying we are in the last days, no one knows when Jesus will come again. But there are things we should be conscience of. Paul says verses 2-4, "people will love themselves, money, be proud, abusive, dishonest, ungrateful, without love, unforgiving, without self-control, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God". There is quite a bit more, but you get the idea. We not only need to be on our guard but in the Word. If we know what the Word says we cannot be fooled. The Old Testament Prophet Hosea warns: "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children." (Hosea 4:6)
That could certainly make the blood run cold if it were not for the promises of God. One of the most beautiful words to me contains my Confirmation verse: Hebrews 13:5-6 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’" So we say with confidence, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me".
What an awesome God we have. He even blesses fundraisers with food!
2. Puppy Love by Kathy Schreiner
They are in love. No doubt about it. She even told me so herself. Even without her confession it was obvious. The stolen looks, the anticipation, the wet, sloppy kisses, the excessive tail wagging-----wait---what?
The love affair I am talking about is between my six year- old neighbor girl and my new dog Zelda.
Zelda will sit on the back of the chair, watching out the window, waiting for Megan to appear. Megan will open her front door numerous times a day looking for Zelda. She even peeks in the patio door trying to get my attention so I will let Zelda out to play.
Young love is so cute. There are many kinds of love. Love between family, friends, fellow Christians, a man and a woman. In His Word, the Bible, God has plenty to say about all of these.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a beautiful example of the Love God the Father has for mankind. Another would be the Gospel in a Nutshell, John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
Surely there is nothing more beautiful or comforting than the love Jesus has for us. Jesus Himself tells us this, "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." WOW-as if it were not enough that Jesus calls us His friends, He died for us. He willingly gave up His life, suffering beyond comprehension before He died simply out of His love for us. He wants us to be with Him for eternity in heaven.
The proof of this is clear in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Nothing we can do, nothing we can bring, Jesus did it all. It is a free gift of love for our salvation. But Jesus does tell us how people will know we love Him. He gives us this command "Love one another." John 15:17b
Things may change between Megan and Zelda. Zelda will grow old; Megan will grow up. One thing will never change. God's love for us.
3. God is never distracted by Kathy Schreiner
It is a rainy, gloomy day. I decide I will deal with it in my own way. So, I get out my twenty-year old cappuccino machine to see if it still works. Happily, it does. Then I try to pretend I am enjoying my cappuccino in Italy. Sadly, that doesn't work, I become distracted. Oh well, I can still enjoy this steaming mug of bliss.
Back to the bedroom, I read the daily Grace Moments. What a blessing to join with thousands of fellow Christians daily, even if by media.
It seems if we start our day on the right foot, things go better. For Christians starting on the right foot means starting the day with God. I really mean to do this, but often I become distracted with things, like seeing if the old cappuccino machine still works.
Today, it was trying to coax the dogs to go outside in the rain. One did, one did not. Well, she went, but not outside. The puddle she left was yet another distraction.
Do you even wonder what it would be like if God became distracted? Would the sun rise, would the rain stop before the world was flooded, would the planets crash into each other? "And these are but the outer fringe of His works; how faint the whisper we hear of Him. Who then can understand the thunder of His power?" Job 26:14
It is something we cannot even comprehend. God being distracted, not in control 24/7? "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." Colossians 1:17
That should be a special comfort to us during this time in our history with the entire world recovering from the effects of COVID 19. He reassures us in Isaiah 41:10 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God".
No matter what the world may throw at us we do not need to worry. God is never distracted. He is always in control. 1 Peter 5:17 “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you."
4. Beauty in the eye of the Beholder by Kathy Schreiner
Yesterday I received a visit from my best friend. We have been friends since the first grade, now going on almost sixty years. It was the first time we had an "in person" visit since COVID 19. It felt so good to get together again. We did social distance, sat outside and enjoyed both the beautiful day and each other. As usual, we talked about a wide variety of topics. At one point it turned to how we are aging. She showed me a picture of one of our classmates. My friend said this classmate had not aged as well as we have. I was not so sure about that, but hey, I could go with it.
Today my little six-year-old neighbor girl said she saw I had a visitor yesterday. I told her my best friend had come to see me. She corrected me telling me she was sure it was my granddaughter. Say what?! I sent my friend an email to tell her how youthful she must look and how old I must look. I guess it is all about perception.
“If beauty is in the eye of the beholder” then the “beholder” gets to decide what is beautiful. One thing is for sure our culture thinks it’s the final word on those decisions. But how does God our Creator look at us? How does He see us, his workmanship?
If we have our hearts grounded in faith in what Jesus has done for us our perception of beauty will be more in line with God's. King Solomon seemed to learn this lesson later in life. Solomon was known for his MANY wives and concubines. Yet he wrote, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." (Proverbs 31:30)
Worldly beauty is not something we all have in common. One thing we all do have in common is sin. Sin is ugly. Sin makes us ugly.
Good thing for us God tells us what true beauty is. His Word, the Bible, gives us all the answers.
We don't have to order a miracle cream from an infomercial or a new exercise video. Godly beauty is given to us. It is a free gift. Not the kind included as a bonus with your order, but a genuine, free gift.
Ephesians 2:8 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith---and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God------not by works, so that no one can boast."
Because of Jesus' death on the cross God sees us as holy, in a perfect relationship with him. What could be more beautiful than being holy? "And the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, purifies us from all sin". (1 John 1:7b)
Some days when I look in the mirror I may not like what I see; but what a blessing that when God looks at me, He sees Jesus!
