be still my soul

 

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My Lord, you are my shepherd; I don’t have need for anything.  Even as the dark shadows surround me, I am not afraid because your word and presence give me comfort.  The enemies of my soul are lurking in wait for me to stumble and fall, but I will not falter.  Where You lead I will follow.  You are my shepherd.  You have set a table for me overflowing with abundance and hope.  Surely nothing can separate us for the rest of my days because your mercy and goodness are with me and I know that I am blessed.

“Be Still, My Soul”
by Catharina von Schlegel, 1697-?
Translated by Jane Borthwick, 1813-1897

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Hymn #651
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Psalm 46:10
Author: Catharine Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel, 1752, cento
Translated by: Jane Borthwick, 1855
Titled: “Stille, mein Wille”
Composer: Jean Sibelius, b. 1865, arr.
Tune: “Finlandia”

ROOTS

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

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Do you know your roots?  In 1976 I began a project which lasted several years researching the family tree.  Fortunately, my family had lived in the region comprising Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, since before the Revolutionary War.  Equally fortunate was the fact that all the old county records were stored at the courthouse in the basement which in colonial times served as the county jail.  Nothing yet was transferred to digital and we amateur genealogists were allowed into the dungeon to do our research from the written transcripts.  It was dank and musty down there in the numerous jail cells and it was not difficult to imagine prisoners scurrying about amongst the multitude of books containing wills, land deeds and orphan’s court records.  For treasure hunters like myself the time spent there was an adventure through days long past.

I don’t believe I fully appreciated the convenience of all my family history being in one courthouse and one library within 30 miles of my home.  My maternal Snyder side of the family changed the spelling from Schneider in the 1860s to 1880s.  The Browns migrated from Europe as Brauns in the late 1700s.  Himmel’s Church in Rebuck, Pennsylvania, is the resting place of my forefathers, Schneiders and Brauns, with headstones among the very first of the burial plots in the church cemetery.  Himmel’s was founded in 1773.

Our Germanic community lived in relative isolation in the Schwaben Creek Valley of central Pennsylvania having settled there from Berks County, Pennsylvania, in the mid 1700s.  The Pennsylvania Dutch which was spoken was called “low German” in contrast to written German which was referred to as “high German”.  There are similarities, but centuries of geographic separation from the mother country made it difficult to read the Bibles which were written in high or “hoch” German.  Many of the words were vastly unrecognizable.  My grandparents did not learn English until entering school.  I was not encouraged to learn the Dutch dialect as it was considered too common, but I understood when family members and neighbors spoke in Dutch.

Further stories of an early migration to America in the 1600s by my people is interesting but I was never able to verify the accounts written in volumes by local historians.  We knew for certain that my ancestors escaped religious and social persecution in lands that are now Germany, that they fled to England and from there indentured themselves to landowners in the ‘new world’.

My people did not immigrate to America because they were weary of the wonderful life they  were having in their native lands.   They did not come here to take advantage of native inhabitants.  They came here because they had nothing and were willing to sacrifice their nothingness for hope in a new land.  They did not speak the predominant English language, did not bow to the predominant God, and did not have any assurance of a better life.  All they wanted was to start anew in peaceful observance of their traditions and heritage, to raise families without fear of persecution, and to share the bounty of a new beginning.

Sounds like some other immigrants about whom we hear today.  My people did not have a statue in New York Harbor to welcome them with a torch and encouraging words, but when others followed their footsteps, I am sure they said,  “Welcome neighbor, we have plenty to share.  Enjoy the bounty with us which the good Lord has provided.”

Yes, I know they would have said that.  That’s who we were back then and that’s who we are now.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these , the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”  Emma Lazarus – THE NEW COLOSSUS 

Our words are perhaps not as eloquent, but Emma Lazarus speaks to who we are.  We have been in the shoes of the homeless and tempest-tost and we will remember.

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butterfly

 

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  MAYA ANGELOU

Why is it that butterflies become beautiful in our sight only when they have survived the stages of development leading up to their appearance before us in our yards as flitting, soaring, gliding, sailing, dancing, fluttering marvels of nature?  We hardly appreciate them as eggs, larvae, and caterpillars.  Rarely do we say, “Oh look! A spectacular worm.”

