Day 314 | Wednesday, 27 January 2021
The county reported 11 more COVID related deaths yesterday - total now 88
We are winding down the first month of this new year. We were all glad to say goodbye to 2020 for a variety of reasons, chief among them the Corona Virus and the changes it brought to the whole world and our individual worlds. We certainly felt the weight of this pandemic.
January 2021 has continued to be “weighty” for us. I believe we felt the heaviness of the times when on Epiphany day, January 6th, our nations’ capitol was attacked, and the occupants felt the weight of fear and trembling caused by domestic terrorists.
From that day, we began to sense the weight of the political mine field as there was no normal transition of power taking place. We wondered about safety for our new president.
Along with welcoming a new year, we were welcoming a vaccine for COVID-19. Once again, we were feeling the weight of this highly anticipated relief only to be weighed down with anxiety over when we might be able to receive the vaccine. Apparently, the supply was not what we were led to believe it was. So now many of us wonder, even though we meet the age requirements, when will we be able to receive the vaccine?
The numbers of cases and deaths in our county continue to rise. More people we know and who are acquaintances have tested positive. We feel the weight of uncertainty and may even be asking the question – will I be next to test positive?
Here is what I know and believe: “Regardless of what weighs me down, I know that the Lord is with me.”
Isaiah 43:1-3a, 5a Don’t fear
43 But now, says the Lord—the one who created you, Jacob,
the one who formed you, Israel: Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched and flame won’t burn you.
3 I am the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, your savior.
5 Don’t fear, I am with you.
“How Firm a Foundation” words: “K” in Rippon’s A Selection of Hymns, 1787
1. “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word! What more can he say than to you he hath said, to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?”
2. “Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”
3. “When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow; for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
4. “When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”
5. “The soul that on Jesus still leans for repose, I will not, I will not desert to its foes; that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.”
“Dear God, when we are overwhelmed, remind us of the calm, strength, and counsel that faith in you provides. Amen”
Today: pray for those who are struggling with the weight of uncertainty.
Day 313 | Tuesday, 26 January 2021
I hope you enjoyed going down memory lane with the Church Mouse yesterday.
Last Saturday I shared some prayers for winter. One of the folks who receives these daily writings shared the following with me, so I am passing it along for your reading.
Winter Prayer: “Lord, In the midst of Winter, when the days are cold and wind can pierce..... remind us of the warmth of your love. In the midst of Winter, when days are short, dawn comes late, and dusk arrives early..... remind us that in the darkness your light still shines. In the midst of Winter, when the flowers of spring still lie hidden in the earth, when leaves are off the trees, and the world can seem bleak..... remind us that Easter is but a short time away. And when in our lives we feel as if we are experiencing a season of winter, reach out to us with the power of your resurrection so that we may feel the warmth of your love and see your light that alone can take away the darkness of our soul. Amen”
COVID-19: 235 new cases over the weekend: total now at 6,253; 77 deaths. New: 49 in Jamestown; 45 in Dunkirk; 27 in Fredonia; 14 in Lakewood and 20 in Westfield.
Day 312 | Monday, 25 Janary 2021
From the Church Mouse
Friday I discussed my future, These were in my past, well maybe not Ricky Nelson
A very young Ricky Nelson.
Grandma’s old, square-faced watch.
A brown paper bag which we took for lunch.
A pair of bronzed, baby shoes with a plaque.
A library book, a card out of a library book signed and dated by how many people took it out.
Who can forget Smith Brothers Black cough drops?
Plastic pants to fit over d.iapers for babies
Stockings, that’s right two separate stockings held up with garters with seams right down the back and you had to make sure that they were straight.
A young person leaning against a blackboard after having written “I will not be late for class” about 100 times.
A tray hanging off the window of a car at a drive-up with soda and hamburger.
A hood with a big hose that women wore over their head as a hair dryer.
A rotary phone.
Merthiolate – First Aid for cuts and scrapes.
A mimeograph machine - boy do I remember running those holy rollers.
A wringer washer machine.
An old gasoline pump.
For the women, spoolies in the hair.
Those are just a few things from our past that 55 and younger would not remember. She shared these to go down memory lane and have a few laughs. Hope that you enjoyed using your own “visual” for this time.
Day 311 | Sunday, 24 January 2021
The assigned scripture readings for this the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany are: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 and Mark 1:14-20.
