Monthly Archives: May 2016

A Peek at my Mother’s Life

One thing about living as a transient pastor’s family is the risk you face when moving into a home you may have only seen once; a home over which you have no control and one where you’ll have to adapt all of your belongings in a very short period of time.

Living with my parents, we learned to adapt quickly and laugh through the foibles we encountered. Dad fixed what he could and he could fix a lot. Mom painted walls, covered countertops, cleaned out closets, did what she could to make it nice – and we learned the stuff-shuffle. For the most part, it was loads of fun, but there are always stories to be told. And really … where would I be without stories?

Mom thought she should start a journal. It looks as if she did so because she had no other way to deal with her frustration. However, it’s funny. The journal didn’t last any longer than the words you see here. They make me laugh.

The Move from Gravity, IA to Bussey, IA, June 16th, 1961

Moving:
Frank gone to Conference – me alone with sick child, ear infections, no doctor, telephone or car. Finally, Diane cured, piled boxes of books in guest room, packed and packed – absolutely exhausted one hot night lying on bed with no sheet covering me – sound asleep. Suddenly mouse ran up my bare leg – screamed, shook him off and unable to sleep for rest of night. Sprayed all around with moth spray in great hopes that it would be effective on mice also.

After much heaving, packing, throwing and burning – got much stuff packed – Frank arrived home on Friday afternoon. I’d strained my back and had cramps in it that night. Had to keep yelling at Frank to awaken him to pull my back straight.

Great moving day.
Van arrived at 11:00 a.m. Amazed at such a small truck to carry our great load. Frank loaded VW and Studebaker. At 2:30, we took off. Frank had 3000 pounds of books, one goat and a petrified white Tom cat. I had Diane, more books, a black kitten, 3 goldfish and a turtle. I also had a flat tire 5 miles out of Knoxville and a useless jack. Things straightened out and we arrived in Bussey. The previous minister still loading – great hoards of people piling trash into pickups. Finally the man and his family left and the van gone, too with the promise to return and collect the rest of their belongings. Amazing amount of junk. I sat around on the living room floor with eight or ten of our new parishioners till 10:00 p.m. or so. Our van not in sight. Took a tour of our new house and nearly cried. Molding and mopboard in living room painted half-white and half cream – someone had lost interest in the middle. Living room floor refinished around a lovely little square where there had obviously been a rug, great jagged crack in the kitchen sink – the plumbing leaky and corroded – no electrical plug-ins upstairs – only bare hanging bulbs – no toilet upstairs – one downstairs. Kitchen unbelievable. 4 feet of counter space – linoleum worn thru to floor. Besides these small things, the windows, six footers with springs – not pulleys, kept falling down since the wood was worn out at the springs – most propped open by various lengths of wood. Coal furnace, etc.

Margie & Diane 1961 3At first glance, this was all I saw – but knew there was a great deal more I didn’t want to see. At 11:30 still no van. The last of the loyal people left – with many invitations for bed and board – but we still had hopes of van arriving. At 12:30 a.m. we gave in – dragged car seats in from VW and curled up in them. Diane very uncomfortable, but asleep – Frank & I extremely so – but young enough to think it funny. Our new friends had stocked the refrigerator with eggs and pies and homemade bread and rolls – our neighbor brought us coffee and rolls and since the minister’s wife before us had neglected to check the bottom of the stove, we had a plentiful supply of pots and pans the next morning.

At 10:00 a.m. our van arrived – seems the movers didn’t get the van packed till 3:00 a.m. However we later discovered the biggest reason was not the small size of the van as they claimed, but the constant little breaks the two movers kept taking at the local tavern. Naturally, it would be difficult to fit a large load of furniture in a small van especially if one couldn’t see straight.

At about the same time on Friday, the parsonage committee arrived – all set to find out the major and minor repairs we would like. Frank told them very bluntly that he had lived in parsonages all his life – but had never seen one in worse condition. They appeared surprised – but after a tour of the place agreed heartily. Several suggestions made – and by Monday night at the official board meeting, the church people decided almost unanimously to build us a new house before Fall.

After that it didn’t seem so terrible to live in that dreadful old house. At least we had the prospects of a new one within 4 or 5 months.