Members of the Kingdom animalia, Phylum Euarthropoda, Class insecta, Order lepidoptera are a species dating to the Paleocene Era about 56 million years ago.  The eastern North American population of monarchs can travel thousands of miles to over-wintering sites in Mexico and reverse the migration in the spring.  The British painted lady undertakes a 9000 mile round trip in a series of steps by up to six generations from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle. WIKIPEDIA

Yes, I am about to compare us, humans, to butterflies.  Don’t you see the similarity?  Or, if you would rather, I could liken us to mosquitoes or house flies?  (Yes, I have been called maggot on occasion.)  We do, after all, share some pesky traits with those insects also.  OK, then.  Now that we see eye to eye,  I am going to call you and me beautiful butterflies.  As you perused the opening photographs, which one is most splendid to you?  Did you choose one that is brightly colored? or one that is intricately patterned? or one that is a stately monochrome?

The extravagant beauty of a butterfly is self-evident.  We see it, we marvel, and we say, “Oh, what a lovely creature that is!”  Not so much with us humans.  We are short, tall, obese and slender.  We are black, brown, red, yellow, white and many shades in between.  We have black hair, brown hair, red hair, blonde hair, straight hair, curly hair and like those of us who have raised too many children or seen too many years, we have white hair or no hair.  Not all of us are at our beautiful butterfly stage.  Some of us are in the not-so-pretty stages of eggs, larvae and caterpillars.  Men especially can relate to being called a “worm” by a disgruntled spouse.

But, as Maya Angelou so profoundly says it, our transformational beauty has to endure the sometimes ugly stages before we are recognized by the world as the gorgeous humans which we are.  Whatever size, shape, shade, or sex we grow up to be, we are beautiful when allowed and encouraged to mature into a sailing, soaring, fluttering, floating masterpiece of the Lord’s handiwork.

Just like the butterfly, each one of us is a miraculous creation in his/her own right.  The Book of Genesis tells us that God created each of us in the image of God. GENESIS 1:27  Male and female He made them in his image.  The wisdom of the ancients tells us that we are God-like.  So how can we be anything less than beautiful, compassionate, loving, replicas of our Creator?

Of course, you can be a pesky mosquito or house fly.  They also have purpose and reason in God’s universe.  It’s your choice.  But, I’m going to be a swallowtail when I grow up.

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Psalm 23

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

“It’s January.  Outside the weather is cold and dreary.   Melancholy is knocking on the front door.  I’m looking for warmth and comfort within.  Join me?

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

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housecleaning time

Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.orange tree

Most people don’t like housecleaning, do they?  Yeah, I know the end result is amazingly comforting and fulfilling, but the actual work can be a lesson in Boredom 101.  Dust, sweep, scrub, organize, grab the Ty-D-Bol, where’s the Ajax?  For me, it’s a trip into futility because I know cleaning will need to be done again in another two weeks.  And then, before I realize it, the two-week period stretches into a month and I look at my house completely disgusted with myself for being such a dirt-bag.

I am certain none of you, my illustrious readers, have this problem.  You all seem to be outstanding people with impeccable cleaning habits.  But how about your heart?  How often do you get down into the nitty-gritty of what’s on your heart and do a ruthless housecleaning?  Throw out the old, ponderous grudges?  Get rid of guilt baggage that simply is not useful anymore?  Maybe rethink theology that no longer makes sense in your life?  C’mon, let’s get honest.

King David, in Psalm 51, has been confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding David’s affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah.  David and Bathsheba  David, from the palace, spied the beautiful woman bathing on her rooftop and sent for her.  Then, having slept with Bathsheba while her husband was fighting with the armies, David, in due time, faced the consequences of his sin learning that she was pregnant with his child.  To conceal his transgression King David ordered Uriah home from the battle front believing the soldier would sleep with his wife and the pregnancy could then be attributed to her husband.  Uriah, however, refused to sleep with Bathsheba while his fellow warriors continued to fight in battle.  To him it was a matter of honor.  David then continued with his deceit, got Uriah drunk believing that his soldier, filled with wine, would certainly bed his wife.  That ploy also failed whereupon King David ordered his soldier to the most dangerous position on the front line where he was killed in battle.

End of story, right?  Actually not.  Not only did the entire episode have a witness in the prophet Nathan, David’s conscience and the guilt over his actions were invalidating his spirit.  He was a deeply devout man who had fallen to lust, deceit and murder.  Psalm 51 is a petition to his God, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness…..wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin….cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.”

Not quite as eloquently, but equally contrite and remorseful, I have again and again and again petitioned the Lord of my life for forgiveness and cleansing.  Cleanse and renew, cleanse and renew, cleanse and renew.  It will be a lifetime endeavor because I am a human who is faulted and broken in need of a forgiving, loving, compassionate God.

