Friday, May 12, 2017

The Sheepfold (guest post)

The Sheepfold
-- Pastor Cook

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,   just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.   And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”  John 10:14-18

This past Sunday the Church observed Good Shepherd Sunday. On this Sunday, once every year, we focus our attention on Christ our Shepherd and ourselves, his sheep. Because sheep were important livestock for mankind for thousands of years, the people of Jesus’ day knew a lot about sheep. Not many of us today have had experience with sheep, so let’s take a quick moment to educate ourselves about just one aspect of sheep – their need to belong to a sheepfold.

We learn the following from the website

Normal sheep behavior
“Changes in normal behavior can be an early sign of illness in sheep. The most obvious example of this relates to the sheep's most natural behavioral instinct, their flocking instinct. A sheep or lamb that is isolated from the rest of the flock is likely showing early signs of illness (unless it is lost). Even the last sheep through the gate should be suspected of not feeling well, especially if it is usually one of the first.”

When Jesus speaks about us as sheep, one of the things that he is teaching us is that we belong in community – we need to belong to a flock. Not belonging just in name, but in a real and meaningful way – through regular flesh and blood interaction. God has created us with a need to interact with other Christians. We need to be fellowshipping, praying, worshiping, and studying God’s Word together. When we don’t do those things, it is a sign of illness, just like it is for sheep. For sheep, if the illness is ignored, it could lead to death. For Christians, in a like manner, if the sickness is ignored, it can lead to spiritual death.

It is for this very reason that Jesus has come to be a Shepherd to his sheep. He desires that we all remain spiritually healthy by staying connected to him and to one another through the gifts he has given – his Word and Sacraments, his Church, and his People. Jesus laid down his own life so that we would not be separated eternally, from him, and from one another. As we listen to his voice he brings us into the sanctuary of the sheepfold. By his grace he allows us to gather together as the Body of Christ. Our attendance isn’t just something we “should do,” it is vital and necessary to our life together as Jesus’ little lambs. His voice calls to us all today, and it is our joy to listen!
--- Pastor Cook

God, gather us together,
increase in us faith toward you
and fervent love for each other.
Thank you for the gift of community.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Wet leaves and smell of earth,
My hands thaw just like the ground,
Spring makes them warm and eager to work
Eager, like the the sons I bore,
Inflating bike tires, clearing leaves, polishing mitts,
Checking on the lawn mower, scooter, boat

The legs of a little boy
Pedaling a bike, with confidence now
Pumping speed and power and freedom
Self-propelled exhilaration
Flying through mud puddles
Taking corners too fast
Bloody, muddy, red-faced pride

The fear mixed with joy on his face as we bike into the neighborhood
“Is this the farthest I’ve ever gone?
Does Marcus ever go this far? How old was Eldon when he did this?”
and the question behind the questions,
“Am I ok? Do I have what it takes mom? Do you see me? Am I making it?”
Oh yes, my son, I see, and yes, you are wonderful indeed.

Wonderful are His works, and I see the feminine one
Sitting on the swing with her book
She needs not affirmation, but independence
And great places to read,
And music that sings the constant noisy euphoria
That marks this stage of her life
Oh God, let this joy linger awhile

The sound of church bells and daddy’s leaf blower
Music both, the glory of God resounding
As the earth awakens
And His people tend the patch of ground He has given
Making temporary homes upon the dirt
From which they were taken,
To which they shall return.

Cold earth warms and life springs forth
The gospel, sown in sorrow, grows and lives
The fragrance wafting throughout the world
Of Jesus, sown and yet alive to serve and tend

Our Gardener, oh, Gardener tend us still!
Dirt to dirt, yet in your hands alone we live
Take this ground, this home, all that we are and have
Do with it what you will;
be our Father still.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

let me tell you about my fears.

Stand where you are, and look around- be honest about how it feels to stand there.

Honesty is tough; we prefer to look strong and courageous.  We like to hide those crying-in-the-bathroom moments from the world, or write them off as “hormones,” or “tiredness.”

