I gulped mighty hard yesterday. I was out in the yard cutting off some flowers that were done AND being chewed on by mosquitoes, when I found a red leaf in the yard AND a yellow gold leaf. The same day -- always a sure sign that Fall is sneaking in the back door! The past few weeks have been really humid. We get a rain shower almost every night and then when the sun comes out we are looking at 83% humidity or more. Now if you are laughing and thinking, "That's nothing!" Remember we usually sit in the 20 or 30 % ranges. I seem to be wet and dripping most every day and I don't like it! Period!!
Four more Sundays and then I will be through with my time as interim at Zion. It has been a joy and a blessing and has gone by very quickly, but I am ready to retire "again". The past five years since I retired in 2014, have been busy ones. As I look back I did pulpit supply for multiple Sundays in the area. Then I did a 5 month interim in Savage, Montana, and a 10 week interim in Baker, MT. and now an 11 month interim at Zion in addition to many, many Sundays hither and yon. It is always difficult to let things go, especially good things that give you joy, but "for everything there is a season" and I believe we have to bow to whatever season we are in. It doesn't mean I am done pastoring, but a rest and a reorganizing my life is always good. Something to stimulate the mind as well as the body.
I have really had to slow down this year with hip, leg and neck issues. I have now had an epidural and a cortisone shot and lots of physical therapy and I am moving around much better. Also lots of prayers (thank you, Lord). There is still pain and stiffness, but it is so much better. I even started painting my kitchen cabinets. Very slowly and trying to be patient with the process and enjoy the results. Hard for me. I always just want to get things done.
Today a friend and I are going to a retirement coffee for the local museum curator and then out for Sunday dinner. We always find plenty to talk about.
Raining this morning. Last week-end we had almost 4 inches which is highly unusual. Of course if the wind starts to blow it won't last long. But we will take what we can get.
Had the cortisone shot in my hip yesterday. Still limping around but hopefully it will at least ease the pain. I have had my eyes opened to the disabilities of chronic pain. After a day at work or trying to do things around the house it is exhausting. I pray for people who live with pain as a daily part of their lives. I appreciate the prayers that are going up.
Zion's new pastor will arrive the end of September. My last Sunday is the 22nd. You are always ready to be done with a job and project, but in the church there is the Spiritual realm as well and that ties you to people so much more closely.
This year I have buried three people I loved. Joan Schmidt died August 7th, 2018; Carole Dick's funeral was August 2nd; and Merle Aus' funeral was in April. All of them were special. After doing over 225 funerals, including Dad's funeral, through the years I think I am ready to wrap up that part of my life.
Being on City Council has been a fun experience. Everyday I learn something from the team of experts that run the City. Several on the council have been on several terms as well so it is best to listen. The local paper is always there so whatever you say is put out there for everyone to read. Not sure I am so crazy about that!!
I am pretty well moved back into my house again. That adventure in Real Estate was a learning experience. The time was well-spent, however, in down-sizing. A couple of boxes left and other things to carry out, but I am liking what I see. Will have someone in to paint this fall. White is the color of the day! Swedish colors they call them (Pinterest). It will go well with my little Dala Horse collection.
Made blueberry muffins this morning. Heading out now to the post office, the hardware store and filling up the car with gas.
Trying to pretend the administration in Washington D.C. does not exist is not working. For my own peace of mind I have tried, but today the news out of the capitol once again was explosive, unreal, and senseless.