Housecleaning is a good thing.  Sometimes we find things that were thought to be lost.  Sometimes we discover dirt that could be harmful to us.  Often we can rid ourselves of useless bric-a-brac.  But always, we finish the chore feeling cleansed and renewed.

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

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what I love about Sundays

 

Sunday on the farm when I was a boy is exactly what this song says about Sundays.  Worship in our church just down the road, dinner of chicken and waffles with bowls of gravy, apple pie, a nap and then an afternoon of socializing, ball games, and fishing.  Neighbor, it just don’t get any better than this.  

Raymond’s in his Sunday best
He’s usually up to his chest in oil and grease
There’s the Martins walking in
With that mean little freckle-faced kid
Who broke a window last week
Sweet miss Betty likes to sing off key
In the pew behind me

That’s what I love about Sunday
Sing along as the choir sways
Every verse of amazing grace
And then we shake the preacher’s hand
Go home into your blue jeans
Have some chicken and some baked beans
Pick a backyard football team
Not do much of anything
That’s what I love about Sunday

I stroll to the end of the drive
Pick up the Sunday times, grab a coffee cup
Looks like Sally and Rob finally tied the knot
Well, it’s about time
It’s thirty-five cents off a ground round
Baby, cut that coupon out

That’s what I love about Sunday
Cat-nappin’ on a porch swing
You curled up next to me
The smell of jasmine wakes us up
Take a walk down a back road
Tackle box and a cane pole
Carve our names in that white oak
Steal a kiss as the sun fades
That’s what I love about Sunday

New believers getting baptized
Mama’s hands raised up high
Havin’ a hallelujah good time
A smile on everybody’s face
That’s what I love about Sunday

That’s what I love about Sunday

Songwriters: ADAM DORSEY,MARK NARMORE
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC,OLE MEDIA MANAGEMENT LP
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: LyricFind

don’t forget to K.I.S.S.

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

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There currently is a television commercial depicting a hiker walking on a beautiful, unfamiliar wooded trail using GPS as a guide.  In an instant he drops his backpack, runs ahead on the trail.  The last scene is disconcerting to me, even though I have seen it many times.  Running at full speed, he jumps off a cliff several 100 feet high into a beautiful shimmering lake awaiting below.

Would you trust your GPS that implicitly?  Could I?  Trust it enough to jump off a cliff to certain death if the data is not correct?  What if there is no deep water at the end of my jump to cushion my fall?

We are asked to do the same with our faith.  Nobody has returned from death to tell us about the glories of heaven or the depths of hell.  Nobody has seen Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. NOBODY!  So why should we believe?  I am a rational, reasonable human being who has spent numerous decades trying to determine what life is about and I have as much certitude now as I did when I came into this world.

BINGO!  Faith is not about certitude.  Faith is trust in the mystery which tells us that light will overcome the darkness, that love will prevail, that peace on earth will occur when mankind becomes peaceful in all his affairs.  Faith is not at the end of the trail,  a destiny to be attained.  Rather, it is the trail itself.

We read scriptures for many reasons.  The history of the Jews is an interesting lesson in the human condition.  All the trials, the greed, the intolerance, the violence are balanced by victory over ego, insights about communal living, stories that reflect man’s search for God.

The writings by the contemporaries of Jesus relate His message that relieves followers from the 613 Laws of the Old Covenant observed by ancient Jewish culture.  Some Christian leaders today carry across the B.C / A.D line those Old Covenant laws attempting to override the simple message of Christianity regarding laws (commandments).

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength.  The second is this:  love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark: 12:30-31

Pretty simple, straight-forward theology, is it not?  We don’t need anything more to trust that our faith is heading in the right direction.  Forget all the ‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt not’ from the ponderous teachings and preachings of modern Christianity which have done more to oppress than enlighten.  That is what John said:

“If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”  John 8:36

He’s talking about freedom from the oppression of ancient theology and theological laws.  We can trust a simple faith which places God and love for fellow-man at the center of our beliefs.  Nothing more is needed.

How we live our faith is a choice we make every day.  The rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous urge us onward with this daily choice by slogans on the wall.  K.I.S.S. – Keep ISimple Stupid – is one of them which embodies a way of living, a faith walk if you will, that frees us from concerns about religious correctness.  The fellowship which occurs in those rooms attests to the success of making sober-living people out of drunkards through a simple spiritual program.  Have you KISSED today?

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