In God’s community of believers, there’s freedom to cry on one another's shoulders, or share in the happiness of a job well done, and then carry those trials and victories to the cross of Christ for answers and thanksgiving. No other relationship is built on this firm foundation for problem-solving and hope-filled direction.

     Kathy Schreiner portrays this ebb and flow of our faith walk in little vignettes of that same Hope. We can relate to her honest portrayal of stumbling blocks coming from within and without. She ends each trial and victory by bringing the issue back to Jesus; where she can lay the burden or victory down at the feet of the only one who overcame every problem on earth. It’s there that we too find forgiveness, resolutions, and blessings.

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 EHV

First Day of Fall

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! 

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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)

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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?

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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.

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