What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Second Chance...

  • "Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.  See how great a forest a little fire kindles!" James 3:5
  • "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell." James 3:6
  • "For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind." James 3:7
  • "But no man can tame the tongue.  It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." James 3:8
  • "With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God." James 3:9
  • "Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so." James 3:10
Enuff Said!

Well, maybe...I always have a few things to add...

People who have known me most of my life will tell you "lovingly" that I have a propensity for opening my mouth and inserting my foot.  It's called "putting my mouth in motion before I put my brain in gear."  It's also known as not thinking before speaking...and it can get me into a lot of trouble!  That is one reason why I have taken up writing...my computer has a "delete" button...my mouth does not!  I can write something here and go back and look at it and re-read it and think about it before I push the "publish" button on my blog page.  I honestly do try to do that religiously...proofread, check for typos, check for spelling errors, and most of all...check for how honestly and kindly I have spoken in word and print.  Sometimes things slip through the cracks...I get in a hurry to get it finished and published so I can get to bed.  I hate to leave something unfinished to complete in the morning...I'm always afraid I will lose the "moment" and won't be able to complete the writing with the same fervor with which I started it.  But I am always thankful when I re-read something I've written and don't feel embarrassed by what I see in print.

Last night I made a mistake.  I spoke too quickly without thinking, partly in jest, but without weighing the possible ramifications and consequences that could happen by inflicting these remarks upon the heart of someone I love.  As soon as the words escaped my lips I knew I had said the wrong thing and that a barbed arrow had stricken the heart of my child. I could not recapture my words...the damage was done, and my son was gone...out the door...for a ride in his car...to escape before the hurt and anger my careless words had incited could flare up and respond back to me with fury.

When the full impact of what I had said and how it was taken hit me, I immediately repented in "dust and ashes"...but all that I could see was the dust stirred up by his retreating vehicle. Repeated attempts to call him on his cell phone elicited no response.  I knew I had made a horrible mistake. So all I could do was pray...pray to God confessing my error, asking forgiveness from God, and also asking God to help my son find forgiveness for me somewhere in his heart.  As I paced back and forth in my yard I pleaded to God to give me another chance to tell him how sorry I was...I prayed for his safe return and an opportunity to confess my mistake and ask for his forgiveness.  You can only imagine how grateful I was when I saw his car returning up the road a few minutes later.  Even though he was not quite ready to talk about it right away, after a few minutes he opened his door to me and let me back into his heart.  We had a wonderful mother-son talk, and cleared the air about things that were troubling him and me as well. It was a happy ending, with tears from both of us, and hugs and forgiveness.  Thank you, Jesus, for this second chance!

This morning my son left for his 40 minute commute to his job up the interstate highway.  He was in good spirits and I knew that everything was back to normal between us.  As he went out the door I told him to have a safe trip and that I loved him. He said he would be careful as always, and that he loved me too. 

Thirty minutes later he called us on his cell phone, crying and scared. He had just been in an accident. He was okay, his car was damaged but not totally destroyed as far as he could tell, but another vehicle involved in the accident did not fare as well...the driver of that vehicle was killed instantly when his van rolled and flipped and literally flew over my son's car and landed on the other end of it in the swamp alongside the highway.  My son jumped out of his car, unhurt, and called to the other vehicle, but there was no response. It was a horrible, grisly scene.  My son was alive...but someone else's son was not. 

Tonight I am praying for the mother and father and possible wife or children of that man, who remains unknown to us. My son was restored to me safe and sound...and with a second chance to live his life.  This other man was not given another chance.  I can only pray that he had left his home this morning with nothing left hanging between himself and his loved ones...or his Savior. I pray that tonight he his safe in the arms of Jesus...and that God Himself is comforting his family and undergirding them with His love and strength.

Tonight I will hug my son again and tell him how much I love him, and how thankful I am that God has spared his life for whatever purpose He desires.  I will again thank the Lord for giving me a second chance to repent and be forgiven for words spoken in haste.  I will think before I speak again...and pray before I put my mouth in motion.  I may not get another chance next time.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tavares FUMC--The Way I Remember It!

