Immediately

Sermon – December 29, 2019

Beginning today and going through Easter, the Sunday morning readings are centered on the gospel of Mark. Mark is considered to be the oldest, the first of the four gospels written. It is very similar in nature to Matthew and Luke.

Each of the four gospels begin very differently. The gospel of John begins with beautiful poetry about the Word of God coming into the world. If you remember just last year at this time when we were beginning the Gospel of Matthew we saw how Matthew chose to begin his gospel with a long lineage of ancestry – reminding us of where and from whom Jesus was descended. And both Luke and Mark begin by sharing about John the Baptist.

John the Baptist is a well-known figure of the new testament. He is known for several reasons. Partly because of his unusual appearance and habits. It was said that he dressed and ate very differently than most everyone else. And he acted differently than others as well – everything he did and said pointed other people toward someone else. He baptized Jesus in the Jordan.  But this gospel doesn’t linger very long on John or on anything – it is the shortest gospel by far – in fact, it’s possible that this gospel was written so that it could be easily memorized and told aloud.

Mark was written for a wide audience. This gospel focuses on Jesus’ role as the suffering servant and son of God. While the other gospels contain long teachings and sermons of Jesus, Mark is all about action. This is where we see Jesus doing things, and then doing more things. Of the four gospels, Mark reads most like a story.

After eight verses about John the Baptist, chapter 1 of Mark takes us on a whirlwind – from Jesus’ time in the wilderness to the beginning of his ministry and then the calling of his disciples.

It’s very action-oriented – the word “immediately” shows up frequently – 44 times in the 16 short chapters of Mark. 

Immediately.
In some ways I love the gospel of Mark – it’s kind of like the Cliff’s Notes of the gospels. You can read it fast and get the bulk of the story. But in other ways it is my least favorite because I love the rich imagery that we get to linger over in John and getting to hear the inside stories and details found in the other gospels.

But I think that’s because in general I’m tired of so many things being immediate all the time, trying to cram too many things into a day. I’m tired of telling my kids to “hurry up” constantly. It’s become a joke in our house – but kind of a sad joke, I think – because apparently I am forever telling my kids to hustle, and “there’s no time”. Like many, many families, it feels like we cram so much into our days that we are constantly rushing around from one thing to the next – feeling like there is so much to do and rarely feeling like we are doing a good job at any of it.

Immediately. Fortunately, though – even though it is a quick gospel – there’s a lot packed in there – And lucky you – because over the next three months you will get to hear a different perspective on this gospel from all sorts of different preachers! Twelve different preachers! You are going to have so much fun and learn so much. I’m so happy for you – even though I’m going to miss you.

And me, I get to shove that word “immediately” out of my mind for a little while. Or at least I will do my best.

Someone asked me shortly after our congregation received the Lilly Grant what a sabbatical is. It comes from the word sabbath – which means to rest. The intention of a sabbatical sometimes is to produce something – like sometimes professors will use the time to write a book – but in its purest form, a sabbatical is a time apart to rest with the intention that when you return, your mind and body will have had a chance to be renewed.

I hope that’s true. Even though I am only a couple days away from the beginning of my sabbatical, I still can’t imagine how it is going to feel to intentionally step away from work, but I know it will be good for me and for my family. I feel guilty because I know not everyone gets a gift like this – and I think everyone absolutely should. Rest is so important, time with family is so important. One of my main goals for these next weeks is to not rush. Unless we are about to miss a plane or something. Otherwise, I just want us to be. No ‘immediately’ for me. I know that is what I need. Down to my bones, I am certain that is what my life, my ministry, my family needs. And so I promise not to take a minute for granted of this time of rest. Pray for me that it will be a time for the Spirit to speak afresh into my heart so I can return to you energized for all that is yet ahead.

And I will pray for you, too. That these next months hold whatever you are needing, too. Is it healing you are needing?  Is it more of peace? More of health?  Less of worry? Whatever it is you are needing, please know I pray for that refreshment and renewal for you as well.

