Today I saw a t shirt that spoke truth to the question, “What is perception?” The shirt had an historic photo of Cochise and four Apache warriors. The caption read, “Fighting terrorism since 1492.” Absolute truth from a different perception. Who is right? Who is wrong?
The older I get the more I become aware of the dangers inherent in my perception of events and life around me. Perception is how you see something and whether you perceive it as dangerous, safe or loving or threatening. It is the ancient question, “What is truth?” Your perception is based on your personal history, how you were raised, how you were treated by the adults around you. Was it a safe environment or one in which you never knew what to expect. Perhaps life was always a question.
I am often amazed at family perceptions. My mother was the youngest of five. Her oldest sister was fifteen years older. The memories she shared of her parents were much different than the memories my mother had as the youngest, “the baby” of the family. After raising four older children my grandparents raised my mother in a much different way. She always said, “My oldest sister and I had different parents.”
Occasionally my brother and I share memories and sometimes I am dumfounded that we are discussing our presence at the same events. What I perceived and what he perceived were two entirely different scenarios.
We see this most vividly these days in society when a black man or woman sitting and waiting for a friend is perceived by the white waitress or shop keeper as dangerous or a threat. I have read that black parents raise their sons particularly to be aware of the perceptions of the white people around them. A hood pulled up, a pair of dark glasses while only a mode of dress is seen by others as something fearful.
When I was teaching at the high school years ago we had an exchange student from Germany. He had read a book on World War I and came to me asking why what he had learned in his school in Germany was so different from what was taught in U.S. schools. Sadly, I had to tell him, “The victors write the history.” Unfortunately, history is not truth — it is perception of what took place in the eyes of those who witnessed the events and sorting through history whether our country’s or our own is changed by each generation.
To only see a happening through the eyes of a single opinion is narrow-minded and parochial. To live in our multi-cultural society we have to see with new eyes — we have to have a new way of visioning in our world. Another time at the high school we had a student from Japan. When the teacher was done presenting the lesson, he would lay his head on his desk and sleep. Having visited schools in Japan I had seen this action in most classrooms and knew it as just a reaction to the end of the lesson for today. It didn’t mean disrespect. It simply meant the students had “turned off” for the day.
To travel in non-Western countries you must be totally alert to customs and behaviors of those around you. Watching the news you will see a female news reporter with a scarf over her head when reporting from a Muslim country. To those natives, it is a sign of disrespect for a woman to go uncovered. Reporters have learned that to get the story, they must present themselves so they are perceived as respectful in a country not their own and thus non-threatening.
Life is never going to totally align with my perceptions. To listen to racists and bigots and accept their way as truth shows ignorance, just as my perceptions of you have no knowledge of your background, of what you have been through in this life. An open mind to everything around us is vital to the peace of the world. Each one of us is not the be all or the end of all of what is right and good. Truth needs to be held up to the light of reason, weighing it against varying perceptions. We must be openminded and realize we filter everything through the lens of our own history. To be a citizen of the world requires open eyes and open ears and an open heart. And a constant prayer to the One who created us to show us the way.
Friends become more precious each day and when we are given their unconditional love it is the hidden treasure in the field of our lives. It was my honor to be asked by the family of Joan Schmidt to preside at her worship service. She and Willie have been the dearest of friends and losing her is losing a part of my life. Her love for everyone who crossed her path was mirrored in the large crowd who came to her service. We grieve because we love, someone has said. I will grieve for Joan and her absence in my life until we meet again.
Eternal God, our heavenly Father, who loves us with an everlasting love, and can turn the shadow of death into the bright light of morning: Help us now to wait upon you with reverent and humble hearts. In the silence of this hour speak to us of eternal things, that through patience and comfort of the scriptures we may have hope, and be lifted above our darkness and distress into the light and peace of your presence, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
SERMON Joan, Monday August 13th, 2018
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God; and that is what we are. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. I John 3.
As I get older the more aware I am that life is about the power of love. Everything is ruled by love — our relationships with family and friends, the relationships between nations and even that we love ourselves just as God made us. Our gathering this morning is an expression of the love we have shared with Joan and Willy and their family. We are here as friends from all the walks of life the two of them enjoyed. I have known the Schmidts since about 1954. They are proof that Oklahoma and Minnesota can come together and live together for over 60 years. Our families lived a couple of houses apart when we first moved to Glendive. Joan gave me my first babysitting job. I suppose it was to watch Pam and Dan. Joan called and I ran to ask Mom if I could sit for the kids. She said I could and I ran over to Joan’s get my instructions. I burst in the door and told her “I’m here.” She looked at me before laughing and said, “I am still waiting for you on the phone.” I ran home, hung up the phone and ran back.
