Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Advent Reflections

In this season of Advent, we focus our prayers, our seeking, our reflections, and our actions on the coming of the One called the Messiah -- the One who is the focus of our faith, our salvation, and our hope. If you are like me, there are times you sit back and ponder… reflect… ask yourself, “Who is this One whose coming we celebrate in this season of wonder and anticipation? Who is this One the Gospels proclaim? Who is the One the apostles followed and about whom the Epistles teach?”

And we know that “...of the making of books there is no end…” and that scholarship about Jesus changes from generation to generation and that scholars, and doubters, and seekers will continue to look for answers.

Still, we are guided by the conviction that “We live by faith and not by sight.”  (2 Cor 5:7)

But even as I live by faith, I still wonder, and ponder, and ask, 

  • Who is this one whose coming we celebrate in this season of wonder and anticipation? 
  • Who is this One the Gospels proclaim? 
  • Who is the One the apostles followed and about whom the Epistles teach?

Albert Schweitzer, wrote about these questions in his book titled The Quest of the Historical Jesus  published in 1906. That book ended with this declaration: 

“He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those ... who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: 'Follow thou me!' and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”

--Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus  -- 1906

In the end, Schweitzer abandoned his theological career and spent the rest of his life in Africa as a missionary doctor. Albert Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel prize in 1952 as a consequence of his work for peace, for the abandonment of atomic testing and his opposition to the creation of weapons arsenals.

Please pray with me…

Holy One, You who walked by the Lakeside and called to people saying, “Follow me...” 

        ... in this season we remember that your earthly presence began in a humble way...

Born to humble parents...

  • Who were under an edict to comply with a census at Bethlehem...
  • 90 miles away from their home in Nazareth...
  • 90 miles by foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem for Joseph and his pregnant wife…
  • And we remember that there was no room for them in the inn.

Holy One, We remember that your earthly presence began as you were laid in a manger... 

  • Wrapped in bands of cloth…
  • Surrounded by cattle...
  • And shepherds...
  • And angels…
  • And … surrounded by uncertainty.

Holy One, two thousand years later we are still remembering that birth...

  • As we too are surrounded...
  • Surrounded by uncertainty...
  • Surrounded by pandemic...
  • Surrounded by self-centered politicians...
  • Surrounded by the purveyors of greed...
  • Surrounded by the interests of secularism...

Holy One, we listen…

  • We listen to the music of the angels…
  • We listen to the moaning of those who suffer…
  • We listen to the reading of scriptures...
  • We listen to the noise of the crowds in the mall...
  • We hear the grieving of those whose loved ones have died of COVID-19…
  • We listen to the mournful cries of those whose loved ones have been shot by police…
  • We hear the sounds of church folks singing “Silent Night...”
  • We hear the cries of children at the border who have been separated from their parents...
  • We hear the moans and aching hearts of those whose loved ones have been killed or captured by Boko Haram…
  • We hear the despair of health care workers in the COVID-19 units…
  • And the tinkle tinkle music box in the nativity scene on the shelf…
  • We hear the choirs sing “For unto us a child is born…

And we hear again the words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer…

“He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those ... who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: 'Follow thou me!' and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”

Holy One, 

    May we know who you are. 

        May we hear your voice. 

            May we follow you. Amen. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Remembering MarySue Helstern Rosenberger

MarySue Helstern Rosenberger, registered nurse, author, ordained minister, and chaplain, died at home in Westerville, Ohio, on Sunday, October 11, following a lengthy illness with pulmonary fibrosis.

Born on March 10, 1940 in Dayton, Ohio, the daughter of Russell and Vinna Bowers Helstern, she lived her childhood years in a rural location outside of Brookville, Ohio. 

She married Bruce Rosenberger in 1968 and they are the parents of two sons, Luke (Julie) of Boerne, Texas, and Joel of Athens, Ohio. They have one granddaughter, Leah Rosenberger of Austin, Texas. 