If there is anything I know, it is that our God is faithful and near. I think sometimes we get so busy or brokenhearted or hardened that maybe we forget or can’t see it – but that doesn’t make it any less true. God is faithful. God is near.

And I pray you feel that. Feel God’s Holy Spirit granting you the peace and wholeness you need, the unburdening you are craving, the grace and forgiveness God has promised. God is faithful. God is near. Remember that, dear friends.

Let us pray…

What Does God Think of Me?

Many of us are spending more time on the internet and on computers than we ever have before just trying to stay in touch with each other and communicate differently for our work. When I was on a Zoom call earlier this week with some members of our congregation and I asked them what were some of the good things that had come for them out of this time of isolation, a few of them said that they had learned a lot more about how to use things they had never used before. The internet and many tools available through the internet were less scary to them now because they had come to realize how useful they could be.

Indeed, it’s a whole new world. I’m learning things every day – and it is both exhilarating and exhausting. I feel like I walk around saying to myself, “Why am I so tired?” a lot lately – and I know I am not the only one. These are strange times and they take a different kind of energy and a different way of thinking and doing than we are used to. There’s the tiring stuff of having to figure out how to order your groceries online or how to play a game online with friends instead of getting together in person – but then the cool realizations you can do all that and once you know how, it is kind of fun. We had our Saint Peters Trivia night this past week and not only did Saint Peters people play but so did some of my family from over in New York Mills. And because of technology we’ve had our readers for Sunday morning sharing readings not just from Audubon but from Alabama and Arizona. It’s a wonderful thing how connected we still are – just in new ways.

I was talking to a pastor friend about preaching in this time after Easter during Covid-19 and we expressed how strange it is and how it’s hard to even know what to talk about that might be helpful. You know that in our church and many churches we have a certain set of scriptures that are set up beforehand that we know we will be preaching on and those scriptures are often the same at different churches – so if you visit a church in California or even Australia, they could very well be preaching on the same text on the same Sunday as your home church.

But sometimes we go rogue and leave behind the prescribed scriptures for a while to do something else. And we are going to be doing that for a few weeks now. Instead, I am going to be talking about what people most want to know.

How in the world do I know what people are wondering about the most? Well, through the wonders of modern technology, of course. Have you ever noticed how when you type something into google, there will come up options below it for finishing your sentence? That’s Google trying to guess what you want to know more about – and google’s guesses come up in order of what they are most searched for.

So I typed into Google, “What does God think of…”

And below it there was a whole list of options – all coming from what people have typed in the most. Top of the list? “What does God think of me?”

That surprised me at first. Further down the list were topics you might expect – forgiveness, marriage, divorce, anxiety, fear – but at the very top of the list, “What does God think of me.”

But then I thought about things we type into search engines. A lot of times we are looking for answers to the things we think about – maybe even things not everyone is always talking about. Because there is something safer about typing a question into a search engine rather than asking even your best friend.

Sure, we care about what God thinks about the things we talk about a lot – like forgiveness, marriage, divorce, worry, fear, etc – but late at night, when I am scared or sad or feeling “less than” or defeated? Maybe all I care about is what the God who made me thinks of me. Or if God even thinks of me at all.

So, we turn to scripture for wisdom – and when we do, we find some reassuring words.

The first is that we are God’s children, God’s family. We hear that in I John – “Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are!” And in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but members of the household of God!” And not only are we loved by God for now – but for always – as we read in Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, the Lord is with you wherever you God.”

What does God think of you? God thinks of you as God’s own. Loved. A member of God’s family. So whether during this time of physical distancing from others you have been in a house full of people or mostly by yourself, God is there with you. God is always with you wherever you go or don’t go.

What else does scripture say about what God thinks of you? God apparently thinks you are pretty unique and capable because in Jeremiah it reads that God has plans for you. Not just any old plans – plans to give you future and hope! It’s a beautiful verse – but if we look at it in its’ context, we realize this passage is written to a whole group of people—an entire nation. And if we read the verses around it, we realize that this promise God is giving to the nation of Israel is something that would be fulfilled in 70 years time. So the blessing is not individual and it is not immediate – it’s a blessing that is different than the kind of blessing we often would like.

