Author Archives: jculler1972

About jculler1972

My husband is the pastor of St. Paul's Free Lutheran Church in Leitersburg, Maryland. I have two grown daughters and a granddaughter and am retired after a career in Purchasing. I have published articles in The Lutheran Ambassador, Lutheran Witness, and Lutheran Digest. My Bible study on the Book of Acts was recently published by the Women's Missionary Federation of the AFLC(Association of Free Lutheran Churches).

Problem or Blessing?

Standard

As I’ve been thinking about blessings this month, I’ve started to realize that feeling blessed has a lot to do with our perspective.  In other words, how do we think about things?  I’ve also learned a new phrase recently, “first world problem.”  Here’s the definition:  a minor frustration or irritation experienced by privileged people in rich countries.  Friends, think about it, most of our problems, all those things we get angry and worried about are really exactly this.  To much of the world, we’re whining about things that are pretty inconsequential.  Wouldn’t it be better when encountered with a “first world problem” to remind ourselves how really blessed we are?

Here are a few problems I encountered this week while on vacation visiting my daughter in South Carolina:

We arrived at our condo to find that due to a leak upstairs, our washer and dryer were not working!  I had to go to my daughter’s home about 20 minutes away to wash my clothes! (First world problem — how blessed am I to own a vacation home and an automatic washer and dryer in the first place!  How blessed am I to have plenty of clothing for goodness sake!  How blessed am I to have children who will help me out!)

We decided to meet our daughter for lunch at a favorite restaurant only to find out that it had closed!  What a disappointment!  We love their crab soup!  (First world problem– all we had to do was select another restaurant, there are many choices.  Aren’t we blessed to have a choice of foods and be able to afford to eat out at all?)

Here’s a good one:  our apartment in South Carolina does not have Wi-Fi.  We’re so used to this convenience, it’s annoying to be unable to look something up on google or check my email instantly (or write a blog post as soon as inspiration strikes).  Instead we had to make a trip to the library to use the computer. (First world problem!  Aren’t we incredibly blessed to have a library where we can not only use our computer — which we are blessed to own– but borrow books and movies at no cost.)

Well, you get the idea.  I don’t have to worry about having food for my next meal, shelter from the weather, or transportation.  I have resources to share.  I’m not alone in the world, I have family and friends around me.  Most of all, I have the church and the gospel. God has provided me with all that I need and more.  From now on, when I’m tempted to complain about one of those “first world problems” I’m going to count my blessings instead.  What about you?

 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life” (Matt 6:25-27)?

 

Advertisements

Blessed to Mourn?

Standard

“Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4

Blessed means exceedingly happy, and it’s hard to imagine anyone being happy during a time of mourning.  However, as I thought about this, I remembered a young man who had been my coworker.  When his father died unexpectedly, he told me, “You never realize how many friends you have until somebody dies.”  There’s some truth in that.  In the busyness of life we often forget to make time for others, but when death occurs, family and friends rally around.  We are all reminded that relationships and love are the things that really matter, It’s certainly a comfort and a blessing to know we’re not alone, that others care for us.

Mourning is a time to reflect.  I found when my mother died, as I sorted through her photos, I also remembered my childhood, the personality traits and interests we shared; the birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, family reunions and other important events in our life together. I cried some and laughed some.  I hadn’t thought about those things in a long time, but they are part of what made me who I am.  That has been a blessing to me.

Mourning is a time to turn to God.  Nothing comforts me more than the rituals and routines of my faith life.  Nothing means more than the assurance that mom is with Jesus, and one day I will be with Him as well.  Nothing eases the pain so much as knowing she is no longer stuck in a body that doesn’t work, and with a brain that can’t think.  These are the greatest blessings of all.

The Bible tells us that God works all things out for our good, and that includes mourning.

“Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”  Psalm 126:6

A Song of Blessing

Standard

Omer Westendorf (1916-1997) published this hymn under the pseudonym J. Clifford Evers in the People’s Mass Book (1964).  It was the first vernacular hymnbook to implement the changes in Roman Catholic liturgy ordered by the Second Vatican Council.

Omer was born on February 24, 1916, at Cincinnati, Ohio.  He became a church organist at the age of twenty and served at St. Bonaventure Church, Cincinnati, for over forty years.  The church’s choir has recorded religious music and performed on television, radio, and in live concerts.

Leland Bernhard Sateren (1913-2007) harmonized this tune in 1972 when it was included in the Lutheran supplement Contemporary Worship – 4: Hymns for Baptism and Holy Communion.  It is often used as a recessional at the end of the service.

Blessed Are the Merciful by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Standard

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ These men without possessions or power, these strangers on Earth, these sinners, these followers of Jesus, have in their life with him renounced their own dignity, for they are merciful. As if their own needs and their own distress were not enough, they take upon themselves the distress and humiliation of others. They have an irresistible love for the down-trodden, the sick, the wretched, the wronged, the outcast and all who are tortured with anxiety. They go out and seek all who are enmeshed in the toils of sin and guilt. No distress is too great, no sin too appalling for their pity. If any man falls into disgrace, the merciful will sacrifice their own honour to shield him, and take his shame upon themselves.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Being a Family Blessing

Standard

In Sunday School recently, we had a discussion about our church family, and how we should relate to these people who are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are meant to be a blessing to the family of God, and that isn’t always easy.  I found this quote from Eugene Peterson’s book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and I think it addresses the situation well.