First, the Endangered Species Act which has protected disappearing animals has been gutted. The new rules will go into effect in about a month. The idea of God’s creation, the beauty and wonder of these creatures with whom we share this planet is being threatened. This past week-end I had time to appreciate Makoshika Park with its long, majestic vistas, soaring hawks, eagles and turkey vultures. The quiet beauty of this little corner of the world is just a sampling of what a marvelous world we live in. Have you stood and looked into the depths of the Grand Canyon, or craned your neck to see the tops of the redwoods, or hiked a mountain trail and shared a meadow with deer or antelope or coyote, or watched a trout swimming lazily in a mountain stream, or landed a paddlefish at Intake? When we recognize the natural world, we move beyond our narrow little lives. Without nature, animals, forests, lakes, rivers we are only a shell of everything we can truly be. A few quotes came to mind: The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness (John Muir). There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before. (Robert Lynd) Touch the earth, love the earth, honor the earth, her plains, her valleys, her hills and her seas; rest your spirit in her solitary places. (Henry Beston). The universe was not made in jest but in solemn incomprehensible earnest. (Annie Dillard)
Second, today the regulations for allowing people to enter this country as legal immigrants are going to require a good credit rating, having private health insurance, and having substantial financial means. Wow! That really threw me because then I should not be here. Nope, my grandfathers would never have been allowed to enter the United States. My Norwegian grandfather was the youngest son in a large, very poor family. His oldest brother came to this country and began to work and build a little nest egg. Finally he was able to send for his mother and father and little brother to come to America and have a place to live. My grandfather was 7 years old, and he always remembered his father’s frustration that when they came through Ellis Island the people were put in pens “like animals” (Sound familiar.). It wasn’t until Grandpa was 40 years old that he was able, through the Homestead Act, to get land in western South Dakota and make a life for himself and his family.
Grandpa Anderson was the youngest in his family in Sweden. His father died when Grandpa was nine years old. Three of his siblings came to Minnesota to find a way to work themselves out of poverty. When Grandpa came he was 19 years old. His older brother was going to get what was left of his father’s copper business so Grandpa had nothing. Coming through Canada he entered at Pembina and went to Minneapolis to stay with his sisters for awhile. Finally he went to South Dakota and also filed on some land in the hopes of making a life. It was never easy. But Grandpa Larson served in the South Dakota state legislature for a number of years and Grandpa Anderson was a World War I veteran and raised three sons who served in World War II and Korea and helped educate his five children
Credit? Health insurance? A savings account? I am wondering if I will have to pack up my bags and go back to the “old country” because I certainly don’t qualify under these new rules. What is your story?
The past 10 months have been a whirlwind of being back "in the saddle again". The congregation at Zion was kind enough to take me back to help fill a gap when our pastor left. I offered, they accepted. It was a good thing for me. I haven't had time for too much else since writing a sermon every week takes away from other things and requires a lot of concentration and prayer.
But it has been a blessing as ministry always is. The new pastor will arrive in about 6 weeks so I have my bags packed. I am ready to get back to my retirement!!
The plans I had for selling my house and building a small house were derailed by falling house prices and rising construction costs where never the twain shall meet! So I unpacked boxes and re-arranged furniture and am now living in my old/new house. I have unburdened myself from lots of odds and ends and it is a good feeling. Less truly is more.
Picture above: About 600 head of buffalo at Great Plains Buffalo Ranch, Reva SD (Phil Jerde)
Most of the time it is a horror to remember the atrocities of history in this world. Wars have been endless as nation after nation has attempted to conquer the known world of their time and to wipe out other people who get in their way. European history is a trail of bloody warfare as peoples and nations have dragged the boundaries of countries back and forth depending on who is in control. More than once the nation of Poland disappeared from the maps of Europe as the result of conquest and absorption. World War I was a war between ethnic groups before it became world wide. The Serbian War in our own time was an effort at ethnic cleansing that took the lives of thousands; in Cambodia the death toll of the Khmer Rouge is unknown. Bloody death and hatred seem to be more the norm than times of peace.
But I find it interestlng in this time of mass shootings and racial violence that no one has brought up the prejudice and violence against Native Americans. Now, of course, no group of people is innocent of prejudice. Indian tribes fought each other to near extinction, taking slaves from the defeated. But when we try to understand the whole premise of immigration it is good to remember that the Indians on this continent wanted nothing more than for Europeans to “go back to where we came from”. We are moving closer to dropping the observance of Columbus Day in October because it is not something Native Americans want to celebrate. As interlopers on the American continent, Europeans have a lot they are responsible for when it comes to attempted extinction. Read Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor and Dee Brown’s Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
Too often the excuse for making amends is something like, “Well, I wasn’t born then. I am not responsible for what happened.” But that is what it is — an excuse. Just as we carry the genetic code of ancestors long gone, we also carry responsibility for what has been done in the past. Many of the issues on Indian reservations today are the scars of policies implemented long ago.