But that is also important to remember. Yes, God sees you and loves you – but God sees and loves all God’s children. We are connected to one another. If one member of our community hurts, we all hurt. If one member rejoices, we all rejoice. We are connected to one another. I think we have learned lessons in that even moreso in recent weeks. We stay home and isolate so that the most vulnerable in our midst can stay well. We sacrifice activities and events that mean so much to us because the health and welfare of the whole matter more than our events schedule.

What does God think of you? God thinks of you as valuable and someone through whom there is future and hope – but not just you, you and your neighbor, and that stranger down the road, and that person you disagree with on the news, and all God’s children.

And I’ll highlight one more thing God thinks about you. In Galatians 2:20 it reads, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” And in I Corinthians it reads, “If anyone is in Christ there is a new creation, the old has gone the new has come.”

In case you haven’t noticed it yet, let me highlight that our God is a God of new beginnings. Our God isn’t a God of death, but of resurrection. God doesn’t give us a word of staying exactly the same but of growth and renewal. God doesn’t leave us buried in sin, but alive in grace and mercy. The old has gone, the new has come.

So, what does God think of you? Well, precious enough to sacrifice God’s son for – but also always on the cusp of a new beginning – no matter what age we are. God can’t wait to see what is yet to be born in us and through us. What we might yet do to bring joy to a neighbor or how we might use our God-given talents to surprise and bless the world. I picture God chuckling with delight at the new things we create or think of or say. In the same way that we are delighted as we see our own children growing and becoming and evolving – God looks at us with love and pride and joy our whole lives long.

If you have ever wondered what God thinks of you, you aren’t alone. But rest assured that God sees you and loves you just as you are. God covers you with grace and mercy – you are forgiven. And God can’t wait to see what you will yet do with the life and breath you are given.

Listen to an abbreviated audio version of this sermon here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1041448/3504592-saint-peter-s-sermon-highlights-april-26-2020

A Love Letter to a Church When We are Worshiping Apart (Yet Together) on a Fresh Day in a New World

Last night I dreamed I was giving birth to a baby girl. It was a strange dream because it has been a long time now since we were in the stage of adding members to our little family. It was also strange because the obstetrician was an old friend from the Twin Cities who has been a full-time artist his whole career and not a deliverer of babies. The coolest part was that my mom was there. I love when she visits me in my dreams and I get to see her dear face again and hear her voice.

It has been said that our dreams always mean something. They are the way that our minds communicate with us in vivid, sometimes nonsensical-seeming ways. I used to like reading dream interpretation books but I have come to realize over time that if I stop and think, I usually can tell what my dreams are trying to say to me.

And this one isn’t hard to interpret. Something new is being born – not a baby – but a new way of being and doing things. This is true for so many of us in these times we are living in. Like having a baby, we don’t know exactly how things are going to be. The process is scary and exhilarating at the same time. A new way of life is coming about even as an old way of life dies. We can’t picture exactly what life on the other side of this birth is going to look like and yet once the birth pangs begin, we know the only way to go is forward. It’s time to go through the pain of childbirth and welcome that baby.

We are all in childbirth right now. There is pain as I look up the hill and I see our church building empty on a Sunday morning. There is shock as I realize that the season we are going through will change us in ways we can’t even begin to understand yet. There are more things unknown than known – and yet, the only way to go is forward. Forward is the way of new life, new challenges, and joy. There is no going back.

I’ve told you stories before about how when our first son was born I didn’t get to hold him right away. He was whisked off to the NICU because of some breathing issues so it wasn’t until the wee hours of the morning that they brought him to me. I held him and listened to the sounds of the city below beginning to stir. I looked at his face and thought of how scared I had been to become a mom, how the countless unknowns had kept me awake many nights – but now here he was and I looked at his perfect little nose and eyes and lips and I whispered, “you don’t look so scary.”

And as the sun dawned this morning on a day when we don’t get to be together in our church, yet we are still connected and blessed in so many ways – kindred hearts, worshipping from our own warm homes, the love of family near and far, the grace of God who made us, music, health, life, good food – I don’t feel afraid now in this time of new birth either.