Mark 1:14-20 The Message
14 After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: 15 "Time's up! God's kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message." 16 Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. 17 Jesus said to them, "Come with me. I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I'll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass." 18 They didn't ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed. 19 A dozen yards or so down the beach, he saw the brothers James and John, Zebedee's sons. They were in the boat, mending their fishnets. 20 Right off, he made the same offer. Immediately, they left their father Zebedee, the boat, and the hired hands, and followed.
Jonah 3:1-5, 10 1 Next, God spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 "Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them. They're in a bad way and I can't ignore it any longer." 3 This time Jonah started off straight for Nineveh, obeying God's orders to the letter.
4 Jonah entered the city, went one day's walk and preached, "In forty days Nineveh will be smashed." 5 The people of Nineveh listened, and trusted God. They proclaimed a citywide fast and dressed in burlap to show their repentance. Everyone did it - rich and poor, famous and obscure, leaders and followers.
10 God saw what they had done, that they had turned away from their evil lives. He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do to them he didn't do.
First, we have Jesus calling his first disciples – come and follow me, an invitation that Jesus extends to all of us even today. Will we follow? How will we follow?
Then I share the passage from Jonah who was asked to follow God but who was reluctant to do so but God did not let go of Jonah, God persisted. Jonah finally agrees and the people of Nineveh listen and repent by changing their evil behavior. The chapter ends with God changing God’s mind – we would say that God granted grace to the people of Nineveh.
What is your understanding of God’s grace?
Let me offer food for thought from “Wesleyan Core Term Grace”.
“The term grace is a basic yet misunderstood concept. Some consider grace as a nice, gift-wrapped, unearned present from God. This mistaken idea of grace as a substance, cure-all, or prescription for our ills has a long history.”
“Grace is actually a relational concept: God’s active presence and transformative power in our lives. The name Emmanuel speaks to this reality – “God with us.” We perceive the divine presence by the results of the divine energy working within us, enlightening, convicting, forgiving, liberating, assuring, chastising, empowering, strengthening, comforting – assisting us to become what God intended humankind to be, faithful creatures whose love for God and their neighbors is manifest through works of piety and mercy.”
“Grace is a Trinitarian concept, grounded in the love and mercy of God the Father; especially manifest in the life, death, and resurrection of God the Son; and experienced through the work of God the Holy Spirit in our lives.” Wesley Study Bible, CEB, page 1151
God, thank you for your grace which is universally available and will transform our lives. Lord hear our prayers. Amen
Day 310 | Saturday, 23 January 2021
As we have had a week of winter weather, here are some thoughts and prayers around winter.
A Winter Beginning Thought
“Searching for our true home, we shall be led on the path.
Longing for the warmth of the hearth, we shall find the fire of God's presence.
Looking for a place to be ourselves, we shall find acceptance.
Yearning to find someone who cares, we shall know God's love.
Hoping for a joy stronger than gray, cold mornings and long, dark nights,
We shall know the music of eternity and forever sing praise.”
A Winter Prayer
Hibernating animals join people who need to slow down now, O God. The short days remind us of the need to sleep. They also beckon us to warm fires and rocking chairs and places of comfort. Let what we do in this season be a sign of warmth to the cold world.
Let us appreciate our sweaters and our boots and our jackets. Let us love the way you made the world, as a place that changes and is almost never repetitive, one day of the other. Let us love the big storms and the little storms, those in life and those in weather. And keep the words of complaint far from our lips. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
A Winter Prayer from Our Daily Prayer
“Holy God we praise You for the seasonal change that so many of us witness first-hand each year. Even though we can predict an inevitable shift in weather, each time a new wave of beauty ushers onto the scene we are reminded of the amazing way You have created the earth. The beauty in each season reminds us of Your creativity and finite care for life, especially ours.
Winter brings its own set of characteristic landscapes, with blankets of snow and powdery tree branches. Though the winter storms batter us and chill us to the bone, the sun shines onto the sparkling snow, thereafter, reminding us that You make beauty out of all things.”
“Your creation is marvelous. It has the power to pull us out of the doldrums. Thank You for Your faithfulness to remind us today how powerful our remembrance of Your character is. Even in the darkest depressive state, buried under a snowfall that has turned shoveled sidewalks into tunnels, we know that worship can spin our hearts on a dime.”
“The winter is exciting at first, as is every new season.”
“Forgive us for allowing the cold, gray skies and short dark winter days to steal the joy of our hearts. Help us use extra downtime to restore our energy and slow our schedules. Soften our hearts to look beyond the inconvenience of the season. For we know that without the tiring leg of the current season, the next one wouldn’t be so welcome and exciting of a change.
