As the church that serves the countryside, we commit ourselves to share Christ's love in action through our congregation, community, and the world.
A Celebration of Our Veteran
This article will come just after our God and Country celebration, where each year in our community we honor the Veterans of past wars as well as the active members of our present armed forces who keep us free in our beloved country.
The Veterans of past wars come in a number of different sizes, shapes and ages. their experience of past wars spans World Wars and several foreign conflicts. They have been in Flanders field,
Iwo Jima, the beaches of Normandy, Porkchop Hill and the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta. No matter where they have been, all Veterans share a common bond - a brotherhood of memory and hard won wisdom that helps define their character.
A Veteran is the first one up when the flag passes by and the last man down, for they have been witness to the blood and tears that make our God & Country program and all parades possible. A Veteran is a man of peace, soft spoken, slow to anger, quick to realize that those who talk most about the glory of war are those who know least about its horror. The Veteran does not joke about war because he has been there and still recalls in his memories the dying, the widows and orphans. He knows firsthand that no war is good and the only thing worse than war is the loss of freedom.
The Veteran is a friend to all races of men. He lives with the knowledge that is not the man who is the enemy but enslavement and false ideologies who are the foes. Many of those who they once faced as enemies across hostile battle lines, he now esteems as brothers. A Veteran is at once proud of the fact that in 240 years our country has not had a foreign enemy totally invade our country, and humble in the realization that many of his comrades who helped make the dream a reality never returned home to our country.
Know Me, Lord!
To be considered important, valuable and wanted is one of the basic needs of our lives. So often we feel like we're just a part of a crowd. In the stadiums, ballparks, arenas and sometimes the bigger churches, we feel like just an indistinguishable face in a very big crowd. We find, in our mailboxes, letters and other mail addressed to "occupant". We hurry down streets where no one may recognize us. Sometimes we began to wonder if our lives have any significant meaning to anybody else. Many experts think that many of our social problems come from this need gone astray; people searching for a way to say "I'm important, I count for something, please notice me!"
The truth be told, is that we are all noticed much more than we realize. We are noticed by friends, family, colleagues and even strangers are affected by the things we do and say. But even beyond the associations of other people, there is a vast amount of love and concern from the God who loves us all. It should be comforting to each of us to know the prayer of the poet
"O regard me, Lord" from the music "O Divine Redeemer" is answered even before it is asked. Whether or not we feel the praise of others, or we feel ignored and unknown, the Lord always regards us. To Him, our importance is never dimmed.
The old Testament book of Jonah, tells of the prophet Jonah. He didn't appear to like God's command to go to a city and preach His word. So Jonah fled, or at least tried to flee from the presence of God. He thought of God as only a local deity from whom he could hide. Perhaps, you and I have tried to hide or feel hidden from God. Sometimes, we think, "Who am I that God should care about or notice me?" After all, we are only one out of billions of people who inhabit the world. It strains our imagination to think that we are worthy of being "regarded" by God, Himself.
Learn to Listen
We are supposed to be living in an age of communication. Satellites are in our skies, reflecting words and pictures to radios and television sets. We send countless emails, text messages and post on social media, and human voices fill the air in a ceaseless drone.
The effective speaker is a powerful person in today's society, and communication is lauded as a panacea for many of our problems. So, we are encouraged to improve our abilities to get our point across and effectively state and support our position.
It is good to be able to articulate our views, but there is another communication skill that is equal in value and vital to the worlds well being, one that is very often lost in the babble of voices wanting to be heard. This is the priceless art of listening.
The listening that we have become accustom to today is often a faint shadow of the real thing. Because there are so many voices and sounds that clamor for our attention, we have learned to turn a semi deaf ear to much of what we hear.
Effective listening, of course, is more than just being quiet. If it is done well, it is an active and demanding spiritual labor. To listen well demands our full attention not only to words but to the inflections, expressions, body movements, the things left unsaid, and any other signals the person may be sending out.
Effective listening requires empathy, the ability to put ourselves in the position of those who are speaking to us, to feel as they feel.
Good listening demands understanding of others, their desires, their hopes, fears and problems. We are always so quick to judge and slow to understand.
If given our choice, we would probably choose a less fearsome world. We would prefer a world where weeds did not infest the lawn, where there was no pain, where all our plans worked out and where wisdom was not overshadowed by ignorance. We would like not to age. We would like our muscles not to wear out and our cells not to deteriorate. We would like to see a world where there was no hunger, where there was enough money to pay the bills and where there were enough toys to fill our idle moments. But we are aware that this type of world doesn't exist. Life is not perfect. However, if it was perfect we would miss out on one of our greatest needs which is our need for others. If we were so independent, another arm would be far less welcome. If we weren't subject to fevers, we would not appreciate a cool hand on our forehead. If the world met every need before we asked for it or felt we needed it, we'd miss the gratitude when somebody sees our emptiness and fills it.