"I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord.'" Psalm 122:1

What a thrill when my good friend Rhonda Harris Hoffman notified me that the new Tavares FUMC website was ready to roll...(www.fumctavares.com/)  and that there would be a link to my blog included on the website! Wow! I feel extremely  humbled to have this opportunity to connect with some of my old friends and earliest childhood church memories! Thank you...and welcome to my "open window"...a place of hope, encouragement, and adventure as we journey down the pathway from "closed doors" to enjoy the new opportunities God places in our pathway.  I hope you will take the time to go back to the beginning of this blog and follow the trail of mixed blessings and fears, failures and triumphs, and adventures from the past and side-trips in the present. Perhaps it will help to conjure up some of your own special memories from your childhood...and be an invitation for you to share your own vista from the "Closed Doors and Open Windows" of your life with others.  I look forward to sharing this time with you!

The picture of Jesus and the Lambs I have included above represents to me one of my fondest memories of the old First Methodist Church building that I remember best.  Although this picture of a stained glass window is not one of the windows from that original building, it is the closest depiction of that window I have ever seen. When I found this little postcard it brought back such sweet memories of Sunday morning services as a child, gazing up into the serene face of Jesus as He cradled the lamb in His arms and carried it to a place of safety.  I can honestly say that this was the first impression of Jesus that I can remember...and it has often given me comfort.  As a matter of fact, it was this vision of Christ that came to my heart this past week as I wrote in a previous blog entitled, "My Father's Cane", which was written about my father, Bill Mursch, whom many of you will know and remember from his days as a former member of Tavares FUMC. As a matter of fact, we held his memorial service in your current beautiful sanctuary just a very short time ago.   http://pamelasopenwindow.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-fathers-cane.html

If anyone has any good color photographs of those beautiful stained glass windows from the old original church, I would love to have a copy.  I know we all mourned the loss of those magnificent windows when the former "new church" was so tragically lost to fire several years ago. As I recall, the other window was of the "Ascension of Christ" up into the clouds... (see Acts 1: 9-11) and I often pondered over that vision so many times in my childhood and youth...wondering just what it would be like to be "caught up into the clouds" with Jesus someday...a day which could be closer than we think. 

Rev. Ed Montfort - 1960
Steve Sperry in front of Chapel at MYF Camp -1965

I wonder if we truly realize the impression and impact such things as stained glass windows, peaceful sanctuaries, sacred hymns, an open Bible, a welcoming hug from a Sunday School teacher on an early Sunday morning, and a word spoken in truth and love from a dedicated Pastor may have on a young impressionable child. 

I still remember the pastors of my childhood and youth from the Tavares church...Pastor Ed Montfort, Rev. Dick Knight, and Pastor Randall Parsons.  They each played a significant part in my life...Pastor Montfort took me through confirmation and pronounced me a member of the church at the tender age of ten.  Rev. Knight encouraged our youth group and inspired us to reach out to our friends and invite them to MYF and to go to the MYF Camp in Leesburg. (of which I later became a summer youth counselor...my first "job"!)

Rev. Dick Knight - 1965  and
to the right....at my sister Doris'
wedding in 1966-----

And then of course, Rev. Randall Parsons...came along in time to encourage me in my walk with Christ as a young woman preparing for marriage...and actually performed our wedding ceremony in the  "new church building" in 1969. (Our wedding was actually the 2nd wedding performed in that "new" building! We were beat out by one week...I believe it was by Margaret Marks and AdrianTrump!)

Our wedding, Aug. 16, 1969- Rev. Randall Parsons on far right with
Organist Louise Caldwell on far left, and soloist, Carolyn Parsons (Campbell) next to her!

Thank you to Mrs. Bunny Rapalje for her faithful picture taking of almost every event of my life!!! Perhaps you will find yourself or one of your friends in some of these classic vintage pictures!  (Click on individual pictures to enlarge for viewing, then back arrow to return to blog)
VBS 1957
VBS - 1958
I have so many other memories...memories of Vacation Bible Schools...   and Sunday School classes and my efforts to earn my "perfect attendance" pins each year... My Sunday School teachers that I can remember were: Miss Marion Duncan, Mrs. Virginia Duncan, Mrs. Peggy Matthias...and I am sure there were a lot more. 
Sunday School 1957
Easter 1957

Easter Sundays with our funny little flowered hats, stiff petticoat dresses and new white patent leather shoes...

Children's Choir - 1958

And then there was the wonderful Children's Choir directed by Mrs. Venona Jones, a retired preacher's wife.

Yes, these are just a few of my precious childhood memories from being a part of the First United Methodist Church of Tavares.  There are so many other thoughts, images, and convictions that became a part of my spiritual make-up as a result of these early positive influences.  Perhaps I will share some more thoughts about this in future blogs. 

