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Minding the Outlet Store Monday and Wednesdays at ComputerCorps in Carson City, Nevada


Preaching at the 11 AM services Sunday, December 9th at Valley Presbyterian Church in Bishop, California


 

 

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Entries in Goodyear Heights Presbyterian (4)

Saturday
Jan072017

Get In The Picture

Mary Lu Ramsey  

July 12, 1937 – December 27, 2016

Who here is NOT in a Mary Lu photo? Not so fast. She had 5,000 on flickr and many more waiting to be photoshopped: lighting corrected, wrinkles ironed out, beards evened up, bodies smoothed, red-eyes removed, basically making us look to all as only someone who loves us dearly sees us.

What do you say to all this? Not just to the unstoppable love of God, that Tom read from Romans but to that obituary on the back of the bulletin? She wrote it. What a wonderful life.

  • Sister, student, spouse,
  • artist, activist, advocate,
  • teacher, tutor, tech,
  • professor, photographer, presbyter,
  • musician, moderator, mom

and grandmom. Grand indeed.

Like, Tom, I have a favorite version of Romans 8. I like the alternate translation found in a footnote of the New International Version for verse 28. And we know that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good. God is the subject not things in this translation, and there is a partnership with those who love him to make all things good. I commend to you this understanding rather than the fake good news that somehow bad begets good, pain produces progress, or sadness is the seed of joy all by themselves like God was an cosmic insurance adjuster reacting to evil by making us whole again after damage and injury, paying us back so we can go shopping for new and better goods.

Instead, this reading matches up with the rest of the reading of God’s action in the world and our lives. And, it points out that how those that love God back, join God in loving the world into the good, a vast angel wing conspiracy for bring good into the world.

Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was a Presbyterian Minister who was ordained for children’s ministry on television. He was asked about how parents and teachers can help children deal with the horrors natural and human made that beam out for our screens. He shared what his mother did for him. She told him to look for the helpers. For the firefighters, rescue workers, medics, ordinary people who turn from their own sorrow to ease the suffering of others. Don’t focus on the chaos and destruction,  Look for the helpers, look for the helpers.

Speaking of helpers, my brothers Tom and Tim are here. They stepped up when needed. As always; as our parents did and taught us to do. There is one brother not here in body, Ric. Ric had a challenging life. Struggling with learning disabilities that made parenting and teaching him a struggle. How to behave, how to learn, how to read, things that came easy to his parents, things his brothers did well for the most part, were to him mysteries difficult to grasp, and he was difficult.

Did you read that after Ric was born, Mom went on from college to get her Master in Education with reading specialization, started as a part-time tutor for children with learning disabilities, which lead to a career teaching children who struggled with school how to read and learn. At the end she passed on her knowledge to another generation of teachers so they can give the help she struggled to find for her son Ric. Along the way she was a lifelong advocate for children with learning disabilities, strongly supporting Akron Area Association for Children with Learning Disabilities throughout her life, other than family, they were the last group she hosted in her home late this year, the aging activists she called the group. Did you see what she said about her education and training helping children with learning disabilities “her best teachers were her children”. Ric mostly I imagine. Mom was subtle like that, unlike her son who she NAMED JOHN.

I’m not telling you that all sadness and difficulty can be overcome, swept away, made all better. You know better. In fact, on the day she said everything went wrong, Ric, overwhelmed with life stopped struggling in this life and left it. Yet even in that horror we see Mom’s hope and work for the good and the better. We see Mom at Compassionate Friends helping others get through the hell of losing a child, giving the help she needed to others. Joining in with them in that vast angel wing conspiracy working for good with God. Look for the helpers when everything goes wrong, for the last 79 years you would most likely see Mary Lu…helping.

In 1907 a pastor, William Watkinson, wrote “it is Better to light a candle than curse the darkness”. A candle? In this and many other dark areas of life, Mary Lu was fireworks.

About those thousands of photos. When she was limited in what she could do, when breath was a struggle, she still wanted to photoshop, when she could not get to her desktop computer these last days her concern was not so much being bed ridden but that her notebook didn’t have photoshop on it.