5. Family Adoption by Kathy Schreiner
My sister and I both share a love for dogs and both of us recently lost dogs that had been part of our families for many years. Since then we both have adopted new furry children.
My new little girl came from an animal shelter in Texas. The local Humane Society I volunteer for sometimes receives dogs from other states. That is how Betty Boop came to live in Wisconsin and how Betty Boop became Zelda, my new canine angel.
I have adopted several dogs from the shelter in my sixty plus years. Some of them have really put me to the test with their behavior, bad behavior that is. Yet I never returned them to the shelter. They were part of the family.
We will do just about anything for family. When a child is young, we put safety locks on cabinets, use gates, buy that expensive car seat, and the like. As they become a little older, we teach them about "stranger danger". Teenagers require extra finesse in making the right choices. If the job was done well, they may not even see you had a hand in it.
Doing for family might be the most difficult when we become elderly. We may need someone to dispense our medication, pay our bills or even change our diaper. No one wants to think that could happen to them but sadly it can.
I had water proof laminate flooring installed in my condo because the little dogs I lovingly take into my family sometimes soil the floor. Laminate is a lot easier to clean up than carpet. It was not cheap but it was worth it to me. If we love someone, we will do just about anything for them.
It is even more true us and God. He has adopted us into His family. He is our Father. Jesus is our brother. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. Romans 8:32 tells us: "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all--how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" Far from being cheap, this cost His only Son's holy, precious blood. God doesn't send us back due to our bad behavior.
I thought I was making a sacrifice putting in laminate flooring but anything I do could never compare with the sacrifice of giving the life of my own son for others. God did this for us. Our brother Jesus willingly gave His life for us. Because of His death we now have the benefits of family.
2 Corinthians 6:18 "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty".
Isn't this the kind of family we all want to be adopted into? Family with everlasting benefits.
6. Eye on the Sparrow by Kathy Schreiner
I teach a weekly class to developmentally disabled people. We call it "Jesus Loves Me" because that is the most important thing for them to know—that Jesus loves them. He loved then enough to die to take away their sins so they may live with Him forever in heaven.
We focus on the Gospel lesson for the week. The concept behind this is that it might be easier for them to understand and get more out of the church service they hopefully will attend later that week. I don't delude myself; I know for many this will be the only exposure they have to God's Word for the week. However, the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels can be difficult to understand for anyone, much less for someone who is cognitively challenged.
In John 6 Jesus speaks of Himself as "The Bread of Life". He said that whoever feasted on "This bread" would live forever. John 6:60 says, "On hearing this, many of His disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching, who can believe it?’”
I mean really, feasting on someone's body will allow us to live forever? While in John 6 Jesus is not talking about what we receive in Holy Communion, we know that on Maundy Thursday He was referring the sacramental elements. Yes, it is a hard teaching. Yet in faith we accept and believe we do this very thing when we receive the bread and wine in The Lord's Supper.
Today's lesson was from the Gospel of Matthew 10. Here Jesus talks about not being afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Jesus goes on to speak about sparrows. He says they are cheap, two can be purchased for a penny. Yet not one of them falls to the ground unless God allows it. He even keeps track of sparrows.
Jesus then tells us we do not need to worry; we are MUCH MORE valuable to God than sparrows. The very hairs of our head are numbered. That is how close He watches us, down to knowing how many hairs we have! It never ceases to amaze me how Jesus can bring things down to our level so we can better understand.
I showed the pupils pictures of sparrows feeding their babies. In the bird world sparrows are common, not flashy. Certainly not peacocks. Yet God values them enough to send food for them to eat. He knows what is happening with them. This makes the connection between sparrows and people easier to understand.
I spend quite a bit of time trying to find ways that make it easier for the pupils to remember the story they heard. Music is often helpful. Today following the lesson, we tried to sing "His Eye in on the Sparrow". This song is a beautiful reminder of this Gospel reading. It was written by Civilla Martin. She was visiting a sick friend. Her friend had been watching the birds out of the window. She said God watched over the birds so she knew He was watching over her. Civilla was impressed by her friend's faith, inspiring the song. The chorus of the song says,
I sing because I'm happy.
I sing because I'm free.
His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know He watches me.
How reassuring is that! No matter what is going on in our lives God knows what it is. We can sing, we can be happy because we know we are free, free from our sins because of the death and Resurrection of Jesus.
Admittedly, I still am thrilled every time I see a hummingbird at the feeder. They are a marvel. But I think from now on I will have a soft spot in my heart for the humble sparrow.
7. Farewell by Kathy Schreiner
Recently, the world lost a unique and faith-filled woman, a member of our congregation went home to be with her Savior. She was 85 years old. Her name was Marlene. My sister gave her the nick-name, "Marloon". Rather than being derogatory it was a term of endearment. Marlene was a little loony but in a good way.
In some ways Marlene was a woman ahead of her time. She was a career woman. In her youth she was a "looker". She did some modeling. Marlene worked for a local publisher for around fifty years achieving well respected status.
Love took her in a direction that was frowned on. She fell in love with a man who was quite a bit older than her. He was not exactly available at the time. However, they did end up marrying. Marlene was dedicated to her husband during their marriage and beyond. When her husband became ill, she took care of him. When he died, she grieved. She never looked for another man as he was her great love. She lived the many years after his death alone.