Thank You for bringing us to another Winter, and another New Year. Resolutions can seem like impossible tasks to take on when it’s cold outside and the lack of daylight makes the days seem shorter. “You are the Architect of the seasons.” The Architect of our hearts. You have gone before us and know what lies ahead. You are a good God, and Your love for us is perfect. We can trust You to pull us through the winter.”
“Bless us with hearts more like Jesus, patient and perseverant. Watch over our cloud of despair that threatens to set in with the gray skies. Bring bright memories of sunshine and warmth to the top of our minds when we need to be reminded that just as sure as the winter came, it will go. Help us to enjoy every day You bless us with on this earth, seeking Your purpose first, and always, through every kind of weather. In Jesus Name, Amen”
Today: Those who plow, shovel and salt our roads to help keep winter driving safer.
Day 309 | Friday, January 22, 2021
From the Church Mouse
I am pleased to be back with you. I felt that it was important that there be continuity through the blessed Christmas season until 12th night, so the Woodlands Shepherd walked beside you during that time. Then came January 6th. There was no question in my mind that he had to continue on a while longer until after the inauguration of President Biden. I needed his wisdom and maybe you did too.
Today I wanted to share with you my thoughts on our process of living through the unprecedented events of the last several weeks. In my line of work, I have seen three kinds of responses to such stressors. The first is the molten response: molten anger that wants retribution and revenge. Such brings no justice to anyone or for anyone. The second is the ostrich effect: Don’t talk to me about this; don’t mention this to me; I just want to pretend this isn’t happening. Such prevents learning from the event and prevents any positive changes that may move us forward toward a more perfect union. The third is the activist response: I have to do something about this; If I don’t do anything, nothing will change for the better; If I don’t contribute and nothing changes for the better, am I complicit in the on-going inequity?
Many, many years ago, when I was barely out of my 20s, I was part of the Recreation Committee for my town. We designed such things as children and adult team sports, playground equipment, and seasonal recreation opportunities. On our committee was a woman, older than I, from Austria. In one meeting, she began to denigrate one of our boys’ soccer coaches who happened to be Jewish. I don’t remember her point, but I have remembered my reaction my entire life. Although she used the most egregious epithets imaginable, I sat there …..wordless. I have been ashamed of that inaction my whole life.
You see, what the last few unprecedented weeks’ events have taught me is that I am an activist. Most of my life, I have been in a position where if I expressed an unwelcome opinion, it would bring social retribution to me or someone I loved, so I remained silent, and took the safe route. What has caused me to step out of my comfort zone to do something…..something for the greater good, was MLK. Martin Luther King Jr., whose day we celebrated this past Monday, said the following: “Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it polite?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’. And there are times when you must take a stand that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but you must do it because it is right.” MLK: May 10, 1967
Remembering his words took me back to that committee meeting and to my shame. That shame and watching the events of January 6th, 2021 brought to this decision: I will act to make things better. So….I will be learning how to help people who have never voted to register to vote in our very next election. The remaining time of social distancing will give me time to gather information, establish helpful contacts and learn how to do this successfully. I will be reaching out to my friends to create a cadre of women who will do this during the day. In my mind I’m calling us the “Day Shift”.
If anyone is interested in this outreach, let me know. I’ll keep you informed from time to time to let you know how things are progressing. In one of the Rev.’s last lessons were words that I paraphrase here for my prayer: Dear God, May I, as your daughter, evaluate change wisely, and when I perceive your presence in it, help me to welcome the new, embrace the different and move forward in the great expectation that all things work together for good for those who love God.
Rev. Douglas M. Knopp has always said to all his churches: “I don’t have to be successful….only faithful”. I will keep that in my mind if there are doors slammed in my face.
Day 308 | Thursday, 21 January 2021
(84 new covid cases yesterday)
Psalm 145:13-21 CEB
13 Your kingdom is a kingship that lasts forever;
your rule endures for all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all that he says,
faithful in all that he does.
14 The Lord supports all who fall down,
straightens up all who are bent low.
15 All eyes look to you, hoping,
and you give them their food right on time,
16 opening your hand
and satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways,
faithful in all his deeds.
18 The Lord is close to everyone who calls out to him,
to all who call out to him sincerely.
19 God shows favor to those who honor him,
listening to their cries for help and saving them.
20 The Lord protects all who love him,
but he destroys every wicked person.