Sorry Mom. I didn’t understand about those photoshopped photos. At the last when she couldn’t do all the good in the world she wanted, she turned to bringing the good out of even the most evil of photographs. Teasing beauty out of blandness, illuminating darkness, smoothing the rough edges in faces and bodies left by life’s struggles. Doing in photos what she did in life. Working for good in all things. Making the world a better place for those around her. Being the helper good people looked for.

When we look with fondness at all Mary Lu gave for children, church, and community, we remember the great gift given by God in Jesus Christ, who left heaven and came to us to show us how to live and die for others, as a servant for others. Because of his great gift, Mary Lu and we have life eternal.

Even though we know God’s power and love make Mary Lu as real and present to God as she ever was to us in this life. We still hurt, we groan inside too deep for words at her absence from our human senses. I have no prayers to answer the questions or fill in the blanks left by Mary Lu’s passing, we have to rely on God’s spirit to bridge that gap between the twin realities our aching loss and God’s amazing grace. For I cannot take away the pain that you feel at Mary Lu’s passing. For love and grief are different sides of the same coin, they are joined in this life, the only way to not receive grief is to reject the gift of love. Even Jesus wept at the passing of his friend, Lazarus. When we lose someone we love we grieve. So to deliver you from the grief you feel I would have to eliminate the love that you have for Mary Lu. You wouldn’t want me to do that even if I could. But what I can tell you that Mary Lu is at rest, free from the weakness of disease, and she is at home with the Lord, breathing easy.

Don’t let the grief of her passing end the spirit of kindness and helpfulness that Mary Lu embodied. Instead hold on that kindness, and honor her and Christ by joining with God bringing good, being a part of that vast angel wing conspiracy when folks look for the helpers, may they see you in that picture.

 

Granddaughter Rachel Ramsey had her own message.

 

Wednesday
Jul112012

What Kind of Church Will We Be?

From Luke 18:9-14

A message in the wake of this year’s Presbyterian General Assembly looking at the church through the lens of unity and purity: What Kind of Church Will We Be about the struggles among the faithful and the possibility of help in Sinners Anonymous.

 

Sunday
Jun172012

Easy on the Eyes

This recorded sermon is from 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 given at Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church in Akron, Ohio, on June 17, 2012. See as God sees, not as mortals see.

The following is a transcript of the live no-notes presentation flawlessly prepared by eDigitalTranscription.com. All errors are mine own. The recording is downloadable here.

“She’s a looker.” “He’s easy on the eyes.” You ever heard these expressions? These expressions are right here in our scriptures today. One of the expressions, when David comes, one of the ways to translate that is that David was easy on the eyes. Do you judge by outward appearances? By look? You can’t help but do it. You can’t help but look. It’s almost genetic that we look at someone, and we size them up by how they look, their appearance, whether they’re comely or good-looking or tall or thin or all that. Sometimes we don’t even realize it.

When I came back to Akron, I needed a doctor. Turns out that my doctor was no longer there after 30-some years away. And so I thought, I know what I’ll do. I’ll ask a nurse. Nurses know. They know who are good doctors. So I went and asked nurses. And I said, “Hey, who is the best doctor?” And they looked at one another, and they said, “Well, Dr. [Shanafelt] or Dr. [Fantelli]. Yes, yes, definitely Dr. Shanafelt or Dr. Fantelli. It’s hard to tell. One of those two.” And the other one’s, “Yeah, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, those two. Those two, definitely those two.” So I said, “Oh, that’s great. That’s great. Where are they?” “Well, they’re both out in Tallmadge.” Okay, great.

So I went out, signed up. Shanafelt was out. I had Fantelli. I said, well, they said either one was good. Fine, got along great, start going to the doctor. And months later, your intrepid pastor says to the nurses, “Hey, thanks for that recommendation for Dr. Fantelli. I’ve gone out there and really like him.” And the nurse says, “Yeah. He’s dreamy.” They didn’t know I was asking about a doctor to go to for doctoring. They thought I was asking who was the “best” doctor. He is quite a handsome man. And at the time he was single. He’s getting married soon. The difference between looking and seeing. I was looking for a doctor. They were looking at the outward appearance.

