Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come into God’s presence with singing. --Psalm 100:1-2
Nebraska Five-Day Academy was this past week at St. Benedict Center in Schuyler. Even though I didn’t make the trip as planned, I have found God at work renewing my passion, redefining my ministry, and restoring my soul during my week here at home.
I pulled more weeds in two days than I had all spring. Spiritual work, excellent prayer time, and good for the soul.
To tend to my sore muscles, I sat in the hot tub more than I had in the past month.
I made a concerted effort to walk more with Arapahoe and Xian during the day instead of waiting until after dark.
I made it to Covenant Group. We were a small group this month. Helpful conversation about transitions.
I went to a Cancer Support Group meeting at the hospital. Although intended for persons with cancer, it was another helpful conversation.
As both patient advocate and pastor, I was thankful to God when my hospital visits coincided with doctors’ rounds. It happened enough times that good progress has been made. News flash: I just received a phone call … after nearly a month of hospitalization, this parishioner is soon to be released. Thanks be to God!
As spouse, I have tried to be supportive. I continue to learn the role of caregiver … when I am needed, when I am not.
One of these days, perhaps next week, I will look to the future and begin to make plans for transitioning. But this week has been about being present. In the moment. In the here and now. Waiting with God. Waiting in God’s presence.
Psalm 100:1-2, has been my mantra this week. In all things, make a joyful noise. Serve with gladness. Acknowledge God’s presence. And come. Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
A year ago I made plans to participate in Nebraska’s Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation which runs April 28 – May 3 this year. Knowing that two beloveds from my Two-Year experience were invited to be presenters was the impetus to register early. In fact, I invited two sisters in the faith to join me … to introduce them to The Academy and so we could grow in faith together.
The timing for Five-Day in Nebraska is typically right after Easter. Accordingly, it is a great way for clergy, especially, to relax and renew after a busy Lenten season and Holy Week. I have personally appreciated that my own Academy experiences … over five days or simply 24 hours … have helped reestablish and/or solidify a spiritual connection and rhythm for reflection and prayer.
Yet, as the time draws near, I find myself torn. Do I stay home? Or do I go?
To be sure, it was a full Lent. Extra worship services. Usual monthly meetings and weekly ministries. Some unexpected, but important and necessary pastoral care. And it’s appointment season. Undoubtedly, I could use a recharge of my spiritual battery!
Earlier this month, Mr. Pat’s scheduled MRI showed new areas of growth. Additional appointments. Multiple phone calls. More chemo delivered to our doorstep Thursday. A new dosage. A new regimen. And some uncertainty.
So I have made a call to the registrar in order that another pilgrim may attend Five-Day in my stead. And I’ve contacted the listening circles coordinator so she can make adjustments. In a little while, I will contact others of my siblings in Christ to encourage them in their pilgrimages. Right now, I need to be here.
Dear Jesus, sometimes we find ourselves in a tough spot. At times we are uncertain. Sometimes fearful. Not knowing what the future holds. Not knowing what to do. Maybe what we need is for you to come and stand among us. And hear you say, or feel you breathe, “Peace be with you.” And believe it may be so.
Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
For an Easter Son-Rise Service a few years ago at Rising City UMC, I adapted Robert Ingram’s prayer to be prayed responsively.
An Easter Prayer: (L = Left, R = Right, A= All)
L: Lord, can salvation really be so easy?
R: Is there not some price to pay,
All: some contract to uphold?
L: Is confessing you with our lips,
R: and believing in our hearts,
All: all that is really necessary?
L: Is there not some fine print,
R: something we have not been told?
All: This is too easy. Is it not?
L: If we were God, instead of you,
R: there would be hell to pay.
All: No one would get off so easy.
L: But we, thankfully, are not God;
R: and you are unlike any of us.
All: There is no price tag on your love.
L: Though we live like heathens,
R: disobeying you at every turn,
All: you wrap us in your salvation.
L: “Come,” you say to us, “Come.
R: Enjoy the miracle of my love.”
All: And we come, Lord. We come. Amen.
--Robert D. Ingram, 2011 Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of God!
Blessed are we for we have been created by that same God.
Blessed is the sound of our voices, lifted up in praise.
Blessed are the hands that clap and strum and pluck,
joining together in one glorious Hosanna.
Blessed are the bodies that move and wave and march
and dance in a tapestry of motion, embodying your love.
Blessed is the breath that enlivens us, animates us,
and sustains us in singing our ceaseless praise to you, O God.