I John 3.15. Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. . .And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them.
Joan was a force of nature — she was daughter, wife and mother, sister, daughter in law, sister in law, aunt, grandmother, great grandmother and dear friend to many. To me she was like a big sister and after my folks were both gone she was a surrogate mother. I would be driving down the highway in Wyoming or Utah or South Dakota or Minnesota, my phone would ring and it would be Joan — “Where are you now? Are you okay? Now you drive carefully. We love you.” I am going to miss those calls because I knew they were all about love. The minute she heard someone was sick she was there with food and concern. She would clean their house, fix their hair. She really loved and cared for people without reservation. Through her help she loved. And I think that often she had more compassion than she had energy.
And her family — you were always on her mind with love and concern. She and Willie were never happier than when you were gathered around them.
I John 4. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; We love because he first loved us. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
In this age when families live far apart, we make our own families. That old line “Friends are the family we choose.” While blood is important, where ever we can come together in love and concern with our neighbor that is what God is always looking for.
I am sure many of you here have eaten a meal at Joan and Willie’s. I told her I was always amazed by the number of dishes she served and I was always full when I left the table and the food was delicious. One of the early traditions that was precious to us as friends was Thanksgiving. Neither family could be with relatives over the short week-end so our two families would gather together and sing and play games and just enjoy the day.
One image of Jesus we hear about often is how much of the love Jesus showed his followers was at the table. That is often where we find our greatest moments of friendship. And the table at which Jesus sat always got bigger and bigger. He continued to expand the table as long as he was on this earth. He ate with the poor and the outcast, he ate with foreigners and with women. And Jesus said I am the Bread of Life and I am the Water of Life and when we sit at Jesus’ table and eat and drink of the food Jesus’ provides it makes a real difference in how we view the world and how we love the world and everyone in it.
The concern Jesus has for us covers every aspect of our lives. The prophet Isaiah, speaking for God reminds us:
43 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. . .4Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you. . . 5Do not fear, for I am with you;
I remember in the early days of knowing Joan and Willie, Willie was often working out of town in order to make a living for the family. He would be out of town working during the week and Joan would take care of things at home. I have heard Willie say that Joan was the one who had the load of the work because he was gone so often. It was tough, but they were a good team. In later years they have had health issues and needed each other as they grew older. Life is difficult, but with the comfort of the Savior we get through all that life throws at us.
Today I am grieving the death of a dear friend, one of my forever family. Grieving is an act of love. And it is hard work and everyone grieves differently. We don’t ever question the way another person grieves. Grief is personal. The wonder of this moment is that Jesus grieved the death of friends just as we do. When Lazarus died we are told Jesus wept and he grieved with the sisters of Lazarus. Jesus understands and Jesus walks this journey with us. Yes, your wife, mom, grandmother, and friend has died and even though we know she rests in the arms of Jesus and you wouldn’t wish her back if she cannot be well, you will miss her deeply. When we are especially lonesome Jesus is there to hold us in his arms and let us know that we are never alone and that we are deeply loved.
As Christians we are promised a love from our heavenly Father which we are to continually pass forward through our love for other people. The final promise we are given is that we are promised eternal life — John 11.17-27
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
With Martha’s recognition of Jesus as the Savior, nothing will ever be the same again in this life or in the next. This life is only the beginning. Martha knew her Savior and so did Joan. Today we grieve Joan’s death, but we know she rests in peace in the arms of Jesus and for that we say, thanks be to God.
We thank you, O God, for all the goodness and courage which have passed from the life of this your servant Joan into the lives of others, leaving the world better than it was: for a life’s task faithfully and honorably completed, for gracious and kindly generosity, for sadness met without surrender and weakness endured without defeat. Glory be to you, O Lord Most High. Amen.
There absolutely has to be a wrap-up after my adventure with two thirteen year old boys. I was warned by many who thought we would never make it together, that I would lose my mind, that they couldn’t stand being with an old lady like me for a whole week. A little back ground first — the boys are my great-nephew Evan and his friend Atticus both of whom live in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The interesting sidebar to this is that Atticus is my cousin Myron’s grandson. The boys met through their parents, they are the same age and hit it off. They are (for those who are interested in those things) third cousins on my mother’s side of the family. Atticus’ great-grandmother and Evan’s great-grandmother were sisters. O.K., so enough of that!
I had told Evan that if I could work it out I would try to arrange a week of dinosaur activities for him this summer and if he wanted to he could bring along a friend. By the time I worked with their schedules and my schedule there weren’t as many things as I would have liked, but we did o.k. Their first activity was a Paleo Hike at the park. Their enthusiasm for dinosaurs was getting a little vague by week’s end. But we hit as many places as we could and they were good sports. We went to Ekalaka and to Fort Peck and Glendive to see the museums. We also added Forts Union and Buford as historic adventures. I got an opportunity to tell a few history stories along the way. We ate at fun restaurants. Pizza was the number one choice of food followed closely by nachos and other Mexican delicacies. In one of the many conversations we had in the car the subject of peppers and their “hotness” came up. There was no resolution on the issue of how much is too much. We decided to let individual choice be the winner for the day.