I pray for you today, dear church, that even though everything feels so different these days, you also feel the warmth and peace of God surrounding you and filling you. I miss you and love you and can’t wait to see you again when the time is right. Stay safe and well.

“The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, they are fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.” – Lamentations 3:22-24

What Does the Bible Say about Anxiety and Worry?

Anxiety and Worry…What does the Bible say?
“An anxious heart weighs a person down, but a kind word cheers” (Proverbs 12:25, NIV).
“I sought the LORD, and the Lord heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you
by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” (Luke 12:22-26, NIV). (Matthew 6:25-34)
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge the Lord, and the Lord will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8).
“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And the One who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28).
“And my God will meet all your needs according to God’s glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
“I can do everything through God who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).
“…put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1)

There are many different causes of anxiety and fear. The reasons are as various and unique as each individual person. These are human emotions and completely normal. If you are in need of help, please talk to a counselor, spiritual director, a pastor, or a good friend. Don’t stay silent or isolated – especially in these times of Covid-19 that are so stressful for so many. Help is always just a phone call away. Never forget – you are not alone and you are loved. If you are struggling, text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that God may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on God because God cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

What Does God Say About Fear?

In these strange times of Covid-19 I have been thinking more about fear and anxiety and how to think about it in terms of faith. There have been so many times when I am feeling anxious that turning to the Bible has been the only thing that has brought me comfort. So, if you are needing some peace, here are some of my favorite verses about fear from the Holy Bible.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:6-7

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” ~ Psalm 94:19

 “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” ~ John 14:27

 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  ~ Psalm 56:3

 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ~ 1 John 4:18

 “But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” ~ Isaiah 43:1

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” ~ Psalm 23:4

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1:9

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~ Matthew 6:34

“Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that God will lift you up in God’s own good time.  Leave all your worries with God, because God cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:6-7

“Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” ~ Isaiah 35:4

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” ~ Luke 12:22-26

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” ~ Psalm 27:1

“Cast your cares on the Lord and the Lord will sustain you; the Lord will never let the righteous fall.” ~ Psalm 55:22

“Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’” ~ Mark 6:50

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6

“’For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” ~ Isaiah 41:13-14

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” ~ Psalm 46:1

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can humans do to me?  The Lord is with me and is my helper.” ~ Psalm 118:6-7

“Fear of humans will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” ~ Proverbs 29:25

“Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” ~ Mark 4:39-40

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear the Lord, and the Lord delivers them.” Psalm 34:7

“But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.” ~ 1 Peter 3:14

“I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me.  The Lord freed me from all my fears.” ~ Psalm 34:4

“Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God will fight for you.” ~ Deuteronomy 3:22

“Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.’” ~ Revelation 1:17

“Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” ~ Mark 5:36

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”…He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.  You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you…For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways…“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him…” from Psalm 91:1-16

“I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” ~ Romans 8:38-39

In anxious time, I pray you can find comfort in God’s word and God’s love that surrounds you.

Thor and Loki: Children of Odin

Before they were cartoons, before they were part of the Marvel Universe they were part of Norse Mythology for centuries. Thor and Loki: Children of Odin is a lyrical introduction to the myths and epic legends of the ancient Scandinavians. Fusing the different mythic accounts of his medieval sources, Irish-American poet Padraic Colum fashions a powerful tale of the divine adventures of gods and humans, locked in an inexorable march of fate. Written in a style accessible to both children and adults, Colum’s work offers a haunting and evocative portrait of the mythic world of the Viking Age.Before time as we know it began, gods and goddesses lived in the city of Asgard. Odin crossed the Rainbow Bridge to walk among men in Midgard. Thor defended Asgard with his mighty hammer. Mischievous Loki was constantly getting into trouble with the other gods, and dragons and giants walked free. This collection of Norse sagas retold by author Padraic Colum gives us a sense of that magical time when the world was filled with powers and wonders we can hardly imagine.