Marlene was an animal fanatic. In fact, she was so fanatical she called to leave a message on my answering machine one Sunday morning after I confessed to her that I had placed some mouse poison under the foundation of my house. I had done this after seeing a mouse scurry there after visiting the area under the bird feeder. She had other suggestions for how to deal with the mouse. I confess I put the poison out anyway. Marlene would actually "live trap" mice on her farm and relocate them (like that really can be done).
Over the years she fed and live-trapped feral cats on her hobby farm. She would then pay to have them spayed or neutered. The dogs she adopted led “the life of Riley.” No animal in a wide circumference of her home did without. She wrote many "letters to the editor" about animal cruelty or in support of the local animal shelter where she was pretty much a fixture.
Marlene attended church every Sunday. Even as she neared the end of her time here on earth, I would see her arrive in her rather beat up little pick-up truck. I marveled at this skinny, elderly, frail looking woman coming to church in sub-zero weather knowing she had fed many an animal before getting ready for church. She may have looked frail but she had an attitude of fortitude. When she got home from church there would be more work to be done. Fences to fix, wood to be cut and other yard work in addition to caring for a variety of animals. No matter how much work needed to be done, time with Jesus was her priority.
Perhaps harkening back to her modeling days, she was always put together. Marlene could still use a fancy scarf, hat or necklace to her advantage. Towards the end the lipstick sometimes missed its mark a bit. She would have been mortified if she had realized this.
Marlene loved God, her husband, animals as well as the rest of God's creation. She lived her faith. She was an inspiration to me and I will miss her. That is a legacy I think we would all like to leave.
God is within her; she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. (Psalm 46:5)
8. How’s your weather? by Kathy Schreiner
I read somewhere that the number one topic people talk about to strangers is the weather. Hot enough for you? WOW, that was some storm last night. ETC. Here in southeast Wisconsin it has been hot and humid. That is not all that unusual but what has been unusual is the time it has lasted. We had three straight weeks of this—actual heat alert days. One day of relief and then more hot, humid weather is forecast for the foreseeable future I for one am not a fan. It never has to be over sixty degrees for me to be happy. But it is not all about me (although I think it should be.) I have my turn when it is cooler. Now it is someone else's turn.
This weather has been hard on some of my plants. The cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers seem to like it. Some of the more sensitive flowers do not. I have lost several that are in small pots. I was faithful with watering. I think that might have been the problem. The pots are small, the temperature around one hundred degrees and the soil was damp. I think the roots literally cooked in the pots. I thought I was doing the right thing keeping them moist. Turns out it might have been better to let them dry a bit more.
Does this kind of thing ever happen to you? You think you are doing the right thing only to find out you would have been better off to leave it alone? This happens to me more than I care to admit. I think I know what I am or should be doing. I think I have it all figured out. Then God comes along and shows me I don't.
It is hard to know when to act and when to leave it up to God. We know it is always in God's hands anyway but He has also given us a brain. Since He did this, I reason He would like us to use it along with the free will He gives us. It can be a bit of a balancing act. Do I proceed with my plans? Do I sit on my hands? What should I do?
Really, we know what to do. We need to lift up our requests to God in prayer before we tackle anything big or small in our lives. If we sincerely bring it to God, He is faithful. If we move ahead only to find that was not the right thing to do, we need to accept this. We should not continue to fight just because we want to be right.
If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his right hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)
We also need to think about how our actions may affect someone else. Is what I want to do God pleasing? Will it help or hinder someone's faith. Will it send the message that I am a God fearing/trusting Christian?
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)
We are in the season of Pentecost. The time described in the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 2 when the Holy Spirit came to the disciples and enabled them to spread the Word about Jesus. They were even equipped with the ability to speak new languages for the task. They were given courage for the mission. Peter, who only weeks before had denied he even knew Jesus was now fearlessly telling the people they had killed God's anointed.
My paths are not so clearly laid out for me yet I know God directs them. That is such a comfort, knowing that even when I take the wrong turn God can put me back on the right path. It is kind of like taking the detour when there is summer road construction. It might not be the way you wanted to go but it the way you need to go. God's way.
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)
If I have to take a detour while on a road trip, I sometimes become rather annoyed. How long will this take? How far off my route am I going? Where will I end up? But, if I just sit back, take a deep breath and tell myself this is the way it has to be, I often find some new and wonderful sight I would have missed if I took the route I planned. Funny how God works isn't it?
9. Make a joyful noise by Kathy Schreiner
This morning when I woke I was surprised to see the bedside clock say 8:30 am. I have not been sleeping well lately so I was glad that I was able to sleep longer. But then I knew I needed to get going. I showered, read “Meditations”, “Grace Moments”, some emails and had some coffee. The dogs were giving me the eye so we went for a walk.
While walking, I usually say my prayers, but today I was contemplating on today's “Meditations.” It was about a 94 yr. old grandma sitting at a rummage sale. It went on to talk about her faith and family then culminated with her funeral a few years later. The older I get the more I think about my own funeral.
When we returned from our walk, I wanted to sit, but I knew if I did I probably would not get back up so I resorted to a tried and true motivators. I turned on the Oldies music channel. When I hear those old songs, I seem to find new energy. If Motown is playing, I can really get things done. So four loads of laundry later, while I was stringing lights on my patio, a song by the Monkees played, "I'm a believer".