MarySue received a BA in biology from Manchester College in 1962 and continued her education in Cleveland, Ohio, earning a BS in nursing from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing in 1964.

Mary Sue worked as a nurse at University Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio from May 1964 until June 1965. As a member of Brethren Volunteer Service she served as a nurse at a hospital operated by the Vietnamese Protestant Church in NhaTrang, Vietnam from 1966 until 1967. After returning from VietNam she worked as a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital, Dayton, Ohio.  During the years that she raised her two sons she worked part time in Wayne Hospital, Greenville, Ohio, as well as several different nursing homes and care facilities.

From 1981 until 1985 she served as the founding director of Hospice of Darke County (now State of the Heart Care Hospice) in Ohio - the first rural-based hospice in the United States serving an all rural population.

Following her graduation with a Master of Ministry degree from Earlham School of Religion 1993 she served as one of the chaplains of Brethren Retirement Community, Greenville, Ohio.

After her retirement MarySue and Bruce lived full-time for ten years in a fifth-wheel travel trailer which provided many opportunities for sightseeing and out-of-doors activities. During those years she became one of the pastors of Living Stream Church of the Brethren, a church that meets exclusively online, where she served from 2014 until 2018. 

Her published writings include…

In the Brethren Press Covenant Bible series:

  • Abundant Living: Wellness from a Biblical Perspective
  • Fruit of the Spirit
  • The Lord’s Prayer

And a variety of other books including: 

  • Lo I am With You Always… even to the end and old age
  • Harmless as Doves: Witnessing for Peace in Vietnam  
  • Sacraments in My Refrigerator
  • Journey of Faith Eighty-Five Years and Beyond: A History of The Brethren’s Home, Greenville, Ohio 1902-1987
  • Caring: A History of Brethren Homes 1889-1989
  • That They Might Have Life: A History of Brethren Health and Welfare Association  
  • Light of the Spirit: The Brethren in Puerto RIco, 1942 to 1992 

Because of the current pandemic Bruce is discouraging in-person visits. However he will be “at home” and welcomes visits by Zoom video call daily Monday, October 12 through Thursday, October 15, between 7 and 9 pm Eastern time at  Please feel free to stop in Bruce’s Zoom Room, greet, and leave. Or feel welcome to sit for a while with those who grieve.

An online memorial service is planned for Friday, October 16, at 8:00 pm Eastern time; 7:00 pm Central; 6:00 pm Mountain; 5:00 Pacific time. Join us at this link - Memorial for MarySue.  If you cannot be with us live, you may access the recorded archive at the same link. A time for visiting with Bruce and the family by Zoom will follow the memorial service. 

In keeping with her wishes, her body has been donated for research and education. 

Memorial gifts may be made to Living Stream Church of the Brethren.  

Saturday, August 1, 2020

All Lives Matter

Yes, all lives matter!
Black lives matter,
they have blessed us with
Rhythms of jazz
And mournful spirituals.
They excel in sports
And are the source of resilience 
that has carried a people
Through centuries of bondage.

But white lives matter, too.
Too early they assumed 
that power and privilege
Belonged to them alone.
They were wrong, of course.
But their curiosity has driven us all
To explore to the ends 
of the earth -
And beyond!
Hamburgers and french fries 
have gone with us!

Yellow lives also matter.
In a tranquil mood.
They’ve presented us
With chop suey,
Fried rice and 
fortune cookies,
And decorated our world
With the simple beauty
 Of Oriental poetry,
Pottery, and script.

Red lives matter.
Our nation's first inhabitants
Are now nearly extinct.
But they’ve left us their history
In tales of their courage 
And lifestyle of cooperation
With creation which could
Enrich our own lives
At this very moment. 

Yes, all lives matter because
They were all made
In the image of God.
We’ll never know 
what color God is
Whether black or white,
Yellow or red,
Polka dot, striped or plaid -
But, all made in the image 
of our Creator,
None of us is better or worse
Than any other,
Nor wiser than our 
Divine pattern!