21 My mouth will proclaim the Lord’s praise,
and every living thing will bless God’s holy name
forever and always.
13 Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal; you never get voted out of office. God always does what he says and is gracious in everything he does. 14 God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit. 15 All eyes are on you, expectant; you give them their meals on time. 16 Generous to a fault, you lavish your favor on all creatures. 17 Everything God does is right - the trademark on all his works is love. 18 God's there, listening for all who pray, for all who pray and mean it. 19 He does what's best for those who fear him - hears them call out and saves them. 20 God sticks by all who love him, but it's all over for those who don't. 21 My mouth is filled with God's praise. Let everything living bless him, bless his holy name from now to eternity!
“When I was younger, prayer seemed like a chore to check off my To Do List. I would schedule time to pray and say the words I thought I should. Often, I would simply ask for things I wanted, and if I didn't get them, I would complain to God.
As I matured in my faith and grew closer to God, I began to ask for less and share with God more, and I often left my prayer time relieved of my burdens and fears. I found that prayer could be surprisingly refreshing especially if I didn't talk at God but spoke to God.
Now that I'm older, I've realized that far from being a chore, prayer can be like spending time with a beloved friend. The need to say something is often less important than simply being together. I try to listen more than I talk, and I Revel in the joy of being with God.
God will listen to our prayers anytime, regardless of what we've done in the past or where we are in our spiritual journey. All we have to do is show up, tune out distractions, and open our hearts. I'm not always successful in listening to God, but I've learned that it's always worth the effort.” Abigail Gary (Upper room page 26 January-February)
“Dear God, thank you for always being with us. Help us remember that your love for us is constant and steadfast. Amen.”
“Prayer focus: people who feel alone.”
“Thought for the day: I can experience God's love through prayer.”
Day 307 | Wednesday, 20 January 2021
On this day of New Beginnings for America, let us pray that God favor with good health and sound judgement our president, Joseph Biden; our vice president, Kamala Harris; and the members of Congress. Let us pray that petty party politics, mutual recrimination and self-justification yield to courtesy, forbearance and a paramount concern for the people of this nation. Let us pray that the divisions that have become so prominent begin to heal and close for the good of all. Let us also pray for patience as our new leadership begins to help our nation overcome the Corona Virus which has left over 400,000 dead. It is going to take time for this train to get back on the track.
God of Liberty, we rejoice in the blessed abundance you have bestowed on our cherished land. We praise you for the freedom of religious expression which allows us to gather in your name. We praise you for the freedom to say what we think without fear of the governing authorities. We praise you for the freedom to come and go as we please. We praise you for the benefits of education made available to all. We praise you for the freedom to dream our dreams and to strive to make them come true. We praise you for the gift of living in a land where peace is predominant. We rejoice in the bounty of this fruitful land, which provides us with plentiful food and beautiful places to rest and play.
In freedom we are strong, yet freedom is a fragile thing. Help us protect our freedoms through the exercise of personal and civic responsibility. Sting our conscience every time we say to ourselves, “Let someone else do it; It's their problem; I don't care”. Give us as citizens the brains to realize that poverty and violence anywhere weakens the nation everywhere, just as illness in one part of the body weakens the whole.
Help us choose leaders who will do what is necessary for the well-being of the nation, who will not simply promise to grant our selfish wishes in exchange for re-election. Help the citizens of this land to achieve consensus on our most pressing issues, so that united we can help our elected leaders lead with clarity, consistency and decisiveness.
As people who have been freed forever through the blood of Jesus Christ, help us defeat in ourselves the impulse to slavishly submit to the tyranny of self-interest and greed. Help us, whom you are preparing for eternity, to take the long-range view of what would be best for all, not merely what is expedient for those who presently enjoy political and economic advantage. Inspire us to be advocates for people whose voices cannot be heard in the public debate, that all your people may have a share in honor and prosperity and hope. In Jesus name Amen.”
“We thank you for these United States, for this nation of immigrants, for this noble experiment with unity within diversity. While it is our responsibility to recognize and to mend much that is wrong with our country, we give you hearty praise for so much that is right.
We thank you for our legacy of enterprise, fairness and hopefulness passed down among us through the generations from our very beginnings. We praise you for a system of government in which dissent is not merely tolerated but expected and encouraged, as we pray that it is peaceful. We thank you for a system of justice which, in spite of many flaws, manages to make room for mercy. And we glorify your name for the men and women in our midst who prod us, needle us, plague us to remember the gap between our rhetoric and our practice and to work at closing the gap.