Boy, did that take me back. Like many girls back then I was madly in love with Davey Jones. I watched the Monkees' TV show every week. I cut out pictures of them from the teen magazines, the whole ball of wax. Of course, I know all the words to "I'm a believer", but so do a lot of young kids thanks to the movie "Shrek". Kids think this song is theirs, but we know it belonged to us first.
So, my mind moves in strange directions sometimes. I began thinking about how the grandma in today's “Meditations” was like the Monkees' song. She was a believer. She was looking forward to going to heaven and shared her faith with her children and grand-children.
I was thinking of how generations can share more than songs, they can share faith. How many of us sat at our grandma's knee as she read us bible stories. How many of us have done or do that now? Most of us I would bet. Sharing songs is wonderful. I have always sung with my sisters, nieces and nephews, clients at work, kids I taught in Sunday school and those when working at after care in the school.
Music is one of God's great blessings to us. We don't always have to just sing religious music or just read bible stories, although we could never over estimate their importance, especially when it comes to sharing them with another generation. Music is such an easy and beautiful way to bridge the generations. We should do it more often.
Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. (Psalm 105:2 NIV)
10. Soul Sisters by Kathy Schriner
I don't know about you but I am having some difficulty dealing with all the chaos currently going on in the world…demonstrations, riots, unemployment, COVID 19, persecution of Christians. The list is incomplete but depressing enough.
I have been struggling with what to do. I long to do something that will have an impact—something that will make things better, something to make a difference.
I am blessed to have a best friend who has been the voice of reason to my "out there" thoughts. Gently she reined me in, reminding it is best to meet people where they are. She told me I was already doing that and encouraged me to continue doing so. If we do that, they may be more open to starting a conversation about Jesus and what He has done for us. It is about building relationships.
It was kind of hard to swallow. I am an independent, passionate person. To be honest, I am rather reactionary. Yet I respect my friend's opinion so I prayed about this. (again)
My friend was right to point this out to me. Yes, we need to meet people where they are. Jesus did just that in His earthly ministry. He met with the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the lepers. He did confront hypocrisy when He found it, especially with regard to the Pharisees (sometimes I am a Pharisee.) Above all, Jesus showed love for all of these, not wanting anyone to perish (John 3:16.)
A friend of mine invited me to a woman's bible study. We were meeting once a week until the virus. It was so wonderful to meet with fellow women of faith. Yet all of us are very different and come from a variety of circumstances. Since some restrictions have been lifted, we are able to meet again, following all the regulations. We are studying "The Story", a chronological, compressed version of the Bible. While we do a chapter each week, we are still women so there is a great deal of discussion of life issues as well.
We have found a variety of ministries these gal pals are assisting with. To list a few, some deliver Meals on Wheels, some prepare food for our community meal outreach known as Feed Your Soul, some prepare food and deliver to persons undergoing a personal crisis or illness, some visit the home bound. Some donate blood, volunteer with local charitable organizations, lead bible classes. Others are busy serving their own families with work, helping with grandchildren, being a family taxi service and the like. One has a vision and hope of developing a healing ministry to help people overcome something in their past they are dealing with. One thing we all do is PRAY! They are serving their Lord while making their corner of the world a little better.
The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me. (Matthew 25:40)
She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. (Proverbs 31:20) If you ever long to do the "big things" in life and feel you are not making a difference I encourage you to read Proverbs 31:10-31. Twenty-one verses dedicated to extolling the "little things" women do every day out of love for God and their fellow man.
To God be the glory.
11. Love Thy Neighbor by Kathy Schreiner
I live in a condo complex. There are a variety of people living here. Young, old, families, singles. I happen to live below a young family and next to an elderly widow. She moved in about eighteen months ago. I went over to welcome her with a bottle of wine. I met most of her children who are contemporaries of mine, in their late fifties to mid-sixties; a very nice woman with involved, caring children. Well, it came to be that the elderly woman was in need of more care. Visiting Angels (Home Care) would come daily as would one of her children. Still, it was not quite enough. It was decided she would move to an assisted living facility.
During her time here at the condo, I noticed her outdoor plants were not being watered. So, I would water them. Philippians 2:4 "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
Sometimes I would engage the little girl from upstairs to help, telling her this is what we do for each other—help out when we can. Matthew 5:16 tells us "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
Among the plants was a small tree with a braided trunk. I thought it might be an olive tree but I was wrong. Still, I REALLY liked it. I secretly hoped it would not make the move with her and I might be able to rescue it.
One morning while the little girl from upstairs and I were sitting on my patio one of the woman's daughters came to check on things. We started talking. She was surprised the plants were looking so good since it had been beastly hot for over a week. I told her Megan and I had been watering the plants for a while. She expressed her thanks to us. Megan lit up when she was given credit and thanked. She felt important. The woman's daughter went on to explain how much the tree meant to her because she had given it her mother for Mother's Day. She was waiting for her husband to help her take it home with them when he was available. They live around 60 miles away. I was happy we had kept it alive for her. Who would have guessed the story behind the tree?
Later in the week the plant was gone. The patio next door looked lonely and empty. Two days later the daughter showed up again, this time toting a smaller tree in a pot. She wanted to thank me for keeping alive the tree that was so precious to her. She had a card in the pot. Megan was again on the patio with me as she often is. I asked her if she would like to open the card. Although she is too young to read, she was so excited for being treated like a grown up. I read the card to her, reminding her that our watering the tree meant it was still living for the person for whom it meant so much.
This little tree was the same kind as the one we watered, just not as large. It is a petunia tree. I was thrilled to receive it. How could this woman know I had been coveting the tree with the beautiful purple blossoms?