You see, one cannot simply sum up early Christian teaching in just one blog.  My life was so impacted by the people, the music, the preaching, the teaching, the youth groups, the Sunday School classes, the Vacation Bible Schools...that I went on to become a preacher's wife myself!  So much of what I learned at Tavares Methodist Church became an integral part of my spiritual growth and development...and God took those seeds, planted and caused them to grow and blossom into mature Christianity...a way of life and a Christ-centered relationship that I have shared with so many others throughout the years...only God knows for certain what impact and how far reaching those early impressions have made on the lives of those with whom I have been privileged to know.

Thank you, Members of Tavares First United Methodist Church, both old and new, for your part in the transformation of my life!  And thank you, Rhonda and the team of webmasters for your new website, for inviting me to be a part of your new webpage via this link.  I look forward to renewing old friendships and making new ones throught this "open window".  I hope you will join me!

May God continue to richly bless your church as it continues to follow in the footsteps of Jesus...the "Church at the Crossroads where the Cross Lights the Way..." (or something to that effect I recall was the theme when the church moved to its present location) 

Sincerely in Christ,


Pamela Mursch Steiner

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Mi Casa Es Su Casa" -Recycled from August 2010

I was just thinking about this earlier post, originally published about a year ago.  Thought it was worth "recycling" again.  Hope you enjoy and will think about the ideas at the end...maybe God is nudging YOU to open your door to someone experiencing difficult times in their lives...We are called to share what God has given us with those in need...so perhaps this will be a challenge to someone today...Just a thought...
"The Cabin", as drawn by my Dad, William F. Mursch, circa 1939

When I was just a little girl living on the farm in Pennsylvania, the highlight of each year was the annual corn roast at my grandparents' log cabin in the forest. My dad, grandfather, and uncles would all gather in fresh sweet corn from the fields and carry it over to "The Cabin", as it was affectionately called, for a family reunion. All the cousins, aunts, uncles, great uncles and great aunts, and grandparents would come together for a day of feasting and celebration. We children would play hide and go seek, climb trees, swing on the swing, eat, and see what kind of mischief we could get into. It was the kind of day in which happy family memories are made.

Unfortunately, "The Cabin" was sold to another family when my grandparents retired and moved to Florida and the family clan dispersed to various distant parts of the country. But the sights, sounds and smells of those happy days have lingered in my mind for all these years. When I grew up and got married, I told my husband that if we ever had an opportunity to do so, we would have a log cabin or home to share with our family and friends in the same way that my grandparents had done.
A Birdhouse Model of  "The Cabin", built by my son

Throughout our years of serving in the ministry we not only personally experienced, but also witnessed among our colleagues a real need for a "haven of rest" or a place of refuge from the stresses and strains of life in the "goldfish bowl" of the parsonage. Many dedicated servants of God suffer greatly from "burn-out" and have even had to leave the ministry because of the overload of stress on their families and homes. Oftentimes the course they decided to take could have been changed if they had only had an opportunity to get away from it all for a little while for a refreshing vacation. Unfortunately, most ministers live on a very strict budget and are unable to afford a Disney vacation or even a week at the ocean or the mountains or a cruise to the Bahamas. The only vacation most clergy families get might be a trip to visit the relatives in another state, which is hardly ever relaxing or restful!

It has long been our desire to provide such a place of refuge for those who need it the most; a "home away from home" where a worn out pastor and his wife and family could rest and read and walk and talk and relax in whatever way they found helpful. A place where the telephone (including cell phone, laptop) and the television would not get in the way of their time of communing with God and with each other. Nothing could make us happier than to be able to hand a haggard looking minister and his equally exhausted wife the keys to our home and tell them to just "enjoy"! We know from experience what a blessing even just a few days away from the pressures of a busy ministry can be in the life of the pastor and his family.

A further area of need we personally have experienced is that of the family who has been through traumatic illness or injury. Quite a few years ago now, our eighteen year-old son was diagnosed with having a brain tumor. Fortunately for him, his was not a malignant tumor, but the ordeal of major brain surgery and consequent changes in lifestyle for our son and for us, along with the accumulated medical bills, added more stresses to an already overstressed home. We were so blessed in that our son survived and went on to get married and have a son and a happy, productive life. However, just recently he has been diagnosed with another form of cancer, and is going through chemotherapy and all the misery and uncertainty that goes along with that. Even though he has a strong marriage and family support, this is a very traumatic time in their lives.** Oftentimes following such a difficult experience, many families simply break up. They can't cope with the sorrow and pain. I know from our own experience that there were many times when we really needed to get away from it all and have some time alone to cry, pray, think, and hope. However, when faced with insurmountable medical bills and other expenses adding up daily, how could we even think of getting away? We were extremely thankful when some loving friends opened their vacation cottage to us and told us to "enjoy".