One writer asked the questions, "What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?" It is in that very fact - of making life less difficult - that we find love and meaning in life.
One author relates the following story. A family whose father was out of work, found that their refrigerator was growing empty. The parents despaired of what to feed the family in the coming days. One night, the mother came home to find the refrigerator full, the shelves filled, and a roast in the oven, all provided by a neighbor next door.
"How could you know?" the mother asked the neighbor, now feeling the warmth of being loved and cared for. While life had been breaking into pieces around her, someone had become aware of the family's need. The feeling of having loved was a far richer gift than the empty shelves had been a trial.
A life problem, like a mathematical problem is something to be solved according to some formula, set aside, and then forgotten. That of course, is what we hope for in life.
Sometimes, we pray under our breath and say "Let life not be too hard today". We look forward to a day when problems will level off. We seem to think that often a challenge has passed, a sickness has passed, or after the closets are ordered, there will come a time of peace. Not so!
Problems are a part of our human condition, the ebb and flow of a world which we are only visiting. There is absolutely no escape from them. Helen Keller, who ought to know, is quoted as saying about this security; "It is mostly superstition. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer is the long run than outright exposure. Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing".
But sometimes the danger of living can overwhelm us. We wonder if we can manage our problems or if they will manage us. We possibly could handle them if they would come one at a time and give us sufficient breaks, but they often flood us. We frantically search our resources and seem to come up empty.
This is when we need to remember the message of the Gospel of Jesus. To God, nothing in impossible and we are not alone. We were not born to fail. He who knows us longer than we can remember can give us back to ourselves however much evidence we can collect to the contrary. He knows that we have the power within us to meet every problem with His help. Eleanor Roosevelt used to carry the following prayer in her purse, "Our Father, who set restlessness in our hearts and made us all seekers after that which we cannot fully find, keep us at tasks too hard for us, that we may be driven to thee for strength". We must never doubt that He can deliver.
Pastor Hans Lillejord
Looking Beyond the Headline
There was a time when we knew our neighbor next door, when all the people in our home town were known by their first names. A time when the news of a birth or a death, a marriage or a divorce, where sickness and good fortune were passed from mouth to mouth, door to door, until everyone in the area rejoiced in joy or wept in sadness and grief.
When the church bells rang out they told of a soul which had departed, all stopped to ask for whom the bells tolled; the farmer in the field brought his team to a standstill to count the rings, which told the number of years of him or her whom death had taken from us. The housewife baking bread, the carpenter in his shop, the blacksmith at his anvil all counted the message of the bells and knew which soul had departed.
All that was a long time ago, but things have changed. Our new world is much more complex. The printed paper as well as the electronic media have replaced the message of the bells. We know so much more about what is going on in the world. However, distance separates us from the emotional effect of tragic events. We sit quietly and with comfort in our soft chairs as we read the headlines. Half a world away. A volcano has swept away a few dozen villages and thousands of people from the face of the world. We watch starving children die in the streets of Haite, school children die at the hands of a crazed killer, a female attacked, and we casually turn the page of our newspaper or click the remote for the T.V. to catch the scores of the local high school football game or amuse ourselves as make believe-actors perform make-believe tragedies on a make believe stage.
What is your Motivating Force? Nearly all the things we do in life are brought about by one thing or another. This includes our basic needs such as eating and sleeping as well as work and recreation. All of these things occur because some inner or outer motivation moves us to action. The challenge for us is to acquire control over these impulses so that we do the right thing for the right reasons.
There are a number of people who regret their influence and positions in life because they sought after them for the wrong reasons. Sometimes we fool ourselves into believing that our actions are for a wonderful cause when, in fact, the true motivation was for a dishonest or unethical reason. When that seems to be the case, we usually discover that it is for one of two reasons - money or power.
A newspaper columnist once observed that the desire for power leads the list of motivating forces. "Men will do for power what they will not do for money", he was quoted as saying. Still, money is still the most popular motivating force. There are many more people who go astray choosing the almighty dollar than there are who falter in search of power.
I have spoken of the need for a strong work ethic and the value of doing honest work. A most important point to remember is that if we work solely for a paycheck without a sense of purpose and achievement, we probably will suffer a sense of unhappiness.