Hosanna! Hosanna! --2009, Laura Jaquith Bartlett
From Bethlehem to Nazareth,
From Jordan to Jericho,
From Bethany to Jerusalem,
From then to now,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To heal the sick,
To mend the brokenhearted,
To comfort the disturbed,
To disturb the comfortable,
To cleanse the temple,
To liberate faith from convention,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To carry the cross,
To lead the way,
To shoulder the sin of the world and take it away,
Come, Lord Jesus.
To this place,
Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
--1998 Wild Goose Group, admin. By GIA Publications, Inc.
Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
It appears that Spring is definitely here! How do I know? Let me count the ways …
The snow mountains made from clearing streets all winter have all melted away.
My husband was the first in our burg to fire up his lawnmower and mow the lawn. Not just the first on our street. Not just the first in our block. But the first in the Whole Town. I must admit that bagging the leaves and other stuff that have blown in over the winter does make the grass look greener.
My husband was likely the first in Denton to till his garden. Or should I say gardens, plural. I’ve been told that the weeds with tiny leaves were trying to invade the strawberries, so it was time to get after them. And then one just keeps tilling.
Tulips and grape hyacinths are beginning to emerge. No vivid color yet. But the green clumps are promising!
The flower bed are needing spruced up. One of these days, in a couple more weeks, I’ll tend to them. And wash windows. And change the sheets on the beds from flannel to cotton. Maybe I’ll leave the windows for Mr. Pat.
Today he is going to town to buy new garden seed for planting. And garden plants if he can find them. And grass seed to reseed some weedy patches in the yard.
In the Spring, there is always something to look forward to. Clearing away the old. Or the debris. Freshening up. Making room for the new.
Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
Coming back home from New Orleans, we were seated by man returning to his home in St. Louis from Orlando. He had been at a pet expo all week, related to his job with a well-known pet food supplier. We shared pictures and stories of our four-legged babies. We talked about Nebraska and the flooding. I mentioned Crete, and he said he knew where it was because of his company’s facility there.
Before landing in Omaha, there was just enough daylight left that we could see the flooding and destruction in that region. My, my.
I was thankful to know that our Bishop asked for special offerings to be taken in our United Methodist churches for our brothers and sisters in Nebraska dealing with the aftermath of the bomb cyclone. We did so last Sunday in Milligan and Fairmont, and will accept additional donations this Sunday.
I was thrilled to learn Sunday that folks from Milligan who have ties to Hooper and Winslow were hoping to fill a trailer with collected items for people and animals. They asked to park the trailer at the church during the week. Oh, yes! And they will take the donations to Hooper and Winslow on Saturday.
I had known from Facebook that our niece, Anna Elting, and others had been gathering donations in Thayer County to take to folks along the Niobrara River. Monday, she told me that she, her husband Reuben, and my youngest brother Chance left last Saturday with a 16-foot enclosed trailer of supplies for people and livestock and a small semi of hay. They made stops in Lynch, Verdel, and Niobrara, but couldn’t get 7 more miles down the road to Santee without crossing first into South Dakota. They spent the night in Yankton, then made their way to Santee on Sunday.
It’s all about people helping people. It’s about using your God-given abilities and resources to help meet the needs of people as you see and learn of them. In whatever ways possible. In the church, we call that ministry.
Someone told me Purina in Crete had sent a truckload of pet food up north for flood victims. Hmmm. Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
Last week as I was pondering, my thoughts were on my husband’s upcoming birthday that we would be celebrating in New Orleans before, during, and after his St. Patrick’s Day birthday.
I remember writing about how we had come to love New Orleans for its great food and drink, but especially for its great people … their resiliency and resolve to remain hopeful, make the best of things, and celebrate life.
And as I wrote last week, I had no idea, really, how devastating the rain and snow falling across Nebraska would be for so much of our state, our communities and infrastructure, our people, neighbors and friends, their livestock, livelihoods, their homes.
It was so hard for me to drive to the airport Saturday morning knowing that many in Nebraska were in emergency status. I would have been helping people in a heartbeat had we not had travel plans. Instead, I prayed. I checked my phone for Facebook posts, most coming from friends in Schuyler or clergy across the state to report what they were seeing or dealing with. I prayed more. I got frustrated that Nebraska didn’t make the national news until Tuesday. And I prayed some more.
Yes, we’re in New Orleans as I ponder this week, but my heart is in Nebraska. I promise you that we are enjoying New Orleans, but I am also tuned into what is happening at home. I praise and thank God for the Facebook posts that show people helping people and the resiliency of Nebraskans in the face of adversity.