In the card she thanked me for taking the time to water the tree, chasing down her mother's cat on several occasions and taking time to talk with her when she came to check on her mother’s things earlier in the week. It really did not seem like a big deal to me but to her it was.
She needed a shoulder that day and I was available. She was struggling with how things were working out for her mother, the interactions between her and her siblings and how they were going to be able to interact with her mom during the duration of the virus. Galatians 6:2 "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." I was glad I was moved to have coffee on the patio that morning.
Who knew that these simple acts would come to mean so much? Oh right, God knew.
12. Everyday Miracles by Kathy Schreiner
Today is a lovely day. The sun is shining so nicely. There is a bit of a breeze. The landscapers came today to mow the lawn, so that fresh cut grass smell is in the air.
I am fortunate to have it that way. I spoke with my sister yesterday. She said they would like to have their windows open but the neighboring farmers are spreading manure. That does not smell like fresh cut grass.
That made me think of the time a few years ago when I lost my sense of smell and taste due to an upper respiratory thing. It was awful! While preparing a meal at work, someone said how the cucumbers I was cutting smelled good to her. I was so jealous.
It was Spring. The lilacs were blooming. The lilies of the valley were starting to peek out of the ground. I could not smell the lilacs. I wanted desperately to be able to smell the lilies of the valley when they opened. They were my grandma's favorite. They grew in thick masses around her home. Whenever I smell them I think of her. My grandma Schreiner was the BEST! I really miss her. It is kind of like she is still around when I smell lilies of the valley.
I had even gone to see an ENT doctor. He said my sense of smell might return and it might not. Only time would tell.
Then one day I was frying some mushrooms. As I stirred them a bit I thought, ‘those mushrooms smell good.’ Then it hit me-I smelled mushrooms! It was glorious. I immediately said a "Thank You" to God. Seems pretty natural to me that the first thing I would smell would be food. You have only to look at me to know how much I like food.
It really is the little things in life you miss when you don't have them. We certainly are experiencing that now in this time of quarantine from COVID 19. The handshakes, the hugs, and just being able to be close to someone are little things I hope to never take for granted again. But I probably will if we are able to get them back. Just like the Children of Israel. It seems like one miracle had barely happened when they were complaining again. Just like me.
God blesses me with so many miracles every day; I would run out of time trying to list them all. No, He isn't parting the river when I walk by it, or sending manna from heaven for me to pick up. However, a social security check is deposited into my checking account every month. I don't have to do anything. It just appears there. I think that is a miracle; getting something without doing anything for it. I am able to walk every day. I am no longer graceful like a swan doing so but I get where I'm going. This is a miracle to me. Life is a miracle. We just have to stop and smell the lilies of the valley.
Job 12:7-10 But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
13. School Daze by Kathy Schreiner
If you noticed the spelling of "daze" on the title of this you probably thought I had not paid attention during spelling class when I went to school. Truth be told, spelling was not one of my best subjects. I don't know about you, but we had these little class room competitions. The entire class would line up around the room. The teacher would give you a word to spell out loud. If you did not spell it correctly you had to return to your desk. Often the seat of my desk did not have time to get cold. It could be rather humiliating. Thank heaven for "spell check" on my lap top.
In our little area of Wisconsin some schools are going to open for in person classes. Our own Christian Academy opened today to the delight of parents, grandparents and students alike. I think even the teachers are excited to resume a somewhat normal routine.
What I mean by "daze" is it really seems like we have been in a "daze" when it comes to school. To open or not to open, “that is the question.” “Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of” face masks and disinfectant wipes or the monotony of Zoom classes. Pardon my Shakespearean “mashups”.
I do not have children so I am not torn between the physical and mental health of my children, sending them to school or keeping them home. Wondering if I am tempting God by sending them or not trusting Him by keeping them home. As in everything in our lives it comes down to prayer. Turn it over to God. He has your back.
We do know what He tells us about training children. Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
God also tells us that His Word is the most important thing a child can be taught. In Deuteronomy 11, Moses tells the people they should "fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds". He further says they should be taught to the children, talking about them when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. In other words, all the time.
Through the Apostle Paul God tells us in Ephesians 6:4; "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Not so easy to remember when practicing "safer at home".
Even when the science project is overdue, the art project has stained the table, the math is beyond you and your kids are testing to see just how far they can push you before you blow, remember, children are a blessing from the Lord. Even when they don't quite seem like it sometimes. This too shall pass. I cringe when I think back to some of the things I said to my parents.
When I taught Sunday school or worked in after care at our Academy, I was thrilled to see the progress of the kids with what they were learning. Their hungry little brains like sponges soaking up knowledge. Let us all do our part to make sure this includes the most important thing, God's Word.
14. Labor Day by Kathy Schreiner
I like documentaries. I often watch those on PBS. Sometimes they infuriate me, sometimes they delight me. I always find them interesting, often fascinating. The ones about the early days of labor in America, especially during the machine age can be somewhat gruesome and unsettling. No matter how you feel about labor unions in this current day, they certainly seemed to be needed to ensure workers safety and well-being when they were initiated.
I wonder what Jimmy Hoffa would have said about the way the laborers in the vineyard were treated in Jesus' parable in Matthew 20:1-16? Jesus tells how a foreman hired men at different times during the day. The ones hired early in the morning agreed to work for a settled upon wage. Yet more workers were needed so more were hired several hours later. Still more hired several hours after that. Still more hired hours after that. When the work day was done the employer settled up with all the workers. The ones hired last, who had worked the least amount of time, were paid what those hired first had agreed to work for. Naturally, those hired first thought they would, and should receive more.