8/1/2020 - mshr

Monday, July 13, 2020

Death's Angel

Death’s angel knocks
     on every earthly door     
     Even the homeless are roused
as their time draws near.

The knock begins at birth
Keeping time with the heart.
    The knock is so gentle
    Many claim they never hear it.
         Was it the ears that failed?
         Or a fear of meeting
              the knocker?

Death’s angel does not come
              to frighten us,
              But to befriend us,
          And show us the way.

We’ll all need her guidance
because in the new life
all is changed.
     Those who’d struggled
          in a life of poverty and want
              Will be led to homes
                   of blessing and joy
And all those accustomed
To blessing and joy
Will find themselves
              in Heaven’s slums,
         Surrounded by fear and prejudice.

Glorious life after death
    For those who can adjust
          To this other-worldly plan,
               Promising a future
               of justice and equality.

13July2020  - mshr

Friday, July 10, 2020

Curbside Concert

       The hours of self-imposed isolation during a pandemic move very slowly. They crawl even more slowly through the aches of age such as impaired eyesight, breathing problems, and the resistance of uncooperative joints.
So we were delighted when we heard of a new program being offered by the local Arts Council.  A  friend nominated me to be a recipient and I was chosen  to receive a “Curbside Concert.”
At 3:00 pm on a recent  Sunday afternoon, a pick-up truck pulled into the parking area in our little condo village and the  passenger stepped out.  In the bed of the truck he set up a large speaker  connected by Bluetooth to an iPad which held accompaniment tracks for his music.  Then from the back seat, he took out a tenor saxophone.   For the next half hour we, and a few of our neighbors, were entertained by some  beautiful music on that instrument that had come to visit us. That genial musician had chosen music wisely for his aging audience.  Our ears rejoiced at the sound of “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” “Danny Boy,” and other soothing ballads from an age when music sounded like music rather than disorganized noise.
       About 3:30 p.m. the musician packed up, waved “goodbye” to his audience and took off for his next gig.  What a delightful way to spend some of those pesky pandemic hours!

10  July 2020 - mshr

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Fresh Air Kids

My anti-racism training began early.  I must have been only about six or seven years old during the summers when my parents hosted several little black girls from a nearby city.  (The term “African-American” was not in common use in the 1940’s or 50’s.)  During several summers, these new friends spent a week or two on our little farm with our family as some of their city neighborhood children spent time on the farms of other members of our church.
None of the children had ever been on a farm before.  So we called them the “fresh  air kids.”  None of us had ever had the chance to make interracial  friendships.  
So it was a learning experience for all of us as well as a vacation  for the “fresh air kids.”
Most of the time they followed us around and helped with our normal farm chores: feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs, walking back to the pasture to help us bring the cow up for her evening milking, feeding the pigs, pulling weeds in the garden, freezing or canning fresh garden produce, helping fix meals and wash the dishes.
Some of us planned special excursions with our new friends.  Our family took them with us to the zoo and art museum in nearby cities and the public library in our local small town.  Of course they accompanied us to church and Sunday School and any church events during the time they were with us.
But around the planned events, there was plenty of time to become friends and ask many innocent and child-like questions. From questions such as “Are collard greens  something like golf greens?”  or “You have two  pairs of shoes, even in the summer?” 
We learned a lot about our differing lifestyles and cultures.  
Sunday was home going day for all the guests as their hosts returned them to the downtown city church that had coordinated the program.  This downtown black city church was an active member of the Council of Churches which had developed the “fresh air kids” as an outreach program to their own communities.
There were many mixed feelings on homecoming day: thanks for new friends and new experiences, a new  feeling of security with people different than themselves, fun in new places, homesickness overcome (perhaps), the similarities between people that are hidden  behind differences.
Mixed feelings, indeed, but not as vicious as those that have erupted on city streets in 2020.  Has it been the passage of 70 years that has made the difference or the  perspective of  a child?

7 June 2020 - mshr

Friday, April 24, 2020

A Year with Hospice Care

On April 16 we celebrated one year of hospice care for MarySue - a year marked with some anxious moments but with even more moments of joy, happiness, togetherness, and blessings.

