Saturday, July 22, 2017

So Great a Cloud of Witnesses

The Example of Jesus

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

When visiting Westby last week, we stopped out at Coon Prairie Lutheran Church cemetery (about two miles from town) to look at the gravestones of the ancestors. It's a wonderful thing, I think, to have a graveyard adjacent to the church. Anyway, Mr. C's grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather are buried there, and any ancestors before that time would have been buried in Norway.

While walking through a graveyard like the one above, the verses from Hebrews always come to mind - those who put their trust in Jesus, although their bodies are buried in the cemetery, are with the LORD now until the Great Resurrection, when Christ will return to reign on the new (renewed) earth and those who died 'in Christ,' along with those who remain at his coming, will be changed, given new, indestructible physical bodies. As someone said, 'Right now, we are mere shadows of our future selves.'* Like Abraham and Moses and David and Rahab and all the others who loved God, the ancestors who died 'in Christ' are also part of that great cloud of witnesses.

I'm posting the entire chapter 11 and then verses 1-2 of chapter 12 in case you'd like to read them. They're such an encouragement for the believer.


Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith  our ancestors received approval.  By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

The Examples of Abel, Enoch, and Noah

 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks.  By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.

The Faith of Abraham

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

 By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son,  of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.”  He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.  By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau.  By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, “bowing in worship over the top of his staff.”  By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial.

The Faith of Moses

 By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.  By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter,  choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward.  By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible.  By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

The Faith of Other Israelite Heroes

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned.  By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.  By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—  who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,  quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.  Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection.  Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

The Example of Jesus

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us  looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the  joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. -  HEBREWS 11:1-12:2 NRSV - copied from

 We've been visiting that cemetery for years.
The little boy and girl in the photo above
are now 47 and 43.

*C.S. Lewis or N.T. Wright, I don't remember which.

Have a blessed Lord's Day, friends!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hodgepodging Childhood Memories

 My maternal grandma as a teen
She was at least one generation removed from the photo grin.
And I wouldn't smile either - with that stiff collar choking me!

Join Joyce and the Gang

She writes the questions;
we write the answers.
Plug them into your own blog post
and join in!

1. Growing up, were you close to your grandparents? Tell us one or two specific things you remember about them.

Oh yes, I was close to both sets of grandparents. I remember my maternal grandma bringing bananas and doll clothes out to the farm, I remember her sweet nature and her love of Jesus, her leading Child Evangelism classes in her home, and her generosity to her neighbors even though she certainly did not have an extra penny to her name. Even so, she paid for me to take a taxi from her house to my piano lesson (in town), gave me old copies of McCall's magazine so I could cut out the Betsy McCall paper dolls, fed me raspberry sauce as a treat, etc. etc. And I mostly remember that her house was cluttered and INTERESTING. (Take that, you spartans!)

My paternal grandma kept nothing extra, but she made up for it (having a kind of boring house) by making great homemade bread (and putting butter AND salt on it), teased my grandpa about the fact that he spoke Swedish when he was a kid, had a very dry sense of humor which I loved, and gave me fond memories of her - AND of my grandpa, whom I remember praying in church and crying as he prayed. Because he was an emotional person? No. He was a humble man who loved God, who was overwhelmed by the realization that God became man to rescue him (and all of us) from ourselves, from our sin, from eternal death - because God so loves the world. And I'm totally with my grandpa on that. It never ceases to choke me up.

You really got me with these first two questions, Joyce, and you can consider yourself lucky that my answers aren't longer than they are!

 Shammar looked kinda like this horse, 
with a white blaze the length of his face.

2. What's an item you were attached to as a child? What happened to it?

First, I was attached to my horse, Shammar, who kept me slightly scared of him the entire time, although I loved him. He was Arabian/Welsh and beautiful, scared of butterflies and would freak out if a fly or butterfly flew past him as I was riding. Then I had to simply hang on for dear life as he bolted back to the barn. I can't tell you how many times that happened. Sometimes I wasn't lucky enough to stay on and had to brush myself off and walk back to the barn. You can tell I wasn't a great horsewoman, but I loved that horse enough to decorate his side of the calf barn with photos of other horses, took him sugar lumps and carrots, etc. He totally didn't deserve me.  And when I was out of school, my dad sold him to some people in a neighboring village. I don't know whatever happened to him.

Secondly, I was attached to my shoebox full of baseball cards. All the best players: Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Bobby Richardson, Hank Aaron, Juan Marichal, Roberto Clemente, etc. etc. etc. And my mom threw them out the year I was in Bolivia. I've complained about this before, so I'll let it go without piling on. But they would have been worth something today. See? It pays to keep stuff.

 Henry and Mr. C. playing frisbee in the south yard

3. When you look out your window, do you see the forest or the trees (literally and figuratively)? Explain.

Literally, I see the forest. This is rural Wisconsin. Figuratively, although I love detail, I think I'm pretty good at seeing the forest, the bigger picture, and try to look at all angles of a situation and being willing to admit that I was wrong. Or that I've been wrong for years.

Greek Yogurt with Raspberries!
The raspberries in the garden are ripe about three weeks earlier than usual.

4. Do you like sour candies? Which of the 'sour' foods listed below would you say is your favorite?

No, I don't like sour candies, except for the sugared sour gummy things, whose name escapes me, but I don't go out of my way to buy them. If they happened to be the only candy in the house, I might eat a couple - if all the chocolate chips were gone.

grapefruit, Greek yogurt, tart cherries, lemons, limes, sauerkraut, buttermilk, or kumquats 

I don't think of Greek Yogurt as being sour, but I do love it - and tart cherries.

Have you ever eaten a kumquat? What's your favorite dish containing one of the sour foods on the list?

Not a fan of kumquats. I would love a tart cherry pie, but I'd probably be eating it all by myself while Mr. C. ate a bag of salty chips. So I'll pass on that one.

 The gluten-free cherry pie I made for July Fourth
I wasn't thrilled with the crust, but the cherries were good.
GF dough is nearly impossible to weave because it breaks.
And guess who ate most of the pie. Somebody had to get rid of it.

5. July 1st marked the mid point of 2017. In fifteen words or less, tell us how it's going so far.

Like every summer in Wisconsin, it's going far too fast.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

 One of my favorite places:
The Amish community near Westby, WI

 Another Barn Raising nr. Westby

 I made the mistake of draping a fresh-clean blanket over the bench.
Tommy and Smokey, cute as usual

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