 But of course, the fact that we are a family of faith does not mean we are one big happy family.  The people we encounter as brothers and sisters in faith are not always nice people.  The do not stop being sinners the moment they begin believing in Christ.  They don’t suddenly metamorphose into brilliant conversationalists, exciting companions and glowing inspirations.  Some of them are cranky, some of them are dull and others (if the truth must be spoken) a drag.  But at the same time our Lord tells us that they are brothers and sisters in faith.  If God is my Father, then this is my family.

 So the question is not, “Am I going to be a part of a community of faith?’  but “How am I going to live in this community of faith?”  God’s children do different things.  Some run away and pretend the family doesn’t exist.  Some move out and get an apartment of their own from which they return to make occasional visits, nearly always showing up for the parties and bringing a gift to show that they really do hold the others in fond regard.  And some would never dream of leaving but cause others to dream it for them, for they are always criticizing what is served at meals, quarreling with the way the housekeeping is done and complaining that the others in the family are either ignoring or taking advantage of them.  And some determined to find out what God has in mind by placing them in this community called a church, learn how to function harmoniously and joyously, and develop the maturity that is able to share and exchange God’s grace with those who might otherwise be viewed as nuisances.

Which kind of a family member are you?  Do you bless others, or do you just want to be blessed?

Truly Blessed

Standard

There is an elderly lady in our congregation named Bea.  Her health is not good and she lives in a nursing home.  My husband, her Pastor, loves his visits to Bea because she is always cheerful, positive and thankful. According to Bea, the caregivers are so kind to her;  her children and grandchildren visit often;  she has a prayer partner in another state whom she has never met who calls her, sends cards and prays faithfully;  she has a loving church family.  Bea says she has so many reasons to thank God.

Did Bea have an easy life?  Not especially.  She didn’t finish school because she married very young.  She raised a large family.  Her first husband died fairly young.  Her second husband also predeceased her.  Yet Bea tells my husband she is thankful to have had two good men in her life.  She has been in and out of the hospital due to pneumonia, but when asked how she feels, she believes that each day she is getting a little better.

Bea is not blessed in the eyes of the world.  She is old and ill;  she had no high powered career;  she is not rich or famous.  Yet of all the people I know, she is one of those I consider truly blessed.  She loves God and like the apostle Paul, has learned to be content in all circumstances.  I struggle every day to become more like Bea.

“Now there is great gain in godliness and contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”  1 Timothy 6:6-8

A Scottish Blessing Prayer

Standard

May the blessing of light be on you

May the blessing of light be on you, light without and light within. May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire, so that stranger and friend may come and warm himself at it. And may light shine out of the two eyes of you, like a candle set in the window of a house, bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm. And may the blessing of the rain be on you, may it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean, and leave there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines, and sometimes a star. And may the blessing of the earth be on you, soft under your feet as you pass along the roads, soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day; and may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it. May it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be out from under it quickly; up and off and on its way to God. And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly.

Martin Luther on Heavenly Blessings

Standard

The heavenly blessing is to be delivered from the law, sin and death; to be justified and quickened to life: to have peace with God; to have a faithful heart, a joyful conscience, a spiritual consolation; to have the knowledge of Jesus Christ; to have the gift of prophecy, and the revelation of the Scriptures; to have the gift of the Holy Ghost, and to rejoice in God.

Martin Luther

New Month/New Theme

Standard

I can hardly believe it’s April and time for a new theme.  This month the Lutheran ladies will be exploring our blessings.  What better time than Easter to do this, for we have just received the greatest possible blessing — freedom from the penalty of sin and reconciliation with God!

Blessings come in many forms:  there are spiritual blessings and material blessings.  People bless us, and we can be blessings to others.  Health is a blessing.  Our very existence is a blessing, one that we should never take for granted, or waste.  If we make  time to “count” our blessings, we’ll find that God’s grace rains down upon us constantly.  Spending time reflecting on what we’ve been given will surely inspire an attitude of gratitude.

Stay tuned, dear readers, for our thoughts on what it means to be blessed, and any other topics that are on the hearts and minds of our authors this month.

I Have Given You an Example

Standard

When we’re deciding on a direction for our lives, it is not uncommon to follow someone else’s example.  As children, we naturally look to our parents.  As we get older, teachers, friends, and siblings influence us.  At work, we may choose a mentor, someone we respect, and imitate their work ethic or philosophy.  Sometimes we even look to celebrities or heroes whose lifestyle we wish to duplicate in our own lives.  Often those we choose to follow end up disappointing us in some way.  We find out that even the greatest saints have feet of clay… or as one Christian author said, we’re all cracked pots.

Jesus is the one person whose example is always perfect and safe to follow.  Earlier this week I went to Maundy Thursday service and I learned something about that (for those who are from not from liturgical background, this is the evening when we celebrate and remember the Last Supper).  Before the Passover meal Jesus deliberately set an example for the disciples.  He knew that His time with them was growing short and He wanted to impress upon them this matter of great importance.

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them.  ‘Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.'” John 13: 12-17

Jesus set the example for us — servanthood.  As His disciples, He expects us to follow.  Are you moving in the right direction?