Last night, making our way to the ferry for our return trip, we greeted the security guard, as we typically do. Oddly, he didn’t speak. Almost past him, softly, he called to us … can you help me? We both moved toward him. Sure, how could we help you? James hadn’t been relieved by another guard, nor had he eaten for 12 hours. Long story short, God used us and another couple to get James the help he needed … water, orange juice, an ambulance, and a pastor to remind him that God loves him. I guess we were right where we needed to be. For James. For God. Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
My husband’s birthday is coming up. Actually, his birthday is March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. Over the years, we have celebrated his birthday in a variety of ways. Typically, the celebration includes good food and drink, and good people to celebrate with … as birthdays in particular and celebrations in general should.
Sometimes the food includes a home-cooked meal by him, of corned beef and cabbage and boiled potatoes and carrots, and a homemade dessert by me. Only one time have I tried to recreate his mother’s chocolate layer cake with date and nut filling, a favorite of his growing up. Often, a pie is involved.
Oftentimes, he’ll seek out a local pub for his birthday corned beef and cabbage and complimentary ale. Yet, if encouraged to go to one of his favorite restaurants on his birthday, the food is Italian, paired with a nice glass of wine.
But on two occasions, soon to be three, we have purposely, and purposefully, been out of town on St. Patrick’s Day. We have come to love New Orleans … its great food and drink, and especially its great people … by way of vacations, multiple trips for mission work in the area after Hurricane Katrina, and a clergywomen’s gathering with colleagues. We have recognized that the people of New Orleans, even in the face of adversity, certainly know how to hang onto hope, make the best of things, and celebrate life … and the importance of doing so. Is it any wonder that New Orleans is where Mr. Pat wanted to once again celebrate his birthday?
So as you read this … whether the day of, or the day before, or even a day or two after March 17th … be assured that the St. Patrick’s Day baby is celebrating his 74th birthday in style. With great Cajun, Creole, and home-style cooking. With a Pat O’Brien’s hurricane or two. Attending a couple of St. Patrick’s Day parades. And with purposeful people having a particular determination and resolve to remain hopeful, make the best of things, and celebrate life.
Lord, as we await your heavenly banquet, may we experience every once in a while a foretaste of your feast to come.
Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
Here I sit at my laptop to ponder, once again staring out the picture window for inspiration. Waiting for the Spirit to inspire.
As I gaze, I see first the mounds of snow piled high in order to make our street passable. I see the playground across the street, silent for weeks, because who would dare to slide down a frozen tornado slide or swing in the arctic breeze?
And maybe it’s because I haven’t seen kiddos playing in the snow lately. Or because it’s been an extra long winter. Or I have cabin fever and, unlike my spouse, I find little excitement watching the Alaskan wilderness shows that have us looking at more snow. Or maybe I’m just plain tired of the same ol’, same ol’. But hear me say: I am ready for a change.
I am ready for a change in the weather. I am ready for a change in focus. I am ready for something new in my life.
Actually, if I think about this more deeply, what I’m trying to say is: I am ready for God to do a new thing within me.
Maybe the ashes of Ash Wednesday help us think about life, and death, and the changing of hearts. Maybe the six weeks of Lent remind us that change doesn’t happen all at once. Maybe this time of year can help us fully appreciate the change, the gift, the new life that is to come.
Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
It is almost Friday, and still I am struggling to find words to express my thoughts and feelings around the Special Called Session of General Conference held in St. Louis last weekend.
As you have likely heard, the One Church Plan, that had been recommended by 2/3 of our United Methodist Bishops as our way forward in unity, did not make it out of committee and onto the floor for vote. Instead, the Traditional Plan was put forth from legislative committee to the plenary session. It narrowly passed even though parts of it are likely unconstitutional.
This Traditional Plan is now to be reviewed for its constitutionality by the Judicial Council, our United Methodist version of the Supreme Court. The Council meets again in April.
So it will take some time before we know how things will unfold from here.
I wasn’t in St. Louis myself, but through Facebook posts on Monday and catching the livestream most of Tuesday, I find that I have experienced the gamut of emotions. Pride in the giftedness of our Great Plains delegation. Hurt. Anger. Disappointment. Anguish. Sadness. Grief.
I’m not concerned so much for myself and how I will get through this as I am for our LGBTQIA+ siblings in Christ … friends, family, church family, and clergy … who have once again heard from our denomination that they are “incompatible” and felt the doors of supposed welcome close conditionally in their faces.
And I guess what I’ve come to realize is this … we will get through this as we have in the past … together. I will still be a pastor who preaches that God loves you just as you are, who welcomes all people to experience Christ at his communion table, and who believes in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring grace and understanding to us all.
And together, we will continue to share and show the love of Jesus to all God’s dear ones … in the ways God has ably gifted each of us to do. Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
Pastor Pat Norris
Something to Ponder is by Pastor Pat and is printed on the back of the bulletin each week.