When they did not, they were less than happy and complained. The employer asked why? Had he done something wrong, had they not agreed to work for that amount?
Our American sense of fairness tends to have us side with those hired first. That is how man thinks. But how does God think?
This parable was to show Jesus' disciples what following Him was about. They felt they should receive special consideration, a reward, because they had been with Jesus from the start of His ministry. Again, man's thinking, not God's.
God is generous with His mercy. Those who come to believe in Him just before death are given the same benefits of redemption as those who came to faith as infants at the Baptismal fount and followed Him all their lives.
Should we begrudge that to others? Certainly not. We can do nothing to earn a paycheck (salvation) from God. Ephesians 2:8, 9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God---not by works, so that no one can boast.”
What a wonderful God we have. We do not have to go through negotiations, have a union steward plead for us, vote, strike, walk a picket line, etc. God's grace is a free gift to us. It is a blessing to be able to labor in God's vineyard. As is often said, the pay may not be great but the retirement benefits are out of this world.
15. Patriot's Day by Kathy Schreiner
There are days that live in our memories. Maybe it is your wedding day, the day your children were born, the day a loved one died. For nations there are such days also. For those of us in the United States some of them might be the end of a war, the day President Kennedy was shot, the day men first walked on the moon.
Recently, it might be September 11th, 2001. The day the United States was attacked on three fronts by terrorists that despise our way of life. We remember this every September 11th with Patriot's Day. Those of us who are old enough remember exactly where we were when we heard of the attacks. Following that tragic day, there was no getting away from it. Some TV stations went silent in reverence while others covered it 24 hours a day, commercial free.
We are coming up on the 19th anniversary of this event. Yet, during this political cycle it is difficult to imagine how united we were back then, less than twenty years ago. We really were united. Flags flew everywhere. Production could not keep up with demand. Churches saw a resurgence of attendance. I long for those days of unity.
It seems now the 24-hour news cycle is filled with opposition, killing, protesting, rioting and angst all around. No unity, just division. Not to mention those wonderfully "positive" campaign ads (sarcasm intended.)
Some are asking “where is God during all this divisiveness?” Well, He is right where He has always been, in His Word, by our side, covering the entire world. God is the same.
Unfortunately, so are we. Think back to the son of Adam and Eve, Cain, who committed the first murder—Cain killed his brother Abel. This is recorded in the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis Chapter 4. It didn't take long to go from Paradise to murder.
Thank God literally, that He has remained the same. Even earlier in Genesis, God promised to send His Son to save us. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
Then the promise was fulfilled in Jesus. "For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Jesus bought eternal life for us with His death on the cross. He declared it when He said "It is finished." (John 19:30b) The work of our redemption was complete. Something we could never do for ourselves.
As Christians, we have citizenship in two places. We are citizens of Earth and citizens of Heaven. While here on Earth, we are to respect and obey the authorities God has placed over us. In Matthew 22:21b Jesus said "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." This applies not only to taxes but respect and obedience for both God and the government. One way of fulfilling our responsibilities of our earthly citizenship is to vote. Peaceful demonstrating is a right guaranteed to us by our government as a way of expressing our disagreement with something. It is not our right to destroy or practice violent acts.
While we are divided as a nation over many issues, we still have the Words of Jesus. "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:44/45a) Prayer is a powerful thing.
I admit my blood tends to boil when I see some of the things on the news. But I find comfort in the adage, “I don't know what the future may hold, but I know who holds the future.”
I should watch less news and read more WORD. How about you?
16. Different but the same by Kathy Schreiner
We are doing a remodeling at our church's parsonage. God has blessed our new school with more kids than we have room for. While we are not able to start building our new school building yet we find we need more room. Consequently, the parsonage is being turned into an early childhood center. We are blessed with people who know what they are doing with this endeavor. A group email was sent asking for volunteers to help with demo.
While I used to be pretty good at that kind of thing, those days have passed. I would be more of a hindrance than help. But there was something I could do. By way of saying "thank you" to those wonderful volunteers, I could take some sweet encouragement. Friday is “$5 Bargain Day” for assorted sweet rolls at my local grocery store. I was able to inexpensively express appreciation for their efforts by dropping off a snack for their coffee break.
Then it was on to the nature trail for a walk with the dogs. They were in doggie heaven—so many new smells, so many new noises, and so many reasons to pee. There was a pair of geese on the river vocalizing at the top of their lungs. Since I do not speak "goose" I could not distinguish if it was a welcome or warning. I did not find a nest along the bank as we walked along the river. Not that we would have disturbed it if I had. I saw one of my favorite birds, a little nuthatch. There were also sparrows of all kinds, chickadees, cowbirds, robins and a few mallard ducks. The dogs and I really enjoyed our walk this morning in God's good, green earth.
It is so wonderful to see the way the things along the trail change daily, yet stay the same in many ways. It is like that for me with the walk with Jesus. Daily I have changes in what is going on in my life, even if it is just my emotions. I might react to a news story, a phone call or email from someone, a bill in the mail. Who knows what I will do or say? I might have a new ache or pain, one of the dogs might have done something either naughty or cute. My life changes daily. Yet it stays kind of the same. I get up in the morning, have coffee, read, watch TV, walk with the dogs, etc. It’s really, kind of predictable & boring, but blessed beyond comprehension.