Montana has seven Indian reservations and several surrounding States have many more. Indians did not become U.S. citizens until the Indian Citizenship or Snyder Act of 1924. From 1492 until 1924, hundreds of Indians were systematically killed. The Sand Creek Massacre saw 200 Cheyenne — men, women and little children killed. Colonel John Chivington, governor of Colorado Territory, wanted the Indians removed from the area. Saying “Nits make lice,” he gave permission for his soldiers to kill Indian children. It was the business of this country in its expansionary period to rip away the lands of the Native peoples because it was “good business”. Treaties were land grabs until the Natives no longer believed the words of white people and they still don’t.
Unfortunately we can never right the sins of the past, but we do have to recognize them as part of the fabric of our history. History is the continuing attempt to make life better for those suffering and walking in solidarity with people of all races and colors who are part of the history of the United States of America.
For many people in our world the Bible is just a collection of stories, fables and parables from Middle Eastern writings. It is the story of a man Christians say was the Son of God and the stories are all about God’s action among a group of people called Israelites. Many of these stories are words to live by, but are they true? well, probably not. That is one way of looking at the Bible. Others believe the Bible is a book of faith, inspired by God and that Jesus’ teachings of love and compassion are teachings to practice and live by regardless of what the outside world teaches.
The parable of The Good Samaritan, found in the gospel of Luke (10.25-37), is so familiar to us in our society that there is even a “Good Samaritan” law. A good Samaritan in legal terms refers to someone who renders aid in an emergency to an injured person on a voluntary basis. Putting that law into the boundaries of the parable, if the man beaten by robbers died on route to the Inn where the Samaritan took him, the Samaritan would not be liable. Most people know this story. But knowing it and living what it says, well, there is a difference.
The lawyer asks Jesus the question “who is my neighbor?” The problem here is that you cannot define your neighbor as someone you love or do not love, because as one scholar writes, “you can only be a neighbor.” The lawyer was looking for a way out. He wanted a boundary for his obligation of loving the neighbor, but Jesus wipes out any idea of boundary with the parable.
We all know the story and the lesson Jesus is trying to get across to his listeners. To take time to retell, I would only be dancing around the real issue here, the bottom line as we say. Anyone who has followed the news the past year knows that we are seeing this parable acted out before our very eyes in the situation on our southern borders and many other parts of the world where refugees are struggling to find a place where they can live free from fear and suffering. This is not a political issue, but wherever this is happening, human beings are being used as pawns by people in power. In the U.S. both parties have legitimate issues of concern, but the human beings, especially parents and children have been caught in the crossfire. Our nation has come to a standstill on the issue because no one is sure what to do and because it has become so politicized no one wants to antagonize the other side and both sides blame the other and we are very close to violence in how to deal with this. In the meantime human beings, children, parents are held in cages and separated. And, in a world torn by war and genocide and racial hatred this parable will not allow us to be passive.
Jesus was crucified because he preached a revolutionary message about equality and love. Those in power do not want people seeing the world in this way. History is always about power struggles. We who live in the western world have not been immune from these struggles. Love does not allow limits on the definition of neighbor. There are no boundaries for mercy and love. The command to Love overrides all others. We must put love of neighbor into action. Any attempt to love is always a risk.
I think what frightens me most about this situation is that people turn away because they believe there is nothing anyone can do; or my political party is right in dealing with this issue; the stories we are hearing are lies; the media does not tell the truth; there is no one I can believe anymore. In the meantime this country we love is coming apart and I firmly believe there is a special place in hell for those who abuse children (i.e., Jeffrey Epstein), persecute the poor and the helpless and that includes all of us who say nothing and who do nothing. That frightens me.
This parable creates a reality that challenges our passivity and self-interest. Loving the neighbor as oneself is difficult, but no alternative is allowed. Who is going to be responsible for all of these children when they are released? I don’t know how things got so bad so quickly, but somewhere along the way we are duty bound to attempt to make amends. I am not sure that is even possible.