The one phrase that has stuck with me from my years of studying Spanish in high school is "Mi casa es su casa", which means, "My house is your house." I have so often wished that we could have such a place to share with others in this way; a home where the door would always be open for those who need to get away from it all. A cottage or a cabin or even a spare guest room, and a welcoming invitation... Even though we are now buying a home, it is rather small and not conducive to having a lot of company. However, I’m not giving up the dream...one of these days I do believe God will make a way possible for us to do exactly what we have dreamed of doing, and when He does, I hope you will be around to hear me say, “Mi casa es su casa,” Enjoy!!

 Perhaps you have a such a place that could be a blessing to a family going through some kind of crisis, burn-out, or who just need a place to get away.  Maybe God is speaking to you about sharing your home, cottage, cabin, timeshare, or even an RVwith someone for whom it could be a life-saver...or marriage saver!  Think about it...pray about it...and if the idea could work...call your Pastor or someone you know and make the offer..."Mi Casa Es Su Casa"...Enjoy!!!  It could be the best gift you ever gave.

**UPDATE 5/10/2018: An update regarding our son mentioned above when this was originally written...sadly our precious son passed away from his four year battle with cancer in 2014. The need for a place to rest and be ministered to was very real for us then, and still is today....and our dream is still to provide such a place for others going through this difficult time of sorrow.  Our current home has a guest room, but we are still somewhat limited as to being able to make it available to others since we still have other family members living in our home. Still praying for that special little guest cabin to become a reality. Keep praying!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Surprise Packages...

"Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy..." Psalm 33:2-3

The past week I had some "minor" surgery..."minor" only in the sense that it wasn't "major"...not a serious illness or problem...but something that needed to be "fixed", nonetheless.  And yet, anytime we place our bodies under the complete control of others, i.e.; doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, nursing assistants, dieticians, etc...it is a "major" situation requiring the guidance and complete control of the One Who sees all and knows all and is all powerful...God Almighty.  Without Him, my "minor" surgery could have become a "major" problem.  So, I pause to give thanks, and to praise Him for His marvelous acts of kindness on my behalf. 
I can truly say with the Psalmist:
"I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears."  Psalm 34:4
Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

So, I am taking some time off from work and my daily duties and am recovering, one day at a time.  I am thankful for this time at home with my husband and two of my sons.  They have blessed me with their constant attention and ready and willing assistance (most of the time :)).  I am being spoiled, and I love it...and I think I deserve it, don't you?  :)    Seriously, I am so thankful to have my family here with me...all except for our #2 son, Matthew and his wife Nicole and our grandson, Noah, who live in Maine...too far to come for now.  But, after the year Matthew has had with his own illness...I am just thankful to know he is there, alive and well and enjoying life again! That is comfort enough for me.

Right now I am being especially blessed by some special "music" from my youngest son,  (#3 ) who recently came back home to live with us after being away and working up north for over a year.  #3 son is a unique individual (aren't we all?)...with varied talents and a gift for being very creative in a way that others may not readily see or understand.  Oftentimes the outside world never sees the inside heart and soul of a person like him, because he keeps it covered with feelings of lack of self-confidence and fear of someone discovering what is really going on under the surface and exposing his more tender side. This has always been a frustration to me as a mother, because I could  see the true talents waiting there to be discovered, but others totally missed it because he didn't meet up to their standards of ability and/or behavior.  When he was in elementary school he struggled to keep up in some areas, and yet excelled in so many others.  Unfortunately, the areas in which he struggled to keep up were the ones deemed more important to the testing authorities in "higher education".  So, that lack of confidence coupled with our frequent moves due to our service in the ministry, created a difficult educational atmosphere for our son, and he eventually dropped out of school.  After wandering around both emotionally and spiritually for a few years, he finally persevered and completed his high school diploma by taking and passing the GED exam the first time around.  I won't say that solved all his problems, but it helped restore some of his self-esteem and confidence and it was a very positive step in the right direction.