We have both commented frequently that when MarySue signed the Hospice papers a year ago neither of us expected that she would still be alive one year later.

We rejoice that not only is she still with us, but that she is still able to enjoy life and continue to do some of the things that make her life meaningful, including listening to audio books and coordinating the Prayer Team of our church.

There were several  times during the past year when the future for MarySue seemed rather limited - such as when there were infections, etc. Also we have seen several times when her need for oxygen has increased. However in the past three months her oxygen needs have remained quite steady.

The past year has been marked by a lot of togetherness which has brought much joy to both of us. Granted, caring for the activities of daily living has consumed much time and energy, but we do enjoy each other’s company even when doing the mundane daily tasks of dressing, caring for oxygen equipment, etc.

But there have been other enjoyable experiences also. A special treat for both of us has been afternoon car rides seeing the sights and becoming better acquainted with the environs of Columbus and Franklin County.  We have discovered the beauty of many of the Franklin County Metro Parks, enjoyed the scenery of the Scioto River Valley, the Alum Creek Dam, the Olentangy River, and the environs of the Hoover Reservoir.

On the tenth of March we enjoyed celebrating MarySue’s 80th birthday online with a Zoom party with online guests from around the United States and across the globe.  Soon afterward we made the difficult decision to discontinue the use of outside caregivers and to self-isolate to avoid the risk of infection with the coronavirus. So in the month since March 17 we have had only two outsiders in our home and they were hospice staff on a required visit and they were wearing masks. Other than that visit, hospice care is currently being done through phone calls and Zoom video conferencing.

MarySue does enjoy trying to function as independently as possible, even though much of the time she needs to rely on assistance.

The arrival of warmer weather means that it is easier for us to get out of doors. MarySue enjoys walking eight to ten minutes very slowly in our Condo drive and parking areas at 15 LPM of oxygen. Frequently after she completes that walk, Bruce will help her into the wheelchair equipped with an E Tank of oxygen and Bruce will push her in the transport chair for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ miles around the neighborhood - thus getting his exercise while MarySue enjoys the sights and smells of spring.

It has been a year of hospice care and we do not know how much longer we will have together, but we have learned together to be thankful for one day at a time, to celebrate the time we have together, and to praise God for all blessings far above measure.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

COVID-19 Questions

“For God so loved the world that He…”

Whoa  there, God have you had a change of heart?  It certainly was not love that caused You to  let  loose a worldwide stampede of COVID-19!  That  unknown and invisible virus has infected millions of people around the world and  killed thousands upon thousands.  It feels more like punishment than love.  What are You doing to our world? And to us?

An unfamiliar whisper responded:  “I gave you a beautiful earth to live on filled with plants and animals, fish and birds.  But you are ruining it. Air and water are being polluted and animals are being driven off to extinction.   Mining and drilling for oil destroy much of nature’s natural beauty.”            

“But me, how have I messed up the earth?” I asked.    

“By your materialistic lifestyle of littering, hoarding, buying beyond your needs.  You have ignored my counsel, Your worship of gold has replaced the worship of God.  In many places, hatred has replaced justice for people who are different.

“You do many things that injure the earth, damage your neighbor, and hurt yourself.  That grieves me as deeply as the COVID-19 grieves you! When you can answer my questions, perhaps I can answer yours.”  

18 April 2020 - mshr

Friday, March 27, 2020


A worldwide invasion of humans
by a vicious and deadly virus.
       In 2020, 
       it was one of the coronaviruses,  

Oh God, we are scared.
                               We are angry,
We feel trapped and helpless!

Worldwide over a million have felt its sting; 
              thousands have died. 