Padraic Colum (8 December 1881 – 11 January 1972) was an Irish poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer, playwright, children’s author and collector of folklore. He was one of the leading figures of the Irish Literary Revival.

This collection of Norse Myths includes: Part I. The Dwellers in Asgard 1. Far Away and Long Ago 2. The Building of the Wall 3. Iduna and Her Apples: How Loki Put the Gods in Danger 4. Sif’s Golden Hair: How Loki Wrought Mischief in Asgard 5. How Brock Brought Judgment on Loki6. How Freya Gained Her Necklace and How Her Loved One was Lost to Her 7. How Frey Won Gerda, the Giant Maiden, and How He Lost His Magic Sword 8. Heimdall and Little Hnossa: How All Things Came to Be 9. The All-Father’s Forebodings: How He Leaves AsgardPart II. Odin the Wanderer 1. Odin Goes to Mimir’s Well: His Sacrifice for Wisdom 2. Odin Faces an Evil Man 3. Odin Wins for Men the Magic Mead 4. Odin Tells to Vidar, His Silent Son, the Secret of His Doings 5. Thor and Loki in the Giants’ City 6. How Thor and Loki Befooled Thrym the Giant 7. Aegir’s Feast: How Thor Triumphed 8. The Dwarfs Hoard, and the Curse that it Brought Part III: The Witch’s Heart 1. Foreboding in Asgard 2. Loki the Betrayer3. Loki Against the Aesir 4. The Valkyrie 5. The Children of Loki 6. Baldur’s Doom 7. Loki’s Punishment Part IV. The Sword of the Volsungs and the Twilight of the Gods 1. Sigurd’s Youth 2. The Sword Gram and the Dragon Fafnir 3. The Dragon’s Blood 3. The Story of Sigmund and Signy 4. The Story of Sigmund and Sinfiotli 5. The Story of the Vengeance of the Volsungs and of the Death of Sinfiotli 6. Brynhild in the House of Flame 7. Sigurd at the House of the Nibelungs 8. How Brynhild was Won for Gunnar 9. The Death of Sigurd 10. The Twilight of the Gods

Check out this phenomenal book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086G4JQ7L

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

Main Street is a satirical novel written by Sinclair Lewis, and published in 1920. Satirizing small town life, Main Street is perhaps Sinclair Lewis’s most famous book, and led in part to his eventual 1930 Nobel Prize for Literature.You’ll meet Carol Milford, the daughter of a judge, grew up in Mankato, Minnesota, and became an orphan in her teens. In college, she reads a book on village improvement in a sociology class and begins to dream of redesigning villages and towns. After college, she attends a library school in Chicago and is exposed to many radical ideas and lifestyles. She becomes a librarian in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the state capital, but finds the work unrewarding. She marries Will Kennicott, a doctor, who is a small-town boy at heart.When they marry, Will convinces her to live in his home-town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, a town modeled on Sauk Centre, Minnesota, the author’s birthplace. Carol immediately sets about her plans to remake Gopher Prairie, but she is filled with disdain for the town’s physical ugliness and smug conservatism.She speaks with its members about progressive changes, joins women’s clubs, distributes literature, and holds a party to liven up Gopher Prairie’s inhabitants. Despite her efforts, she is ineffective and constantly derided by the leading cliques.Main Street initially was awarded the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature, but was rejected by the Board of Trustees, who overturned the jury’s decision. The prize instead went to Edith Wharton for The Age of Innocence. In 1926, Lewis refused the Pulitzer when he was awarded it for Arrowsmith.In 1930, Lewis was the first American ever awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. While a Nobel Prize is awarded to the author, not the work, and itself does not cite a particular work for which he was chosen, Main Street was Lewis’ best-known work and enormously popular at the time. In the Nobel committee’s presentation speech, both Main Street and Arrowsmith were cited. The prize was awarded “… for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters.”In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Main Street #68 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.Harry Sinclair Lewis (February 7, 1885 – January 10, 1951) was an American novelist, short-story writer and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States (and the first from the Americas) to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, which was awarded “for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters.” His works are known for their critical views of American capitalism and materialism between the wars. He is also respected for his strong characterizations of modern working women. H. L. Mencken wrote of him, “[If] there was ever a novelist among us with an authentic call to the trade … it is this red-haired tornado from the Minnesota wilds.” He has been honored by the U.S. Postal Service with a postage stamp in the Great Americans series.In 1930 Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first writer from the United States to receive the award, after he had been nominated by Henrik Schück, member of the Swedish Academy.

Check out Main Street on Amazon!

The Man in the Brown Suit

I just finished reading this wonderful Agatha Christie book: The Man in the Brown Suit. Adventure-seeking Anne Beddingfeld is in London when she sees a stranger fall to his electrifying death in the Tube. A dreadful accident? If so, who is the man in the brown suit fleeing from the scene? Curiosity, and one cryptic clue, leads Anne aboard a cruise ship to Cape Town and into the confidence of Colonel Race, counterintelligence officer for MI5. Drawn into a dangerous conspiracy, Anne’s found the adventure she wanted. And as she’s chased across continents, all she must do now is survive it.

Agatha Christie (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976) was an English writer of crime and romantic novels. She is best remembered for her detective stories including the two diverse characters of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. She is considered to be the best selling writer of all time. Only the Bible is known to have outstripped her collected sales of roughly four billion worldwide copies. Her works have been translated into more languages than any other individual writer.Agatha Christie was first published in 1920. Her first book was The Mysterious Affair at Styles, (1920) which featured the detective – Hercule Poirot, who at the time was portrayed as a Belgian refugee from the Great War. Poirot is one of the most recognised fictional characters in English with his mixture of personal pride, broken English and immaculate appearance and moustache. The book sold reasonably well and helped meet the public’s great appetite for detective novels. It was a genre that had been popularised through Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories at the turn of the century. In 1926, she made her big breakthrough with the publication of “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.” This became a best-seller and made Christie famous as a writer.The plot of Agatha Christies novels could be described as formulaic. Murders were committed by ingenious methods – often involving poison, which Agatha Christie had great knowledge of. After interrogating all the main suspects, the detective would bring all the participants into some drawing-room before explaining who was the murderer. Her writing was quite clear and it is easy to get absorbed in the flow of the story. It also gave readers the chance to try and work out who the murderer was before it was revealed at the end.Agatha Christie enjoyed writing. For her there was great satisfaction in creating plots and stories. She also wrote six novels in the genre of romance and suspense under a pseudonym – Mary Westmacott.During the Second World War, Christie worked in the pharmacy of the University College London, which gave her ideas for some of her murder methods. After the war, her books continued to grow in international popularity. In 1952, her play The Mousetrap was debuted at the Ambassador’s Theatre in London and has been performed without a break ever since. Her success led to her being honoured in the New Year’s honour list. In 1971 she was appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire.Agatha Christie loved embroidery, travelling and gardening – she won various horticultural prizes. She expressed a dislike of alcohol, smoking and the gramophone. She preferred to avoid the limelight and rarely gave public interviews. To some extent she hankered after the more idyllic days of Edwardian England she experienced in her childhood and was dubious about aspects of modern life.“The quality of agreeableness is not much stressed nowadays. People tend to ask if a man is clever, industrious, if he contributes to the well-being of the community, if he ‘counts’ in the scheme of things.” -A. Christie, Part I of Autobiography

You can get this book for only $0.99 on Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Man-Brown-Suit-Large-Print-ebook/dp/B086BZS7BZ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+man+in+the+brown+suit+agatha+christie+large+print&qid=1585267843&s=books&sr=1-1

Mother Mason

One of my favorite books was “Song of Years” by Bess Streeter Aldrich. My mom had loved it when she was growing up and told me about it. Our library in our hometown had a copy and according to the library card my mom and I were the only ones who ever checked it out. That was a shame because it is such a well-written, lovely book.

