2/18/2024       Sermon:    ‘Blackberry Winter’

Rev. Jane Courtright

Are you familiar with Murphy’s Law?

Of course, you are!

“If anything can go wrong, it will!”

I don’t know about you,

but I believe I am experiencing

MANY, MANY more examples of Murphy’s Law

since this Pandemic began!!

Murphy’s Law was the inspiration for Paul Dickson’s book titled THE OFFICIAL RULES AT HOME.

Let me share with you some of the laws,

rules & observations collected by Dickson:

Rabbe’s Rule of the bedroom:

The spouse who snores louder falls asleep first.

Dickson’s Gardening Discovery:

When weeding, the best way

to make sure that you are removing a weed

and not a ‘valuable plant,’ is to pull on it.

If it comes out of the ground easily,


Dorothy’s Dilemma:  The heavier the package and the further you must carry it, the more your nose itches!

Todd’s Rule of Bar Code Malfunction:

The bar code in the checkout line

won’t work on items you’re embarrassed to be buying.  (And the check out person keeps scanning it

over and over and over…)

Rosenbaum’s Rule:

The easiest way to find something

lost around the house is to buy a replacement.

(I find the easiest way to find these items is

to offer a reward to the one who finds it.

Then, somehow, I find it!)

I’ll add one of my own here, from Pandemic time:

The Facemask Quandary:

The further you park from the store,

the more likely you are to leave your facemask

in your car or in your home!

Some say that Murphy was actually an optimist!

I’m sure that YOU can think of some Murphy’s Laws

of your own.  I’d love to hear yours!

It IS amazing how WRONG things can go sometimes!

Rodney Wilmoth tells a true story

of something which happened

while he was a pastor in Fremont, Nebraska.  Appropriately enough for today,

his story is found in a book with a title:

‘Why Didn’t Noah Swat Both Mosquitos?”

A member of his staff came to work one morning

with an amazing story about a neighbor.

Apparently, the day before,

this man had climbed up on the roof of his house

to do some minor repairs.

He was wise and careful guy.



The roof was steep,

so he decided to tie a rope around his waist

and then throw the rope over the top of the house

down to the other side of the house

so it would reach the ground.

At that point, he called for his son and told him

to tie the end of his rope to something secure.

The boy tied the rope to the bumper of the car,

which was in the driveway.

It seemed to do a great job,

so the man proceeded with his roof work,

feeling very safe indeed!

Then, his wife, who was unaware

of her husband’s clever security measure,

decided to run an errand

which required the use of the car.

She didn’t see the rope tied to the bumper,

and pulled out of the driveway.

YOU SAW THIS ONE COMING, DIDN’T YOU?                                       






The man survived, but Dr. Wilmoth reports

that in hearing her tell the story,

he pictured (and still pictures)

this man soaring over the peak of that roof

like Evel Knievel over the Snake River Canyon!

              MURPHY’S LAW

The best thing you can do

in situations like these

is to keep yourself from laughing

right in the moment.

Unlike me, who just had to laugh

when my fiance’s kayak flipped over in a river

– while he was still in the water, I laughed!

And Dave still married me.

Overall, it’s best to laugh safely and in hindsight!

Noah, in today’s Hebrew Scripture story,

was NOT laughing!

THE WATERS HAD BEEN GROWING                                           


According to this story,

he’d been cooped up on board the ark

for 40 days and 40 nights [in Bible slang:


Noah had been cooped up

with every imaginable animal on earth,


Not only that, but his neighbors were gone.

Talk about cabin fever

(or should we say ARK FEVER!)

Does this fever sound familiar?

We were cooped up

for A VERY LONG TIME!             

Noah, and we, are having to start over in a sense.

That happens to people, doesn’t it?

The world as they know it suddenly disappears.

I’m thinking of a widow whose husband died.

She has never worked outside her home.

HE had always managed their financial affairs.

She’s finding out

that he didn’t manage them very well.

So, in addition to the grief

she’s trying to deal with,

she will have to go to work

for the first time in a world

for which she feels unprepared.

Suddenly, her life is flooded with grief & anxiety!

I’m thinking of a 30 year old single Mom

w/small children.

She married believing that their family unit

as she’d known it would last a lifetime.

But now she finds herself bringing up

3 children on her own.

The court-ordered child support is not enough,

even when it does arrive.

Even harder is the lack of emotional support she feels.  THE WATERS AROUND HER ARE RISING!

Those among you who read

the meditations or devotions in Daily Guideposts

may remember Mary Lou Carney’s

writing about ‘Blackberry Winters.”

Ms. Carney says that when she was a child

spring seemed to take forever in coming.

As soon as the April sun began warming the creek,

she’d want to go barefoot.

But her grandmother would shake her head ‘NO.’

Then mild May days would coax blooms

from marsh marigolds and trillium.

“It’s Summer!” Mary Lou would laugh,

throwing all of her warm sweaters

up onto the top shelf of her closet.

“We ain’t had a Blackberry Winter YET,”

her grandmother would say with conviction.

Blackberry Winter’ –

that’s what her grandmother called that final cold snap

in May, when the blackberries began ripening.



Before the month was over,

Mary Lou would have to take one of her sweaters

back off the shelf

for a final few days of chilly temperatures!

“Now that I’m an adult,” writes Ms. Carney,

“I’ve noticed ‘Blackberry Winters’

in other areas of my life.  I save for a vacation,

but I have to spend the money on a new washer.

My close relationship with my teens

is splintered by occasional quarrels.

I want that recognition for my hard work

on the school board, but am passed over.

Sometimes I’m tempted to give up,

to surrender to cynicism.

I feel that things will NEVER get better!”

That’s when I think of Grandma, sitting in her rocker,

her hands stitching quilting squares.

“It’ll NEVER get warm!” I used to whine.

“Course it will,” she’d laugh.  Blackberry Winter

is a short season, child, REAL SHORT.”

I’m thinking of many of US who were

physically isolated, during the Pandemic.


We endured disagreements,

about whether to gather in person

as family, neighbors, friends, church family.

Coronavirus is still with us, as cases as reported.

But as a 13-year-old young woman named Amelia

once shared with me,

“The soul would have no rainbows,

if the eyes had no tears.”

The Groundhog, this year,

has ‘predicted’ an early spring!

(I wonder if that included extreme cold and snow!)

Things will get better over the coming months- slowly.

We also know that as we get off this Pandemic ‘Ark,’

we are looking at a changed world, a new world.

Life is, in some ways, different.

We are gifted with a new start.

It probably seemed like a lifetime to Noah as well

– being cooped up on that ark.

But eventually, the waters receded.

And a rainbow appeared in the sky.

The rainbow was God’s promise to Noah

that never again would the waters overwhelm him –

That promise is also to us and all creation.

The water will NOT ultimately overwhelm us!!

After the rain, the rainbow.

Blackberry Winter is a short season.

Oh, it doesn’t always seem so.

Especially when we’re in the eye of the storm.

One of my favorite novelists, Barbara Kingsolver writes, “The very least you can do in your life

is to figure out what you hope for.

And the most you can do is live inside that hope.”


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