If the boys enjoyed our adventure and I think they were at least tolerant of my ideas or else totally polite on pain of death from their parents, I know I learned a lot about thirteen year old boys in this day and age.
. What they know that I don’t? On the way home from Rapid City I was confused by talk of virtual reality, apparent reality, and something else I don’t remember. The two of them talked a long time about this subject while I nodded encouragement. Electric cars were also a hot topic and I learned they are already letting the robotics drive our cars and apparently are driving quite well. I asked how we could have Tesla cars out here where we didn’t have the electric stations but I was told they could go long distances on a charge and not to worry. Who knew??
. Technology is great as long as it is animated, has music, beeps, whistles and has creatures. Their phones were in constant proximity to their hands. I finally accused them of being ‘addicted’ at which they took some offense. Neither cared about social media. (Inwardly I gave that a ‘thumbs up’). My great-nephew thought that girls shouldn’t be a part of his life until high school. Maturity was the big issue. The like "x-men" and think the new portrayer of Spiderman is the best one yet. . I couldn’t keep enough food in the house and it was never the right kind. The need for bottled water assured me the ecologists are right when they say plastic water bottles are going to kill the planet. I found six partially consumed plastic water bottles in their room as they were ‘checking out.’ And appetites are not reliable. One day they can’t get enough food and the next they hardly eat anything until about 11.30 p.m. and then suddenly they are starving.
. I have long heard stories about messy rooms from patient Moms and well, the boys’ bedroom was total disaster. Everything they wore went on the floor in the bathroom, the living room or the bedroom. No pair of socks matched unless they took time to sit down and match them.
Anxious to get their drivers’ licenses was a big talking point and what state they could get theirs' earliest; They can watch a dvd they have seen 10 times and laugh their heads off at the funny parts.
Me? Well I learned that my two boys were great — raised by good parents who have taught them things like respect, and discussed faith issues, they were curious, lively, political, polite and well-mannered. Maybe I lucked out, but I don’t think so.
I learned I can live with left-over nachos in the fridge, a water bottle under the bed and a couple pairs of socks in the living room and not explode. That Hollecker Lake is the best place to swim and that huge floaties, which they used on the lake will, with the air removed, fit into the car. (Evan’s was a pizza slice and Atticus’ had a swan. I told him he could fit seven dancing princesses on to it but he looked a little puzzled at that. Guess he doesn’t know the story.) That middle school kids can be sincere and caring.
Regardless they both liked the food we ate (they told their parents) and they thought maybe we should do this again!
I decided this blog about the boys has a "Where's Waldo?" quality to it. Pictures of them at various stops along the way to prove they were there.
Saturday the Paleo hike into Makoshika went well. There were just four people on the trip so the boys got lots of attention. The afternoon was spent at Hollecker Lake which they both enjoyed.
Sunday we went to church so I got an opportunity to introduce the boys around. They were amazed it was Greg's "grandson" and the comments -- "Where has the time gone?" were many. We headed north right after church. Fort Union, the historic fur trading post on the Upper Missouri, and Fort Buford where Sitting Bull surrendered and was later shot.
Coming home they got the 'bright' idea they needed some of those huge floaties. We stopped several places in Sidney, but no luck. Stopped at Albertson's for groceries and guess what! they found two on sale so they bought them with their own money I might add. My back deck became the staging point for a giant slice of pizza and swan large enough to take the seven dancing princesses of fairy tale fame. As they inflated these monsters I kept saying -- "remember we have to get these back to Cheyenne. Any idea how we are going to get them in the car?" I am not sure how Evan's Mom is going to take to this. The boys assure me they can get the air out enough to stuff them in the car!!!
Monday morning I pooped out and we all slept in. Then we went to the Frontier Gateway Museum in Glendive which is really awesome. The boys are old enough to have some appreciation and they listen to my running chatter on things. I had promised a launching of the floaties at Hollecker today so off we went. It was a major event and all went well.
The evening involved a jaunt into Makoshika as the sun was setting. Ice cream at the end.