I am a retired school teacher who comes from a long line of school teachers. My parents never said “if you go to college” ,it was always “when you go to college” and they sacrificed a great deal to be sure we would be able to earn a degree. My grandparents on both sides of the family were immigrants and the most important thing they wanted for their children was an education and their children and grand-children and even great-grandchildren have not disappointed that dream.
When I taught school (for over twenty years), I taught with some of the finest people I know. Not only did these teachers work for lower wages (and still do), but they were teachers because they cared about kids (and still do). Nearly every vocation today requires training, studying, learning beyond the basics. Technology has opened up new ways for students to train. People are not tracked into the four year standard program only. They are many different ways of reaching a higher level of learning in the career path of the student’s choice. Beauticians, barbers, nail technicians, oil field workers, certified nurses’ assistants, in fact every route we take to employment these days requires people to be able to meet certain standards before they are allowed into the work field. A degree in agri-business helps the farmer or rancher to better understand the economics of the world markets, how to find the crop most suited to the climate in which we live, how to use satellites to produce a better yield. Anyone who wants to find a way to turn their passion into a livelihood needs basic skills before they can start building toward something more polished. Actors go to acting school, musicians study business so when they make money they know how best to manage it and that takes education.
For generations children were expected to continue in the career their parents and grandparents held. But even in the Middle Ages, the guilds organized their trades so you began as an apprentice, then a journeyman before you became a master craftsman. It was education learned at the side of a master, but it was its own form of education.
During the Renaissance (1500s), the religious leader Martin Luther, a German monk who earned his Doctorate in one of the many medieval universities which were even then making their appearance, talked about the holiness of any vocation. He said the maid who swept the floor to the glory of God was just as important as the priest serving the Mass. He told people that no trade or job or task was less than another. The purpose of our lives is often answering the question, How can we be productive in a way that does not kill the human spirit? How do integrity and a conscious fit in to our working lives? I think of Bruce Smith, the Dawson County Agent, the community lost to cancer just a couple months ago. Bruce’s life was how to make the production of food, its growing, its availability something reachable to all people. His work with 4-H was all education so the young could learn how to be the farmers of tomorrow, sustaining the family farms, making them a viable reality. He had studied the subject in college and then had several experiences that continued to build on what he had learned on his parents’ farm.
Education is not the enemy. Without learning, work would return to the often mind-numbing, repetitive tasks of a generation or two ago. Today’s generations need to see beyond the stars as humanity continues its call to make the world a more humane, caring, open society. When people can see work in this way, it really moves beyond only money producing and moves into something which gives us life-long direction and purpose.
It seems as though I am happiest when I get behind the wheel of my Ford Explorer and set out for some “windshield time”. I decided it had been about six years since I had headed out on Highway 200. The road takes me from Glendive to Circle, Jordan, Sand Springs, Winnett, Lewistown, Stanford, to Great Falls and all points in between. I had a beautiful day to travel.
Besides enjoying the beautiful scenery (ok, I lovely my prairies and the Yellowstone Valley) but I have to admit the vistas around Stanford and then following the mountains into Great Falls were really green and lovely. It was raining in the mountains and the clouds were like a watercolor painting. I also decided to try something a little different to get me out to stretch. Last winter I ran across an article in the paper about a website that highlighted historic sites in rural areas of Montana that rarely, if ever, get attention for the stories they tell. The website had a map which divided the State into six sections and then pinpointed the things to see along the way. I have seen a lot of the sites mentioned thanks to my father who stopped at every historic sign and site there was, but this time I wanted to photograph them and then I am going to keep track on the map each time I stop to look at something. I mapped out my route using the website and a road atlas.
I started with Glendive, then the Charleston Hotel in Circle, the museum in Jordan, the sign that points to the Cat Creek oil fields where oil was first discovered in Montana, then the communities of Winnet and Stanford. There was road construction at Utica so I will try to hit that on my way back, also an old Post Office site in Lewistown that has links to the Meti Indians in central Montana. They have a fascinating history and if you have never read about Louis Riel, you must.
Now to take you there: