Blessed to Mourn?

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“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

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A Song of Blessing

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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.

That Little Blessing

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The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

On Sunday mornings, if you’re in church, you may hear this blessing right before you leave. If you’re waiting impatiently, wanting to get on with your life, then you may not give this the importance that it deserves.

It’s just that thing that the pastor says before we go, right? WRONG. So what is the big deal? This blessing from the Old Testament was given to Aaron, so the Blessing is called The Aaronic Blessing. Let me expand the scripture and change the translation. The above is just three verses in the New International Version so it sounds like what you hear in church. Below is from The Message by Eugene Peterson and I’ve started the verses at verse 22:

22-23 God spoke to Moses: “Tell Aaron and his sons, This is how you are to bless the People of Israel. Say to them,

24 God bless you and keep you,

25 God smile on you and gift you,

26 God look you full in the face and make you prosper.

27 In so doing, they will place my name on the People of Israel—

I will confirm it by blessing them.”

So this blessing is not just coming from your pastor, it’s coming from God!! God told Aaron to bless the people of Israel and to bless them with God’s name. If you put Aaronic Blessing in a search engine on the internet you’ll find so many teachings and studies just on these six verses.

When the pastor says this blessing in our church, I bow my head and thank the Lord for His Blessing and I accept it. It seems like such a small thing at the end of the service, but it has big meaning in our lives.

Becoming a Welcoming Church – A Book Review

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This book has a church member taking what could be a difficult journey in realizing – Is church as welcoming as you think?

In the six chapters, the author walks the reader through their church with a fresh eye.  Everything is covered – from the physical appearance, website information and any and all facets of the church are reviewed.

I found several items that I thought were helpful and could implemented in any church without cost or a lot of members needed.

I feel that this book is a good and informative read and has a lot of helpful information for any church.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

 

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/becoming-a-welcoming-church-P005796138

Blessed Are the Merciful by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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“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

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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

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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

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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.

Blessings

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We all think of Blessings as being the good in our life.  Nice house, newer car, nice clothes, good job and on and on.  We really need to look back at the “bad” things that have happened in our life and see whether those experiences were blessings.

I’ve written about some of my experiences here.  Sixteen years of caregiving for my husband taught me patience.  I learned to wait on the Lord.  I also learned to trust the Lord, that he had everything under control.  My faith grew.  Yes, I had times when I would say, “When, Lord, when?”.  Just wondering when my life would change.  Sometimes I felt stuck.  I couldn’t just walk away from my husband, but there were many things that I wanted to do and couldn’t because I had to take care of him.  I learned to not let the bitterness overcome me, to give it to the Lord.

So, you would hardly think that having a husband diagnosed with a brain tumor and then having to take care of him, watching him slowly (very slowly) deteriorate and then eventually die would be a blessing.  Romans 8:28 says it all:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

I’ve put this song up on the blog before.  Laura Story’s husband also had a brain tumor.  He is still doing well from what I have been able to hear.  She wrote this song after he was diagnosed.

 

Martin Luther on Heavenly Blessings

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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