Tomorrow we are back on the road -- to Ekalaka
Sometimes I have sent you travel blogs when I am on the road. Well, this week is ‘on the road’ but definitely in a different format. I invited two thirteen year old boys to spend a week with me — my great nephew Evan and his buddy Atticus. Atticus is my oldest cousin’s grandson. His family moved from California to Cheyenne. In the process of the two families getting acquainted Evan and Atticus met, are in the same grade at the same school and have gotten to be good friends. And they are third cousins! I knew Evan would enjoy a week with Atticus and I certainly couldn’t keep up with him by himself. They are a good match. Right now they are at Makoshika on a Paleo-Hike. Guides will show them fossils, discuss them — they will hike and then end up back at the lab in the basement of the visitors’ center. This afternoon I thought swimming might be in order.
Yesterday I drove to Rapid City. Atticus’ mom, Lisa, my cousin’s daughter, drove up from Cheyenne with Evan to Outlaw Ranch Bible camp and picked up Atticus and their daughter Ella. We met at Perkins in Rapid. Cole had been in Rapid all week for some training, so he dashed over to see Evan and then he headed home to Cheyenne and we came home. About 540 miles round trip. Anyway, stopped at Heiser’s Bar in Baker for a small pizza. (The food there is highly recommended) Took it with us. The boys ate that as a snack. Got into Glendive about 7:30 p.m., unloaded, set up cots they had in my now empty second bedroom. They watched “Iron Man” on tv and were still up when I went to bed about 10:30.
This morning we ran to Loaf and Jug and got water and a new pair of sun glasses for Evan. Then out to Visitors’ Center. I left them there at 10 a.m. The Park guides will take them from there. In the meantime I scrubbed off all the bugs on my car windshield and hosed them off, also the front of the car. I am washing the clothes Atticus had from Bible Camp and some of my own. Discovering Evan had Kleenex in his pocket so of course I had to clean that out of washer and dryer. Last week I baked chocolate chip cookies and made a really good macaroni and cheeseburger hot dish. I will feed them that at noon today. I think I want them with me when I go grocery shopping because I am not sure what they will eat. Of course the Gust Hauf will be part of the adventure and I am sure Los Amigos, etc. Today will be swimming this p.m., showers for everyone when we get home.
Next week will be some day trips to Ft. Peck, Ekalaka, etc. On Saturday I will drive to Wright Wyoming, south of Gillette, and meet Margy, Evan’s mom. Then I head home and preach in Terry on Sunday. I am promising myself a quieter week after that. However, it is fun and they are a good age and good kids and interested in lots of different things. Part of the trip yesterday I listened to them talk about artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and altered reality. Needless to say, I learned a lot!!
My last week in July started with a preaching 'gig' at Richey and Circle, Montana, two yoked parishes north and a little west of Glendive. My morning began with a 50 mile drive to Richey. I really think I drove through some of the most beautiful hay flats and wheat fields I have ever seen. The 11 inches of rain last spring and the fact that just by chance we did not have any major storms (yet) has contributed to the bounty. A few farmers in the area have started a little harvesting, but most are waiting just a few more days. One farm wife said they were emptying out all the grain bins and getting them ready for what they know will be a bountiful harvest. My prayer is always that the price of wheat will be commensurate with what they need to make a profit.
The photos I took out my car window just do not do the wheat fields justice. Especially through the Bloomfield area which is between Glendive and Richey the fields stretched on for miles. All the way to the horizon. Bloomfield is an area that was settled by Mennonites in the early days. There is still a strong community in that area where the folks hold to strong traditions. Wonderful to see.
Tomorrow (August 3) I will drive to Rapid City, South Dakota, to pick up Evan, my great-nephew, and his friend Attitcus from Cheyenne, Wyoming. Atticus and Evan are third cousins and 13 years old. Atticus and his folks moved from California to Cheyenne where my nephew and family live. The boys got acquainted, are the same age, and hit it off well. Atticus is my cousin Myron's grandson. A bit convoluted, but you get the idea!
Our direction is dinosaurs and so we will be doing some museums at Ekalaka, Glendive and Fort Peck. I saw an awesome specimen at Fort Peck last fall. This one is huge and was found in the Fort Peck area.
My little refrigerator may not meet the needs of two thirteen year old boys so we may eat out a lot or shop daily for needs. Some swimming, hiking in Makoshika and other outside excursions -- provided it is not too hot. Especially for this old gal who will be mistaken for their grandmother several times I am sure.
The history of the area includes Lewis and Clark and the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers, Fort Union one of the early fur trading posts in the west and Fort Buford where Sitting Bull was held prisoner and killed. Fort Peck was the great dam built in the 1930s as a WPA project to both provide power and flood control and jobs for some of the thousands in this area who were without work. FDR visited the dam during his tenure. It isn't as flamboyant as Hoover Dam but as necessary and interesting. The water area is a huge draw for fishermen of all seasons and also recreation.
I will try to include some photos as we go along. It should be an adventure in more ways than I care to acknowledge.