It’s vicious enough to drive mass murderers 
              back to their hideouts

God, Creator of  everything 
              Did You send this plaguer?
              Did this invisible threat come
             From Your hand?
    I can’t believe that because
I’ve known Your Son
Jesus, God in the flesh.
                He suffered, but never caused others to suffer.
                He wept, but never caused others to weep.
        He died, but never caused others to die,
  And rose to give others life and peace.
                                 No, God.  
It’s not Your hand that has sent us this vicious virus.
It’s a mystery that we must learn to live with
          -- focusing on the good!

27 March 2020 - mshr

Saturday, March 21, 2020


I’ve  been so blessed in my four score years.
I led a busy and happy life
Until a mean, lung freezing disease
Cut through me like a knife.

My  blessings now come in secret
They are  angels that fill me with awe.
They don’t have six wings as Isaiah said (Isaiah 6:1-2).
Nor the ladder Jacob saw (Genesis 28:10-19),

My  angels  wear T-shirts and blue jeans.
No halos adorn their mussed up hair.
No shimmering  silky white robes do I see,
For they specialize in care!

If there’s anything at all that I need:
A meal, a phone call, greeting or  prayer,
An angel comes quickly to do it for me,
And to overcome any despair.

An angel’s full time job, you see,
Is to care for those in pain.
They fly and sing and praise just for fun,
And bring peace like gentle rain.

21 March 2020 - mshr

Friday, February 28, 2020

Stepping Stones

He was approaching the end of his life and he welcomed the visits of the chaplain. He appreciated hearing scriptures read and praying together, but what he really enjoyed was telling some of his own personal memories. His favorite was a story about stepping stones.

He and his buddy had found a secret pathway to the schoolhouse. They could leave home after the school bus had gone and could still arrive at the schoolhouse just as the teacher was beginning to ring the bell for classes to begin.

The best part of their “secret pathway” was that near the end as they approached the schoolhouse they had to cross the creek on stepping stones they had discovered. It was great fun keeping the other students wondering how they had come without the help of the school bus!

There was a potential problem, however. They learned about it as the cold winds of November had begun to blow. They were so proud of their secret path that they were laughing and joking with such pride that they missed the smooth, dry stepping stones and had to spend the rest of the day at school in wet and clammy clothes!

I've thought of this little tale often and wondered: have I taken the time to choose the smooth, safe stepping stones through the rivers of life? Have you?

28 Feb 2020 - mshr

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Preparing a Place

Jesus said, "...I go to prepare a place for you...." (John 14:2). So then why does it take Jesus so long to prepare a place for us while we have to plod through our daily tasks and wait? Haven’t we been helping him to prepare that place everyday of our Lord-led lives? 

Perhaps, but most of us have overstuffed ourselves  like German sausages. Like overinflated balloons we are stuffed full of ourselves. We are so attentive to our own activities and projects that we have little time or space for the Lord. Imagine what a task it is for Him to either carve out the place to fit our size or trim us down eliminating our wants and needs so that we will fit the place He is preparing. No wonder it takes a while.  Some of us will have 70 -- or even 80 -- years to help Him complete that task! But it is never too late to replace our overgrown selfishness with His love which is designed to just fit the place He is preparing.

22 Feb 2020 - mshr

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Life's Legacy

Slipping unseen through our life’s daily adventures we build a legacy. A legacy is how others will remember us now and in the future. Our legacy may include the way we look, or the sound of our laughter, or our hobbies. What we could do well and what we could not do at all may be part of the memories we leave with others. How we made them feel while we were together will be cherished.

But a legacy is not the same as an obituary. An obituary is written at the time of death and recounts the accomplishments and successes of the deceased. It includes only facts as if the departed dear one could now be filed in a record book and forgotten.

Throughout our lives we create both legacies and obituaries from the same building materials and the choices we make. God has given us many gifts and it is the choices we make in using them that will fill memories and record books.

Obituaries are filed and usually forgotten. Legacies inspire others. Our legacy lists may preserve memories of each other and continue to comfort us before and after our obituaries are prepared. Fond memories will continue in our minds long after our obituaries are forgotten.

May our memories of each other continue to comfort us long after the forgotten pages of our obituary draw dust inside the record book!

15 Feb 2020 - mshr