How does it feel to stand here, today? Let me tell you my fears.

I fear for the kids: Will they grow cold or slip through the cracks while the “urgent” little jobs presses out the important big jobs? Will someone snatch them away while I’m paying for groceries at Aldi?  Will the criminal who smashes cars in our parking lot try to smash them someday?

I fear my own demons taking over-  the checklist demons or craving demons or the body-hatred demons.  I can feel the ugliness in my self ‘love,’ how it turns me  inward and causes self destruction and I cannot free myself from this sinful condition.

I fear that the money will dry up and the school will not last. I fear the little sins between people will fester and cause an incurable infection.  I fear my husband will preach faithfully but to no avail, that hearts and ears will close and so will my beloved church.

I fear my husband being eaten alive by his vocation, and all the family with him.  I fear cynicism will win; that we will both turn bitter and burned-out.  I fear our hearts will grow cold for God’s people, for all people, or for God himself.  I fear that we will not finish well.
Reasonable fears. Legitimate worries.

And yet God tells me to do the irrational; the unreasonable; He says, “Do not fear.”  
What a ridiculous thing to tell me. He might as well tell me to walk on my hands! I just don’t have it in me!  

It’s not by a force of my will that I can overcome this fear.  I can’t contort myself into inner peace.

 But just like faith, courage is a gift that flows from His fountain. I can go to Him with my thirst. I can take and drink.

Drinking in His Word, I find it gives the very thing it demands of me.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  (Joshua 1:6-9)

Today: Let me tell you my confidence. God is with us. It is enough.

This post was inspired by a wonderful service at Historic Trinity Lutheran in Downtown Detroit this morning.  Thank you, Pastor Andrzejewski, and thank you, St. Peter’s school kids, for providing the soul-food that spoke directly to my weary heart today. God is good.
The pelican (photo taken in the Narthex at Historic Trinity)

The symbolism of the mother pelican feeding her little baby pelicans is rooted in an ancient legend which preceded Christianity. The legend was that in time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with the beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life.  Given this tradition, one can easily see why the early Christians adapted it to symbolize our Lord, Jesus Christ.
(read more about the pelican)

Like what tender tales tell of the Pelican
Bathe me, Jesus Lord, in what Thy Bosom ran
Blood that but one drop of has the powr to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.


I want to ignore the smoky unknown; it is counter-intuitive to let the anxieties rise up to the surface.
But we must let them rise up, so that we can release them into His hands. Speak the fear out loud, so that He can give words of truth. Don’t run away from those places where it seems your faith is small. Run into them, look around, be honest about how it feels as you stand there. And know we have a God who can handle it.”  (Emily P. Freeman)

Monday, March 13, 2017


Not much to see here...
just some amazing staff from St. Peter's bringing down the house at the talent show ...

Sunday, March 5, 2017

On Lorraine's Fourteenth Birthday

What is it like being your mom at age fourteen?

It’s finally having you on Facebook with me so that I can share funny Harry Potter memes and grammar jokes that only you and I appreciate.

It’s driving to Fort Wayne to see your White Creek friends, singing loudly about missing Mayberry, and marveling at the wide-open spaces, cornfields, cows, and trees. It’s breathing in deep to let the country fill my soul, and noticing you doing the same thing next to me while you roll down the window even though it’s winter.

It is car dancing shamelessly to rap songs we almost know, proud to be loud.  I notice you are watching me close to see if I’m going to sing the swear word that we both know is coming. (I did.)

It’s seeing you snuggle your brother in church, while I snuggle your other brother; it’s marveling at the cuteness of the baby baptized and nudging you to make sure you see it too, but you are already smiling with your hand on your heart, just like I am.

It’s relying on you for a hundred things, like getting everyone to school on time and making sure Marcus is wearing pants. It’s receiving texts like, “Can you talk to Seth?” “We’re out of bread.” “Peter won’t wear socks.” “Marcus won’t run his laps.” “Can we go to Khol's again?” and of course “Can I stay up and read?”

