Author Archives: Teressa

Musing: Persistence and God

My beloved and I tend to worship God with other Christians twice every weekend: with a Roman Catholic parish on Saturday evening and with a congregation of the United Church of Christ on Sunday morning.

One benefit is getting to sing a wider variety of hymns.

Another is hearing two different sermons on the same Biblical text. (Or, in my case some weeks, hearing one sermon on Saturday and preaching a sermon on Sunday.)

I cannot tell you most of what either preacher said this last weekend. Which is pretty normal. Even when I’m the preacher I don’t remember much of the sermon the next day. Just a main point or two. Or maybe a good illustration.

The text last weekend was the Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge.

18 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 

Luke 18:1-5 (NRSV)

It’s a parable, a story to make us think. As a parable, there is more than one way to interpret it – even when an interpretation is given in the text (see Luke 18:6-8).

Today I’m remembering the persistence of the widow and the call to not lose heart in prayer – individually (my own life), communally (in the life of the congregation), and world wide. Keep praying. It may not change the situation directly. But it may change me and my response to what is happening. Don’t give up.

But I’m also reconsidering the widow. Who is she, really? Me? You? Us?

Who is she pestering in her persistence? If we are the widow, does that make God the unjust judge?

What if the widow is God? God is the persistent the one. God is the one who never gives up. God pesters the unjust (me?) until the unjust relents and does the right thing.

It’s a parable. Told to make us think.

Thanks be to God for Fr. Michael for naming the widow as God and for all who cause us to rethink what we thought we knew.

Musing: World Communion

Leftovers, World Communion Sunday, October 6, 2019.

It’s been a week and a half since the observance of World Communion Sunday. Not all that long ago according to the calendar. But it feels ever so much longer. One of the days between then and now was set aside so my beloved could have an outpatient procedure. Complications meant spending the following five days in the hospital. Thankfully we’re home; John’s doing well; and I’ve had a chance to sleep and nap and sleep some more.

I thought I’d write about the communion part of World Communion when I took the pictures for this blog post. Maybe say something about remembering Christians around the globe, connected in the one body of Christ.

But since the six days at the hospital I’ve been thinking about the the world part. The medical school at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics attracts smart, kind, thoughtful people from across planet Earth. John and I delight in meeting, however briefly, persons with difficult (for us) to pronounce names. We are grateful beyond words for their expertise, their care, their commitment. Their presence reminds us that we are all connected in the precious journey of life.

Thanks be to God for the diversity and the gifts of the world’s peoples.

World Communion Sunday, Urbandale United Church of Christ, Urbandale, Iowa, October 6, 2019.

Photo Challenge: Groceries

Groceries. Who takes pictures when grocery shopping?!! I did today! Just because Frank issued a groceries photo challenge on Tuesday. My husband John agreed to be photographed as we did the weekly shopping. Come along to the store with us.

First, a list!

John adding to the grocery list. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

Next, decide on a grocery store. John had a prescription ready for pick-up at the Hy-Vee Pharmacy so the decision was easy. Our other choice is Fareway – it’s closer to where we live. Fareway stores are smaller than Hy-Vee stores. If you want lots of choices and don’t mind adding a lot of steps to your pedometer, go to Hy-Vee. If you just want to get the basics and prefer to be done sooner rather than later, go to Fareway. (There are other choices, but it’s Fareway or Hy-Vee for us.)

Hy-Vee, North Ankeny Blvd, Ankeny, Iowa. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

We almost always start on the end with the produce section. I was going to take a picture of the Honey Crisp apples but as I pulled out my camera three other shoppers appeared. What you can’t see is the Starbucks stand behind me and a salad bar and a Hy-Vee Market Grill to my left (less restaurant than it used to be but still a place to sit down to eat).

Pears and Apples. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

The bakery – or, more precisely, the bread – is one reason I like shopping in this store.

Bread in the Bakery. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

Since having all of his teeth extracted this summer, we’ve been supplementing John’s diet. Here he is trying to decide on which flavor of protein shakes to buy.

Supplemental Nutrition Aisle. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

It’s the cereal aisle! Did you know you can know get peanut butter and honey flavored instant oatmeal?

Cereal Aisle. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

Ah, yogurt. So many choices.

Yogurt Choices. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

Always glad to walk by the in-store florist shop. Flowers make me smile. Just because.

Flowers…Just Because. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

John picked-up his prescription while I paid for the groceries before we headed out the door.

Grocerie Bagged. Photo: TLClark, 10/3/19.

Musing: Refuge in God

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah

Psalm 46:1-3, NRSV
Window, St. John United Church of Christ, Melbourne, Iowa. Photo: TLClark, 9/29/19.

We were singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther Sunday morning when I looked across the front of the sanctuary and saw the window pictured above. Too bad I hadn’t seen it earlier – I would have pointed it out while preaching! Did you know Luther based the hymn on Psalm 46?