The first Sunday after taking up occupancy was a hectic one. Frank had to hurry off early in order to find his way to the other two churches. As he passed thru town, he noticed a body lying partly in the gutter. Being a good Christian gentleman, he stopped to see if he could help. Our neighbor’s 17 year old son was lying there dead drunk. Aid soon arrived and I caught sight of him later being dragged unconscious onto his front lawn – where he was rather unceremoniously left lying for at least 4 hours. There was no sign of hide nor hair though when the sheriff arrived later in the afternoon. This, of course, wasn’t a very happy portent of what our neighbors were like, though I later found the rest of the family to be very pleasant. I never have discovered what the head of the house looked like. He always had a layer of coal dust on his face.

1961 - Rachel & Diane. Mom really tried to help us be friends.

1961 – Rachel & Diane. Mom really tried to help us be friends.

Meanwhile, our goat was a great attraction to all the children in town – and the adults too were fascinated. Rachel was a very friendly goat – except that she was jealous of my two year old daughter – she tried to knock Diane down every time she turned around. Diane soon was scared to death to go out without me. The goat had a fatal complex – she thought she was human. I’d raised her since she was a week old – and she had been allowed to sit on my lap and be petted like a little child. The fear my daughter had developed finally forced me into giving Rachel away – a sad day for me, but a joyous one for Diane.

(Aside: I refused to say the goat’s name – Rachel. It was Zhuhbee for some reason. And for as many years as Mom was alive, she always insisted that Dad had given her a choice that day – to get rid of the goat or her daughter. She said it was a difficult choice. This was living with Margie Greenwood!)

A little earlier, our big old Tom Cat had developed some dreadful disease and Frank finally had to dispose of him. I had given away the 3 goldfish and the turtle to the neighbor children – they smelled so and we were left with the small kitten. Diane took care of him. She beat him up regularly till he was the meanest small kitten one could ever find. You had to be careful how you walked, because he would stalk you and pounce on your ankles, kicking, biting and clawing. He went the way of the rest of our pets – I gave him away too, along with 10 cans of cat food.

Diane decided to help keep things active, so she proceeded to eat some aspirin and had to have her stomach pumped out. Then she ate some medicated hand cream – who knows what else she managed to get into – I locked everything up after that.

Work on our house was progressing rapidly – it was started at the beginning of Sept. and we were in at least partly by November 1st.

November 1961 Family in Bussey 2

The Oskaloosa newspaper came to Bussey to do an article on the new parsonage … and the new, young pastor’s family.

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A funny story from last year about the first Mother’s Day after my mom died. We really do find humor in the strangest things. 

Mother’s Day, Pt. 1

And then, there is this bit that Mom wrote about being a minister’s wife. You’ll love it.

Mother’s Day, Pt. 2

I Am Not the Christian You’re Looking For

In 1974, I walked down the aisle of my church, knelt at an altar and made the choice to commit my life to Jesus Christ. From that point forward, it’s been a crazy journey – one I would never choose to have missed.

However, what I didn’t know in the innocence of my choice that day, was that the most difficult times ahead would often come because of those who attempted to define how I walked that road with Jesus Christ. I lost my mother when I was 28 … that didn’t break me, it only made my faith stronger. I dealt with other personal struggles – none of which were impossible because my faith gave me strength.

No, the worst faith crises came from those who called themselves Christians and insisted on telling me that I wasn’t doing it right.

Do you want a list? Oh, I want to give you one, but these are just highlights and barely scratch the surface of how others have insisted I live out my faith.

1. Let’s start with my mother’s death. Believe it or not, during this entire ordeal, the most outwardly holy and pious Christians we knew told us that our faith wasn’t strong enough and that’s why she died. If we’d had faith as small as a mustard seed, she would have been healed. Thank heavens for our own strong faith and will, as well as an outpouring of love from people, both Christian and non-Christian.

2. Then there was my denomination. I grew up as a United Methodist. Somehow in the midst of the raging political and religious conservatism of the 90s, that denomination was vilified. If you were a Methodist, you couldn’t be a Christian because the denomination was too liberal. Nothing else mattered, the label was enough. To this day, I encounter pious Christians who hold themselves above others based on denominational choices.

3. During the 1990s, I was told that if I was not a Republican, I couldn’t be a Christian, because only extreme conservatives understood what the Christian walk looked like. Any other choice and I was apostate. I even had one person tell me that making a choice for a specific Presidential candidate revealed a person’s Christianity. We still base our judgment on a person’s faith based on their choices for political office.

4. Believe it or not, there continue to be people who insist that unless I read scripture from the King James Version, I can’t possibly be a Christian. There are still certain versions of scripture that when used will cause you to be named as a heretic. The word of God is not to be defined by one interpretation. It is much too big for that.