So, we pray for our nation, fervently, in the name of him who loved his nation with all his heart but always put justice and compassion for people first. Amen.
Day 306 | Tuesday, 19 January 2021
As we prepare for a day of new beginnings tomorrow, these three themes are ones I wanted to lift up for our reflection.
Joy (Psalm 30:5, 11; Proverbs 12:20; 15:23; Isaiah 51:11; 55:12; John 15:10-11)
“We affirm God's anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. We believe weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. We believe God has turned our mourning into dancing; has taken off our sackcloth and clothed us with joy.
We affirm that deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil, but that those who counsel peace have joy. We believe that to make an apt answer is a joy to any-one, and a word in season, how good it is!
We affirm the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. For we believe we shall go out in joy and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before us shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
We affirm Jesus said, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love."
We believe Jesus said these things so that his joy might be in us, and our joy be complete.”
“God, grant us to be:
Silent before you that we might hear you.
Open to you that you may enter.
At rest in you that you might work in us.
Empty before you that you may fill us.
Prayerful with you that we might be sustained.
Hungry for you that we would be nourished.
Powerless before you that we can be directed.
Singing to you that we can know your beauty.
Humble toward you that your awesomeness would transform us.
Loyal to you that we would be obedient.
Longing for you that we would find life's purpose.
Yearning for you that we would know completeness.
Loving to you so we could know your love.
Devoted to you to discover our priorities.
Honoring of you so that we, too, can be honored by you.
Servant to you in order to serve others.
Thankful to you so we can be thankful in all things. Amen.”
“God who is constant and ever-changing, we come before you as a people calling for your presence with us. With change upon us, we are anxious, not sure what the future will bring. God, you teach through Bible stories that change includes opportunity, and yet, again and again, we resist change for fear of losing control.
May we, as your people, evaluate change wisely, and when we perceive your presence in it, help us to welcome the new, embrace the different and move forward in the great expectation that all things work together for good for those who love God. And when we suspect that specific change is not for the good, but occurring nonetheless, help us to bring your word of healing and hope to the situation.
Bless the change we face, and may we be a people working with this new way, for fulfillment comes when we follow your path; and you would always have us grow. We pray in your name. Amen.”
Day 305 | Monday, 18 January 2021
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO VIC SCHNELL!
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as we reflect on what his life has meant to our country and its people.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (words in boldface are by Dr. King)
“Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. How can we share that dream?
We pass the dream on to all those to whom beauty is truth and truth, beauty, and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine sisterhood and brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.
How will living the dream enrich our lives?
The living of the dream will give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds, and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.
What will living the dream do?
If we but live the dream of love, we will bring about a new day of justice and peace. In that day the morning stars will sing together, and the sons and daughters of God will shout for joy. For God will have made all things new.”
“Holy God, we come fully recognizing that all people of whatever race or back-ground belong to you. Prompt us, O Lord, to reach out in love to our brothers and sisters on earth. Help us especially, to remember, that as we gather about the cross that reveals your love for everyone, we are all God's children and that Christ died for every soul on earth. In his name, we pray. Amen.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
God of grace and truth, we bow our heads in remembrance: With dismay we remember a time when the Christian people of our nation were content to buy and sell human beings, often fellow Christians, like livestock. With thankfulness we remember how you have inspired generations of courageous leaders who sacrificed everything in order to remove the shame of slavery from our land.
We remember the peaceful warriors, like Martin Luther King Jr., through whom you have worked to increase dignity and liberty for all. We turn to you and hope, for the task is not yet complete. Inspire us mightily, that we may continue the work of freedom in the cause of peace. Create in us such a thirst for justice and such a horror of bigotry, that we will strive willingly to comprehend complex issues and to train ourselves and others in the ways of respect and acceptance. Work in our hard hearts, teaching us to judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. In our daily lives, so sharpen our consciences that we can break the habit of making degrading comments about entire populations because of the actions of a few.
Enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may see one another as you see us: beloved children, forgiven sinners, trying to make our way through life as best we can with the resources we have. Prevent us (consciously or unconsciously) from denying anyone the chance to pursue their dream simply because their gender, their race or their ancestry doesn't conform to our expectations. Deliver us from that hardening of the attitudes that refuses to listen and learn, and by so refusing condemns us to repeat the sins of the past. Help us forgive one another, advocate for one another and delight in one another, that through us the world may see all the colors of your creation in a new and holy light. For the sake of Jesus our Lord. Amen