The Lord doesn’t see as mortals see. Did you see the changes? That’s actually a change in verbs in the Hebrew about between looking and seeing, looking on the outward appearance and then seeing what’s really there. You ever wonder that, boy, that was a long reading. Why didn’t God just tell Samuel, “Hey, Samuel, got a job for you. Go on down to Bethlehem, check out Jesse, he’s got a son David, probably out with the sheep. Anoint him king. We’re good to go.” You know, like 10 verses gone. Why didn’t he just do that?

Instead, there’s good old Sam, you know, sitting by the fire. Who knew he had eight sons? Geez, seven’s perfect. And so one after another they come by. One after another, Sam is looking and saying, “What am I doing here? Lord, nope, no. What is this guessing game? Just tell me which one it is.” The Lord never tells him to go get David. He has to see it for himself. Finally, in this little drama, in this pageant, if you will, of men walking by, I can imagine – what do you think? Was there a swimsuit competition, you think? I don’t know back then. What would they do? He now he goes, “And what would you do, your fondest wish for the world?” And then he goes, “Oh, no, not that one.”

But after all the pageant was done, and after the judges had put in their – imagine, if you will, the pageant is done. Everyone’s gone. And then the judges come back and say, none of these. No one. You got anybody in the back? Samuel finally sees beyond what he looks at. He’s looking at seven sons, a perfect number, well suited to be kings. And God says, you know, looking’s not enough. You’ve got to see more than what you can look at. And it occurs to him, maybe there’s something here I’m not seeing. More than what I can look at. And he turns to Jesse and says, “Am I seeing everything? Is there another son? I don’t know.” “Oh, yeah, I’ve got another son. He’s out there getting the sheep.” “Bring him here.” And God says, “You got it. You got it.”

Remember that grief, that sadness you were with Saul? You know, imagine Samuel’s got to be so sad. I mean, he was rejected as a judge. You know, they didn’t want him anymore. He was old. They actually came out and said, “You’re old. You’re old. We don’t want you no more.” How many here like to hear that? Okay, I’m saying no, none. And then they said, here on Father’s Day, last week they said, “Your sons are no good.” And it really hurt because they weren’t any good. “Yo, your sons are no good. We want a king.” Sammy did everything he could. Even argued, drug his feet against God to not get him a king. They made him get a king. He got a king.

And just as he said, king screwed up. Big screw up. Horrible screw up. Didn’t do what God says. He’s constantly after Saul, yelling at him all the time. And Saul, Saul doesn’t even care. Saul less than cares. So imagine, if you will, he comes in, he goes da da da da da, and Saul basically says, “What’s the big deal? What’s the big deal?” When you’re a prophet, you like to be a big deal. And Saul’s saying, “God, get away from me. You bother me. I’m doing okay.” Saul. You think Saul was such a bad king, even God was sorry he made him king. That’s pretty bad.

Imagine how sad Samuel was at the way his life had turned out. He’s too old. He’s thrown out. Didn’t even get a decent retirement party, no severance, nothing like that. His sons are a disappointment or a scandal, and everybody knows it. The king, the one maybe thing that he had going for him, that he got the king going, he didn’t want to do. He thought it was a bad idea, and it turned out to be a bad idea. Did anybody come back and say, “Hey, Samuel, you were right, that was a really bad idea to do a King Saul. You were right. I should have listened to you?” No, nothing. They were too busy out partying.

He must have thought he was a failure. And not only that, he must have thought God’s plan was running toward ruin. And for that God comes to him and says, “Quit your bellyaching, quit your sadness, get out of the dumps, get out of bed, take a trip, go to Bethlehem. I’ve got things for you to do.” “What are we going to do? Just tell me.” “No, you’ve got to go do it. Go. You have to go find out. I’m doing more than you’re looking at. You have to see that there’s more than what is just the appearance.”

You have to see that, just because you look out and you see nothing that God has chosen, that somewhere out in the hills, tending sheep, is a shepherd boy that will be king, that will be the father of the savior, Jesus Christ. It’s here that the lineage shifts, where the kingdoms come in, where you pick up the line of David that eventually will get us to Jesus Christ of the House of David from Bethlehem. God was doing a great thing. Samuel couldn’t see it because he wasn’t looking in the right place.