It’s forgetting how to “adult” in front of you, and spilling coffee on my robe, again, while you laugh at me. It’s almost running out of gas on the way home, and when the warning light comes on, you give me a “grandma Lorraine” look of reproof.

It’s dusting off old parts of my brain so I can help you with math homework, sending you to your father if I get stuck, and watching him rub his head and puzzle over functions until he finally conquers.

It’s hitting the volleyball back and forth 536 times until my arms are bright red and I am feeling my age just a tiny bit but I don’t let you see it and we high five and post it on Facebook.

It’s DJ'ing for your dance and trying to walk the line of having fun without embarrassing you too much, and it’s being glad you don’t care so much about those things. It’s the pressure of picking the next slow song knowing that you may or may not have the first slow dance of your life and trying not to watch as you do or don’t dance.

It’s hearing the noise of your irrational euphoria, the joy you have in being ALIVE that shoots from your fingertips into the piano, and it comes out of your mouth in song and wit and teasing your siblings all day long and late into the night.

It’s knowing our days together are growing short.  I might like to hold you close inside a blanket tent where we read books together for the next ten years, but it’s not camping season, it’s growing season, and you are growing and blooming faster than corn in an Indiana cornfield.

It’s accepting a rose from your hand on eighth grade night at your very last basketball game, and watching you smile and shine as you boldly face the next chapter in your life.

It's realizing that the teenage years aren't completely awful, they're exciting, too; and it's thanking God a million times for making me a mama to this girl who blooms so beautifully.

It’s terrifying, exciting, and lovely.
It brings me to my feet (to kitchen dance with you) and to my knees (to pray.)

Happy, blessed fourteenth year of life, my dear daughter.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday is hard on a mother’s heart.

It is one thing to consider your own mortality. But I remember the first time the ashes were placed on my baby girl. Something inside me wanted to reach out and stop the pastor. My heart said No! That black stuff does not belong on my sweet little child. But the pastor put them there, and every time I looked at them I was surprised all over again.

            Little Lorraine quickly forgot the ashes on her head, and had no understanding of why they were there in the first place. She smiled and flirted with me with her big brown eyes all during church, and I was struck by her cheerfulness in contrast to the portent of death on her forehead.

            My children are mortal and I would rather not think about that. It is easier to pretend that life will keep going just as it is right now, to imagine that I will be here to comfort and love my babies forever. It is not hard to join the world’s denial of death. There are plenty of things to distract myself with, and when then thoughts come anyway, I can soothe myself by putting it so far in the future that it feels less threatening.

As adults, we know that the smooth skin on our babies will not stay perfect forever. We know that toddlers (and teenagers) are not invincible, even though they believe they are. Yet we are still shocked when they get the high fevers we cannot treat, when they do something dangerous (like eat glass!) and have to be rushed to the ER. We are shocked to be reminded that we live in the “valley of the shadow of death,” and that our children are vulnerable to this death just as much as we are.

           God’s word intrudes into our comfortable little worlds to remind us of what we already know: this life is not going to last forever. It is easy to get caught up in training our children merely for life in this world. While it is a good thing to have a house that runs smoothly and children that are clean and relatively kind to each other, that is only a part of our vocation as parents.

           This life is not going to last forever. We need to say this out loud to ourselves, and to our children. We must remember those ashes, and take to heart those ER trips. We must teach our children that they live in fragile bodies in a dangerous world, and remind them that their hope is in God alone. Every minute of this life is a complete gift from a Father who loves us more than we can imagine—a Father who plans to have us with Him in heaven forever. His grace frees us to live with joy in these mortal bodies. His love frees us to giggle like toddlers, sometimes, even under the shadow of death.

ash wednesday photo: Ash Wednesday Ashwednesday.jpgChrist is Risen—He is Risen indeed.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children-
Psalm 103:13-17

(written on the old blog in 2005)
photo credit photobucket
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