Scott, (#3), at age 11 playing the organ at Grandma and
Grandpa's house
So, anyway, to sum this up...recently when my father passed away, our son asked if there was anyway I could get the electric "Wurlitzer" organ at my parents' home.  All of the grandkids and great-grandkids loved playing this organ when visiting at Grandma and Grandpa's house, but our son had a special affinity with this instrument. You see, he spent several years living there with my parents and helping with the caregiving while my mother was failing and then also when my father was left alone after her death.  Although "#3" never had any real music lessons, he has this creative drive to make music within, and claimed that playing the organ was a form of "therapy" for him after a long day at work.  Fortunately for those around, the organ works beautifully when the player uses headphones...and this gives the instrumentalist the freedom to make any kind of music he so desires without bothering anyone else.  I always assumed this was a really good thing when our son was playing, knowing the style of music he seemed to like best.  :)

Scott (#3) today- a surprise package!
However, since our son has come home, and yes, the organ is now a part of the very crowded furnishing of our home,  he has actually taken off the headphones so that we can hear what he is playing, and we have been blessed.  I have been very pleasantly surprised at the beautiful and calming music that he has been playing for me each evening since I came home from the hospital. The melodies are soothing and tranquil, peaceful and comforting.  No, he doesn't read music...he has no idea what he is playing in the technical sense...but in the realm of melody and tone, the music is heavenly.  A gift from God...whether he realizes it or not.  It is one of those unique presents that has true presence...the presence of God's Spirit ministering to my soul. And I give thanks.

Sometimes gifts come in surprise packages....

"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continuously be in my mouth."  Psalm 34:1

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rainy Days Are Meant for Family Time UPDATED 2-20-2015


"I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me."  Psalm 13:6

July 10, 2011:

I love rainy afternoons...and it seems like we've had a few here recently...which is much appreciated after a season of drought.

What do you like to do on a rainy afternoon?  When I am at home and not working I love to do several different things when it is cloudy and rainy and cozy inside my house.  One, I love to cook and bake.
Two, I love to read and sip hot cups of tea and stay in my comfy pj's. Three, I love to write this blog...

What is even more fun is when the family is home with me and we can do things together on a rainy afternoon...like play a game, or watch a movie, or bake cookies together!

Now, you must understand that I live in a house full of men...having a husband and three sons I have always been outnumbered.  And now, even though one of my sons is married, they had a son also...so the men still outnumber the girls. Oh well, I am very thankful for ALL the wonderful men in my life...and the one daughter in law as well!

Recently our #3 son decided to move back home from New Hampshire...said he didn't want to face another winter up there living in the cold basement of his friend's apartment with barely enough work (as a cook at a restaurant) to survive and keep warm...so he took his chances and came back home.  Fortunately, he found a job the first day he got here and so far so good!  One of the benefits of having son #3 back home is that he loves to cook and bake in addition to working on his car, doing lawn maintenance for a living, and fixing things very creatively...(but that's another story). 

So today, being a rainy afternoon, he suggested that we make Grandma Mursch's (my mother) famous Orange Cookies! Now, this is a family treat that my mother lovingly made for her family (and especially the grandkids) every chance she could.  It was her special recipe that was always in demand for bake sales, parties, and just because.  Many people have requested her recipe (and actually, it originated from a bakery in Pennsylvania, but it was given to her when we moved to Florida in the 50's), but few people have been able to duplicate it as perfectly as she.  You see, Mama always said the secret to making good Orange Cookies was in the way you "folded in the buttermilk".  If you didn't "fold in the buttermilk" just right, the cookies would go flat. 

Me and My boys baking cookies...circa 1979
Front to Back: Matt, Benton, Scott, Me
I was, of course, delighted to have my old cookie-baking son-buddy back home again. We have baked cookies together ever since he was old enough to lick the batter from the beaters...but this was the first time he had ever asked to try his hand at this particular recipe.

I will post the progression of our baking time together here...and you can judge for yourself if this was a worthy way to spend a rainy afternoon with one of my handsome, sweet sons...

Mixing up the cookies...2011
Scott ~ Sampling the Batter...yep, it's good!
Folding in the buttermilk
"now be sure to fold in the buttermilk this way",  I can almost hear my mother saying...

Yeah, You got it!  Just don't over-do it or they'll go flat!!

Oh, man! They sure smell good! 
Next you have to frost the cookies with an orange-flavored glaze...I can't wait to taste them...
easy does it...just a thin glaze
Oh, please...can I eat one now?  They look perfect!!!!
Ready, set...go....!

Oh Yeah....They are GREAT!!!!!

(remember to click on the picture to enlarge, then back-arrow to return to blog)
This is the original recipe typed by my mother....pretty priceless way to spend a rainy day, wouldn't you say?
My Mom on the 4th of July, 2001.
Sure do miss you, Mom!!!

Yes, "I will sing unto the Lord, for He has dealt bountifully with me!!!"