Our scripture from Mark today talks about the kingdom of God like that. And when we think about kingdom, unfortunately we think about border guards and about places on the map and about drawing the boundaries. And we talk and we think more about political and economic subdivisions, and we talk more about the reign of God. Maybe a better translation of the kingdom of God is the reign of God. Remember the Lord’s Prayer. It says “Thy kingdom come,” and then right after, “Thy will be done.” Remember, Hebrew likes to be paralleled, say the same thing twice, different ways. Where’s God’s kingdom? Where is it? Can we go there? Can we take a vacation? Can we get a trip ticket to that? The kingdom of God is where God’s will is done.

So if you’re looking around, and you’re like Samuel, and you want to stay in bed? And you give up because no one’s listening to you, everything’s gone to pot, things have gone from bad to worse because they didn’t listen to you? If you’re in that and say, now, can nothing good be going on in the world, everything is horrible, shut it all down, start it over, you’re not seeing as God sees. You’re not looking in the right place. And if you think about David, too, he got anointed king. Would you want to be anointed king? Who wants to be anointed king? I can always ask questions with negative answers because no one raises their hand in congregation, so that’s good. No one wants to be king. You do not want to be king because Saul’s going to kill you.

And sure enough, there were a lot of problems before David gets to be king. He gets to be working too hard as an armor-bearer and as a musician. He’s employed below king. He doesn’t start out as king. He’s got to go fight Goliath. That’s not a good time. He is running away from Saul, who strikes out after him when he gets angry and jealous. He has to leave his friend Jonathan. He has to fight with those that he had formerly served with. He’s in exile. He’s running. He’s a refugee. He lives as an outcast. This is king?

So in the great scheme of things, what does our scripture tell us today? It tells us on one hand, yeah, David’s king. And you can say, you can assert it all down and say, hey, that King David, he was legit. He was the one chosen by God, as opposed to Saul that was chosen by the people and ratified by God. But God chose a King David. You can say that. But I think the more at least as important thing is how God brought Samuel along to that, and how God brings us along to tell us that what you’re looking at is not what I see. What is making you depressed and keeping you in bed and grieving over things that used to be, and how things have gone wrong, while true, while correct, while reality, is not the whole story. It’s not even the most important part. It’s not even the part that’s going to last. The part of the story is that what you can see as I see.

Remember that prayer from “Bruce Almighty,” that wonderful prayer after the Miss America prayer, where the actor, Jim Carrey, tells Morgan Freeman as God of his love of his life that he’s been trying through the whole movie to get. He goes, “Do you want her back?” And he says, “No, I want her to be happy. I want her to be loved as she’s deserved to be loved by me. I want someone to always see her as I see her now through your eyes.”

William Willimon tells a story on himself. Often his stories are about how he screwed up as pastor and what he learned from it. One time he went to visit a dying member, a saint in the church, and talked to him about the afterlife, about what is to come, and about his faith. And the man said, “I have no fear. I know I am going on to God’s love.” And Willimon said something that’s right out of the pastor book: “Yes, we all have a sure and certain hope in the kingdom of God and the future afterlife,” or something like that.

And the man said gently, “It’s not because of my hope that I have no fear.” “What do you mean? The promise of eternal life is not your hope?” “No, no. Oh, it’s nice. But my faith is based on my life that I’ve lived throughout. You see, no matter what has happened, no matter what screw-ups have gone on, no matter how far away I’ve run from God, no matter what has gone wrong in my life and in the culture and the church and in my house and all that, God has come and got me. God has found a way to me. God has redeemed me. God has reached out. I see, as I look back, I can see God’s working his purpose out. And I know that such a God, that works so hard to get through so much to get to me in my life here, will not let a thing like death stop him from loving me eternally.”

Strive to see how God sees. When things look hopeless, when there doesn’t seem to be anything, figure out the question and ask, “Are all your sons here? Are there any others?” Find out what hidden purpose God is working at, and know that God is working his purpose out, and look and see the works of God’s kingdom.

William Gibson says, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” Same with God’s kingdom. There’s little pieces of it here and there and over here and over there. And if you just take a glance, you’ll miss it. You’ve got to see how God can see. Be that prayer. See people always. See the world always as God sees.

Amen.

Easy on the Eyes mp3

Tuesday
Jun122012

God and King

How To Escape Slavery

In this recorded sermon, from 1 Samuel 8:4-20, 11:14-15 I talk about how putting anyone or anything but God on the throne as your king leads to slavery.

God and King mp3