5. Then there was a day I stood in the sanctuary of my church and was told that no one was really a Christian unless they spoke in tongues. I’d heard this before, but was shocked at the accusation being tossed out at me. I had to be a little more pointed, I could tell, so I looked the person straight in the eye and asked if they were telling me that I wasn’t a Christian. A philosophical belief had just become very personal for him and he had no good answer.

6. The essence of my faith is disparaged by Christians on a regular basis because of disagreements regarding interpretation of Scripture. When I began attending seminary, I knew for certain that I would be exposed to centuries of various interpretations and I’m so grateful for that. What I learned was that there is nothing new under the sun. Even the hottest issues we argue about today created hatred and dissension within faith groups years ago. We’ve learned nothing. It is still easier for a Christian to hate … even me because I choose to believe differently … than it is to listen and to love.

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While I say very little about this publicly, I am weary of having to justify myself as a Christian because others define my faith with narrow boundaries.

Jesus Christ came to change that behavior. He exploded the faith of Jews who had created a narrow, negative religion. They had a rule for everything and their rules were more important than the people they were to serve. It was a faith of dos and do nots. It was not a faith that could make great changes in or offer salvation to the world. They had become insular, tightly protecting their beliefs, not trusting that the God of creation could possibly be in control. They were so caught up in their definition of faith that they lost sight of God’s true purpose for them.

We are not here on earth to piously set forth the rules and regulations of Christianity. Even as you quote Paul’s words (which is where you find nearly all of those highly vaunted rules and regulations of Christianity), you miss Paul’s purpose.

The apostle Paul pointed to Jesus Christ in everything he did.

And Jesus points to God.

As Christ-followers, we have to stop insulating our faith – protecting our beliefs. We must trust that the God of creation is completely in control and HE DOES NOT NEED US TO FIGHT HIS BATTLES.

One lesson we should have learned from the Old Testament Israelites is that when they stepped back and allowed God to be in control, the battle was always won. When they asked other groups for help against a particular foe, they lost. When they tried to do it on their own, they lost horribly.

And when they decided to rule themselves using their interpretation of rules and regulations from Scripture, God sent His Son to turn the world upside down. Jesus didn’t come to earth because of some enormous sin that the outside world was committing. God sent Jesus because his own people were so caught up in piously living out their faith that they’d forgotten how to love others … to love those inside and outside their faith structure.

The Israelites were to be a light to the world (Isaiah 49:6). They were to represent the one, true God. They lost their way. Instead of representing God, they presented Him in their image, according to their beliefs.

Jesus said no. To a people whose lives revolved around the Law, when asked which law was the greatest, Jesus told them to love God and love each other (Matthew 22:37). When challenged by those who spent their lives reading and interpreting the Law of Moses (Pharisees), Jesus lived out love.

Love is not narrow. Love is expansive. Love is not defined by rules, it is defined by God who created things we have not yet begun to see, much less understand.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor. 13:4-7, NRSV)

I will never be the Christian I’m expected to be. I just can’t do it. I’ve made choices that cause others to question whether my faith is what it should be and that’s okay. Because in the end, I don’t answer to them. The one thing that God promised me from the very beginning of our relationship was that as long as I relied on him, talked to him and loved him (and others), he would help me on the journey. He’s always been right beside me. He’s never failed me. I have sinned and been on my knees asking forgiveness, but love defines our relationship.

So I trust God … yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He’s removed rules and regulations and replaced them with love. He defines my faith. I don’t have to prove that to anyone else. I simply have to live so that others see His love in me.

As you define what a Christian should look like, how they should act, what they should believe and how they should respond to the world, know that I will never live to your standards. My life … my faith is in God’s hands, not yours.

Stop defining faith and start living it. Our faith is love. Perfect love. We can’t let ourselves become Pharisees who shut out the world in order to have a perfect and true religion.

Being a Christian limits me.

Following Jesus Christ who is the beginning, the middle, and the end of my salvation, my faith, and my life … allows me to live in love, without limitations.

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It is completely unnecessary for you to attempt to comfort me or stroke my ego for making choices. I’m not looking for sympathy or accolades. This isn’t that kind of a post – it is simply my story and the thoughts that come from living it. My confidence lies within me and is based on one greater than anything I can ever be.

~~~

Picture 2Waiting for the cute cat picture?

There were a lot of words in this post, but since y’all are readers, I wasn’t too worried. Apparently I had a lot to say.

Here ya go. This is every one of them snuggled up against my leg. It’s pretty wonderful to wake up to this.

Grey is tucked between Earl (on his back) and TB. I’m just out of room.