My walk with Jesus is different every day depending on what happens. Yet it is the same; the same because I can always count on Him. Count on Him to be there when I am happy, sad, confused, jubilant, restless, whatever. He is always there. He knows what day it is and what I need that day. I find if I only remember that, start the day with Him, life is good.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)
17. First Day of Fall by Kathy Schreiner
Ah, Fall. This is my absolute favorite time of year. The weather is cooler so I finally feel like getting things done. Good thing, because the garden harvest will not wait.
I don't can and freeze like I used to. Still, I remember that glorious feeling of looking at jars filled with beautiful jewel tones of beets, dill beans, salsa, corn relish, jams and jellies lined up in rows on the shelves. Not only was it a good feeling to know you had that entire food ready to enjoy whenever you wanted, it was a feeling of accomplishment. I do these things mostly for Christmas gifts now. Kind of like a little bit of me and God in a jar.
Here is Wisconsin the cool weather turns our brains to "survival instinct". It seems to be in our DNA to want to stock up and make our homes warm and cozy so when the cold and snow come, we are ready. (Or maybe it is so we can watch the Packers on Sunday afternoons after church without being bothered.)
I live where there are distinct seasons—winter and road construction. No seriously, every season is beautiful in its unique way. I just happen to love seeing all the different colors of the leaves, the interesting and shapely silhouettes of the tree branches as they lose their leaves, the fields as they begin to go dormant. Even many of the birds and animals turn a bit darker or lighter.
I am reminded of what God tells Noah after the flood in Genesis 8:22, "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."
In the northern climates around mid-February it starts to feel like winter will never cease but Spring eventually arrives. No wonder it’s in the spring when the earth wakes from sleep that it is when Jesus rose from the dead. Martin Luther is credited with a statement something along this line, "Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime."
This Fall I invite you to grab a cup of hot cider and take some time to reflect on the awesome God we have, take notice of and appreciate some of His handiwork. While we go about our lives God keeps everything going. The sun rises and sets, the seasons change, babies are born and people die. To everything there is a season.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV)
To God be the glory!
18. 2020, where to turn? by Kathy Schreiner
2020, what will happen next? The only exception to what was expected to be a normal year was that 2020 is a presidential election year. Instead, a worldwide pandemic threw open a Pandora’s Box of trouble—substantial and strange trouble just as 2020 barely got started!
The latest thing to complicate stressful matters is the recent death of one of the Supreme Court justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This woman was certainly influential and an inspiration to many, especially to women. However, as I watched some of the non-stop coverage of the death and remembrances of her Iife, I was struck by how many times she was referred to as an "Icon".
These days I know the younger people think of icons as pictures on their phones or lap tops, I am from the time when an icon was something to be venerated or idolized. Icons were one of the things Martin Luther, one of the great church reformers of the 16th century, had issues with. I guess I do also. I was raised to praise the Creator, not the creation; give honor and reverence to the Lamb of God who died on the cross, not the cross itself. I admit I take issue with how society builds up people to the point of idol worship while they totally forget the one true God. The great I AM knew us so well He actually made this the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
In this crazy year what is your icon or idol? Security? A vaccine? A politician? We know none of these or anything else replaces our trust in the One, True God. None of these can give us true peace, peace between us and God. That is what we really need. Sure, other things are nice but they are just the frosting on the cake, blessings we receive from our gracious God.
The only solution that will work is our Good and Gracious Lord. The section of the New Testament in Romans 8:28-39 is sub-captioned as "More than conquerors" in the NIV Bible. There are several well-known verses in this here:
vs 28a And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
vs. 31b If God is for us, who can be against us?
vs. 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Who knows what may await us in the last three months of this crazy year? One thing we do know is that our God is there for us, right next to us, 24/7. That is the one thing we can count on. Hebrews 13:8 declares, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
When you feel anxious or troubled remember that. Our God never changes. There is nothing He cannot handle. Turn it over to Him who has the answer.
19. A little child shall lead me by Kathy Schreiner
Have you ever been "schooled" by a child? I have. I will admit I was very humbled when this happened. However, I am grateful and was blessed by it. Let me set the stage for the lesson I received.
I volunteer weekly teaching a class to cognitively challenged individuals. Last summer, BC (before COVID) my grand-niece, Raena, would accompany me. She does receive instruction in bible lessons like I would hope.
However, she enjoyed attending this class and helping me with the clients. My human importance was at work in me. I was thinking well of myself for this. I was instructing both the clients and Raena in God's Word. Little did I know I was about to become the student.
The lesson for that week was about “worry”. In Matthew 6:25-34 of God's Holy Word Jesus tells us we should not worry about our lives. He tells us we do not need to worry about what we will wear or what we will eat. Jesus goes on to comment on the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields. The birds do not plant, harvest and store food in barns. Yet, our Heavenly Father feeds them. The lilies do not spin or sew yet Jesus said even the wealthy Solomon was not as well dressed as these. So, if the Almighty God knows we need these things, why worry? He will see to our needs. I emphasized how we need to trust God.
We had little bouquets of egg carton flowers and colorful paper birds clipped to the flowers. They were cute and the clients loved them. So did my grand-niece. She had helped make them and passed them out to the clients.