I quoted Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen more than once in the sermon. Here’s my favorite quote:

“Taking refuge does not mean hiding from life.  It means finding a place of strength, the capacity to live the life we have been given with greater courage and sometimes even with gratitude.”

Rachel Naomi Remen, M D., My Grandfather’s Blessings:  Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging, p.165.

Four or five years ago I lead a series of one-day retreats centered on themes from the Psalms. The first focused on God as a refuge/fortress/dwelling place/shelter and used the last line of Psalm 2:13 as the starting point: “Happy are all who take refuge in the Lord.”

Before the end of the day, I invited participants to reflect on questions that moved from being sheltered by God to being agents who join in God’s effort to provide shelter for others. Here are the questions as preserved in my notes:

  • Where have you found a refuge in the midst of life’s storms?
  • Who has modeled God’s loving care in your life?
  • How or when have you provided shelter for others?
  • Who in your local community is in need of shelter today?  How might you respond?
  • What organizations or agencies provide refuge in places around the world?  How might you join their efforts?

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
    who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Psalm 91:1-2, NRSV

Photo Challenge: Stone

Stone Fountain and Bridge, Krueger Park, Bethany United Church of Christ, Baxter, Iowa. Photo: TLClark.

Only after going out with camera in hand in search of a picture of a stone for this week’s Tuesday photo challenge did I remember these stone structures in a park attached to a church I once served as an Interim Minister. I found pictures in my digital files so the post I had in mind will have to wait!

Krueger Park, established in the 1930s, is just behind Bethany United Church of Christ, a country congregation two miles east of the small town of Baxter, Iowa. The church and park are surrounded by farmland.

Detail of Bowl of Stone Fountain, Krueger Park, Bethany United Church of Christ, Baxter, Iowa. Photo: TLClark.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.

Psalm 36:7-9, NRSV
Detail of Base of Stone Fountain, Krueger Park, Bethany United Church of Christ, Baxter, Iowa. Photo: TLClark.

Some time in the past there was a pump so water could flow into a little stream from the fountain, under the bridge and into a small pond below.

Next to the pond is a lighthouse.

Stone Lighthouse, Krueger Park, Bethany United Church of Christ, Baxter, Iowa. Photo: TLCLark.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” 

John 8:12, NRSV
Back of Stone Lighthouse, Krueger Park, Bethany United Church of Christ, Baxter, Iowa. Photo: TLCLark.

The congregation holds worship services in the park on the first Sunday of summer months. The grounds are perfect for games during Vacation Bible School at the end of July. There’s a fire pit that is used for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows after the annual hay rack ride in October.

Violin Music

Grandma Marion’s Violin (an unplayable keepsake). Photo: TLClark, 9/24/19.

Sunday afternoon’s Des Moines Symphony Orchestra (DSMO) concert was the highlight of our weekend. An all Tchaikovsky concert. Familiar (especially to my beloved), beautiful music. Melodies and harmonies, rhythms and silence done well, really well. It was soothing and invigorating and healing.

The day began as planned – up early enough to take my beloved to a pick-up choir rehearsal before church. But by the end of worship, he was struggling to stand and in more pain than usual – a result of living with metastatic cancer for more than eight years. Extra strength acetaminophen, a little heat and some rest at home helped.

The music helped more.

Before the performance I figured the Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 (1881) would be the least enjoyable piece on the program. I’m not usually a big fan of the violin. I could not have been more wrong. It was AMAZING.

Gil Shaham, the solo violinist, was AMAZING.

The piece, according to the program notes, was considered “unplayable” by the violinist Tchaikovsky hoped would premiere it. Watching Mr. Shaham play, I could see why – the fingers of his left hand skipped rapidly up and down the fingerboard on the neck, the bow in his right hand danced across the the strings, his whole body moved with the music. The sound was AMAZING.

I now like violin music. At least when it’s Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto played by Gil Shaham.

Grandma’s Old Violin. Photo: TLClark, 9/24/19.

Sing to [the Lord] a new song;
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

Psalm 33:3 NRSV

Photo Challenge: Fuzzy

Fuzzy Spider Web. Photo: TLClark, 9/21/19.

I left the camera at home when heading out the door for a walk this morning. It looked like it could rain and I wasn’t very hopeful about finding anything fuzzy for Frank’s Tuesday photo challenge. After noticing cattails and milkweed and a few other potentially fuzzy subjects I circled back home, grabbed the camera, and headed out again.

Spider in Fuzzy Web. Photo: TLClark, 9/21/19.

Spiderwebs were the surprise of the day! I definitely did not see them until getting off the path. With prey as big as the predator the spider web in the next photo caught my eye first. Just beyond it was a web that had caught all sorts of fluffy, fuzzy stuff (top two pictures)!

A Spider with Breakfast. Photo: TLClark, 9/21/19.

Neither the cattails nor the milkweed were particularly fuzzy. But here are two other plants ready to spread their white fuzzy seeds.

Photo: TLClark, 9/21/19.
Photo: TLClark, 9/21/19.