Are you familiar with Bess Streeter Aldrich? Here is some information about this wonderful author: Bess Genevra Streeter was an American fiction writer born in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Attending high-school in the town of her birth, she was the winner of two magazine fiction writing contests prior to graduating at the age of seventeen. She was the last of the eight children of James Wareham and Mary Wilson Anderson Streeter] After graduating from Iowa State Normal School with a teaching certificate, she taught school at several locations in Utah, later returning to Cedar Falls to earn an advanced degree in education.In 1907, she married Charles Sweetzer Aldrich, who had graduated with a law degree from Iowa State University and had been one of the youngest captains in the Spanish–American War. Following the war, he served for years as a U.S. Commissioner in Alaska. They had four children—Mary, Robert, Charles and James. In 1909, they moved with their children and Bess’s widowed mother to Elmwood, Nebraska, where Charles, Bess, and Bess’s sister and brother-in-law Clara and John Cobb purchased the American Exchange Bank. Elmwood became the location for many of her stories, albeit called by different names. Aldrich began writing more regularly in 1911 when the Ladies’ Home Journal advertised a fiction contest, which she entered and won $175 for her story entitled “The Little House Next Door”. After this success she continued to write and submit work to publications such as McCall’s, Harper’s Weekly, and The American Magazine where she was generally paid between one and one-hundred dollars for her work. Prior to 1918 she wrote under her pen name, Margaret Dean Stephens. She went on to become one of the highest-paid women writers of the period. Her stories often concerned the Heartland/Plains pioneer history and were very popular with teenage girls and young women.Aldrich’s first novel, Mother Mason, was published in 1924. When Charles died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1925 at the age of 52 Aldrich took up writing as a means of supporting her family. She was the author of about 200 short stories, including “The Woman Who Was Forgotten”, and thirteen novels, including Miss Bishop. The latter novel was made into a movie Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941), which starred Martha Scott and Edmund Gwenn and premiered in Lincoln, Nebraska.Aldrich received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in literature from the University of Nebraska in 1934 and was named into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1973. In 1946 Aldrich moved to Lincoln, Nebraska to be closer to her daughter and her writing slowed to just one story per year as age began to take its toll. She died of cancer on August 3, 1954 and was buried next to her husband in Elmwood, Nebraska.Aldrich’s papers are held at the Nebraska State Historical Society in Lincoln, Nebraska. Books by Bess Streeter Aldrich are among the many fine books written by Nebraskan authors. (source: wikipedia)

So, I decided to spend some time during this social-distancing period reading some of her other books. I started with her first book, Mother Mason, published in 1924. Such a good book! Molly Mason is fifty-two and the loving wife of the bank president, mother of four fun-loving Masons, and she is active in helping with the library board, missionary society, and the women’s clubs. She is involved in nearly everything that happens in her midwestern town. In fact, Mother Mason never has any time to do just as she likes. Finally, she makes a break for freedom! Aldrich published stories about the Masons in a magazine during World War I. Americans demanded more, and in 1924 the same family became the subject of Mother Mason. Aldrich is known for writing strong female characters and this story is no different.

I highly recommend you check it out! Here is a link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0851LL36N

A Work in Progress

The last days have been a blur with all the news coverage and social media chatter about Covid-19. Life has turned upside down with schools, malls, restaurants, and businesses of all kinds closing or learning how to operate differently. On recommendation of the CDC and our bishop, our church has suspended in-person gatherings for the time being and so have most churches – so there are countless pastors and church staff out there right now who are learning how to do live-streamed services and zoom meetings and EVERYONE is posting EVERYTHING on social media at all times. It’s a good thing and will benefit all our churches a lot in the long run to become more savvy at things like this, but my brain is overstimulated because it feels like my sabbatical is effectively over. I can’t complain – I had nearly ten uninterrupted weeks of rest, reading, cups of coffee, and time with family – but I was really looking forward to just a little bit more.

But, to my dismay, the world doesn’t revolve around me. My plan to complete the list of fifty things before my fiftieth birthday suddenly feels trivial and silly. It was so important to me a week ago, but now my head is in an entirely different place.

That’s how it goes sometimes. Sometimes one can have a really great plan but life gets in the way.

The list, like all of us, is just a work in progress.