A few days later Raena and I were at one of the city parks. Many people were there enjoying the pleasant weather that BC (before COVID) day. We had taken both of the dogs and a lot of other things like lunch, toys, etc. We spread our bounty on one of the picnic tables. I sat down thinking I could relax for a bit. (I can be so hopefully optimistic…)
Raena asked if we could take the dogs for a walk. I surveyed our surroundings. There were quite a few unsupervised kids playing along with a few adults and some young mothers with their children. I really did not want to pack everything up, drag it back to the car only to have to drag it all back once we concluded our walk. I told Raena so.
Well here is where the rubber hit the road. With the faith of a little 7-year-old child, she looked at me and said "We don't have to worry about our stuff. You said God will take care of things. He won't let anyone take it."
I was close to tears. Here I was being schooled in Jesus' words by a child! I told her she was right. We folded our hands and said a little prayer asking the powerful Creator of the World to watch over our pitiful belongings while we walked the dogs and off, we went.
When we returned about half an hour later, Raena looked at me. She was radiant when she said "See Kathy, I told you. God watched over all our stuff. It's all still here. All we had to do was trust, just like in the story."
I did not want to "bother" God with this but she did. She was right. God wants us to trust Him in all things. Not just what we think are the "big" things. He wants us to call on Him for everything. He wants to hear from us whether it be a request for ourselves or someone else, a confession, a "thank you" or just saying we are glad He is there.
How could I not be reminded of people bringing little children to Jesus? In Luke 18:15-17 Jesus, our tender Shepherd, reminds us in three little verses just how much He loves the children and commends their great faith. Verse 17 says, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
Is it time for you to be schooled like I was?
20. No Excuses by Kathy Schreiner
Last Sunday afternoon I started to feel some very severe pain in my mouth. I had not been to the dentist since I retired so I was chastising myself for putting this off. There was no excuse. I had enrolled in a new dental plan since I could not keep the one offered from my former employer. No excuse. I guess I could blame COVID, but that too would be an excuse. Now my hesitation was coming back to bite me (pun intended.) Funny part is, I had scheduled an appointment for the next week. Why couldn't this wait just one week to happen?
The pain was getting worse so I went to the store to get some relief. All that did was numb my tongue but not the pain. I called the dentist's office hoping they could squeeze me in. They were wonderful. I could come in an hour. God bless Dr. G. and her staff. Well, a few x-rays and an exam did not reveal anything. I was started on a regimen of 10 days of antibiotic.
Meanwhile, the left side of my face was swelling by the minute. By Tuesday morning I could barely open my left eye. The swelling under it was purplish and looked like a large apple slice. The pain was horrible. To add insult to injury I discovered the dental insurance I was paying for was not accepted by my dentist (heavy sigh.)
Of course, I prayed. I felt I was responsible for putting myself in this situation. If only I had not put this off. I know God gets us out of messes of our own making daily so I kept praying. By Wednesday afternoon the swelling had gone down quite a bit. More importantly, the pain was gone. I have come to the conclusion it is a sinus thing.
When friends called to check on me, I joked if Halloween were closer I would not need a mask. I was kind of looking like the phantom of the opera…scary on one side (an observer could decide which side.) It was enough to embarrass me to the point of not attending three bible studies last week. Did I really need to stay home? After all, I wasn't contagious or anything. But vanity got the better of me. Using my appearance as an excuse I gave up precious time studying with my friends at the feet of our Redeemer—the same One I had asked to heal me. He kept up His end, why didn't I?
"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks on at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7b)
I was so concerned about what others would think when they looked at me, I was not thinking about what God was seeing in my heart. No excuses.
The older I get, the more I value time in God's Holy Word. I still was able to spend time in the Word by myself but I really missed doing this with fellow Christians. It is so important to be together in the Word so we can strengthen, support and encourage each other. We need to do this as often as we can. No excuses!
21. Calendar Days by Kathy Schreiner
I flipped the page of the calendar for a new month to write things down so I do not have to rely on my senior brain. Of course, this doesn't do much good if I forget to look at the calendar so I keep it open on the table with my lap top.
As I was entering times and places, I was struck by little notations printed on different days of the month. An asterisk at the bottom of the page stated that Jewish and Islamic holidays start at sundown the day before they are listed. My curiosity urged me to peruse the months. A variety of observances are listed. Some of these included: Chinese New Year, Boxer Day, National Freedom Day, Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, Victoria Day, Eid al-Adha, Al-Hijra/Muharram, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali and many more. I confess, I do not even know what some of these observances are about. That doesn't mean they are not important to someone, but I guess they are not that important to me.
I was also struck by days that were not recognized on the pages of the calendar. Some of these include: Epiphany, Ascension, Maundy Thursday, All Souls Day, St. Michael and All Angels Day, Trinity Sunday, Pentecost, Reformation Day and many more days that I do know, but how important are they to me, to us? How many of these days do we still observe?
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17 NIV)
Here the Apostle Paul is speaking about the Old Testament festivals God established for His people, the Israelites. They were a “shadow” of what came through the atonement work of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. We may not be obligated to observe Christian festivals, but it is good to set aside these special dates to remember, honor, and celebrate God’s amazing plan of salvation for all people.
While it might not be printed in a secular calendar, we can inspire a new awakening to celebrate these special Christian festivals for what they truly are about. The commemoration of the Protestant Reformation will soon be upon us. I hate to think where we might be if the great "I AM" had not used His servant Martin Luther to inspire a spiritual awakening in the world.
Made Alive in Christ! (Ephesians 2:1-10 NIV) “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”