Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Hands

Posted: December 27, 2014 in Musings, Reflections

I looked at the image of hands, skillfully weaving yarn with a hook. The blanket being crafted was beautiful and as the hook slid back and forth, hooking and curling, it grew with color and texture.

The product though, was dimmed as I noticed the hands. I felt so many emotions as I stared at them. They look just like my grandmother’s hands. The disfigured joints and nodules on the fingers, all in the same places. The way the hands were held, moved and embraced were all reminiscent of hers, so long ago removed from our lives.

I miss her. In so many things I do every day, I see her hands working. And I hear her voice ringing in my head. Peeling apples, stitching a seam, tapping to music. Her life infused mine. These memories flash like snapshots in my mind, like some sort of photo album with pages turning. Phrases playing like favorite recordings come in private audio, just for my ears.

I wistfully work, feeling her presence with me. Grateful for her influence and direction I wonder if I can be like her. Will my words ring in the minds of my children, grandchildren? Will they smile when they hear my whispers in their ears after I am gone? Will the every day activities bring fond memories of influence and training?

The hands are my own. Image of HandsThey leave me a little startled by their image. When did my hands become my grandmothers? When did they become so gnarled? I am saddened by their appearance at first, wanting to cover them with gloves like fine ladies of old. But then I see my grandmother, and I smile.

Perhaps in the memories of a life infused into others, the hands may be beautiful. The crafted things left behind a reminder and the voice attached to them can be alive.

I wonder, can a person determine their legacy? I believe my grandmother did. She lived out her faith in very practical ways and allowed the unseen to be visible. It infused her life and in turn, permeated my own.

My desire is to live the legacy I leave behind. And, with all the tripping and bumbling along the way, I pray laughter comes along for the ride. After all, without the laughter, the hands are painful and ugly. Laughter brings the beauty out of them and glues all the pieces of memories together. I can hear my grandmother’s playful giggles even now.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business
and work with your hands, just as we told you,
so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.
I Thessalonians 4:11-12 NIV

Memorial Day Remembering

Posted: May 28, 2013 in Reflections

Remembering….
There is something about remembering that propels us forward.

In The Bible the children of Israel are told to create altars and rock piles as places to remember what happened in a particular place. But never are they told to “live there” where those memories are triggered. In fact they are told to use those places as a means to teach others along the way what God has done before. There is a sense of leaning forward in this method. God says, when your children ask you, what is this for? You will tell them the story of God. It is both future and past.

How do we build our altars of remembraces? Holidays seem to work well as long as they are not hijacked by commercialism or media hype. Today is Memorial Day. It is a day set aside to remember fallen soldiers. A day to remember those who have died in service to their country. It makes me think of my grandfather, one who served faithfully in WWII. Who came home and could not share what he faced there. The atrocities he witnessed were more than he could form words for. I could tell he felt it deeply and profoundly.

It bothered me that he did not have his medals he earned while serving. When I asked him about it, he tried to assure me he didn’t feel like he deserved any medals except his combat badge. He didn’t believe he deserved any such honors when so many never made it home. He especially cried over the thought of receiving a purple heart for his injury. He said, “I still have my life.”

I got his permission to try and contact someone to see if we could get his medals. I convinced him it was one way as his offspring we could see the stories he could not talk about. He was battling cancer and was getting weaker all the time. I was certain he would love to have his medals once he saw them. I got to work making calls and it was not long before we had connected to the right department.

Long story short, Grandpa died just short of the medals arriving in the mail. He never got to hold them. We tearfully and carefully laid them all out, studying the meaning behind each star, each ribbon, each symbol. The medals told the stories he never could. I share the medals with my children and tell the story of Grandpas service. I tell them how he left his family and went to a far away place. And, we all think of a soldier who now serves his country in a far away place. A new conflict, new stories, new horrors. Men and women leaving home, struggling with leaving loved ones behind but doing it so someone else doesn’t have to do it. Sacrifice.

I remember my Grandpa, I think of now. I teach my children and lean forward with them to the future. Memorials are important for us. In remembering we live more fully in the now and lean more confidently to the future. Time spans our remembering in ways that connect us to the past and future at the same time!

Finding more benches

Posted: May 21, 2013 in Compassion, Reflections

I watch her manage his day, keeping everything the same. His room, his clothes, his routine. Any deviation unsettles him and causes fear. Unfamiliar surroundings can bring on panic and he becomes angry as a means to show he is in control and not afraid. I see a child within the man and I have come to understand, how afraid he must be as he loses himself and relies on her to be his constant. They made a pact early on, to be strong partners in this journey. To be “The one” that would always be there to quell fears and set boundaries for safety. Day after day she runs the routine, without complaint. She takes time to count her blessings each day along the way and finds her strength in her generous God who gives her grace. She prays for mercy and gentle blessing for the day ahead and busies her hands working in dirt. He sits beside her and watches her hands till the soil and comments on plants and foods soon to be on the table. Like a child, he asks, “Do I have to eat that?” And she gently says “no”, but you may want to try a bite since you liked it yesterday.

I am amazed at the stamina and the courage she faces each day on this long, long journey of care. She loves so deeply and cares so high, commits very wide and watches so far. He finds peaceful rest in her company.

A prayer was offered for them today. A prayer for grace and peace as she walks with this one she loves. A plea for presence as they journey on side by side and when things get hard, may they find more benches along the way to provide some sojourn and a place to chat, maybe watch birds and hear a child’s laugh.

I cried at the thought of such tender love. And prayed for myself, to have such a one that would walk beside me in my raw times of need, when I may feel overtaken with fear of the unknown. One who will brush my cheek, wash my back and whisper reassurances in the dark. Oh what compassion!  Or perhaps I will be this one who comes alongside.  May I honor her legacy with the  same loyalty and deep affection she spends day by day caring for her beloved.

A voice Without Words

Posted: May 20, 2013 in Reflections
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Angel wings in cloudsI am exhausted. On the verge of being ill from fatigue. Why can’t I find the rest I need or the sense of wellness I long for? My family barks at me for doing too much and tells me to “Stop!” In their demands, I hear God’s voice calling to me from somewhere in the distance. I know what Sabbath rest is about. I understand the purposes in taking the time and I must confess I have allowed myself to be so busy, I forget to set the time aside to honor it. I go to bed and make an honest attempt to sleep in and let the extra rest bring me some measure of feeling better. I awake and I do not feel better. Again, I hear a voice in the distance calling. This morning, I turned my ear toward this voice.

Sabbath. I think it is a seeking rest.  Not the kind of seeking you do when you are hiking on a hunt for something, but one that turns the ear to hear One who speaks without words.

 
Ann Voskamp says something like this: “watching wells something up inside of us and it doesn’t have words. Nor does it ask for words. It is only for witnessing.” And I reflect. I allow myself the luxery of letting my mind wander down old familiar pathways where I had encountered this voice without words before, and I smile. There is something that happens with this soul deep smile. There is a complete and satisfying exhale. And God…God rests me.

I steep, like a tea bag that absorbs all the refreshing liquid and soaks up as much of God’s living presence as I can. Breathe in deeply. Exhale completely. I am refreshed. And something strange begins to happen. My spirit is rejoicing and my body wants to move me in celebration. I am revived again and all those refreshing waters of God encounters and memories of faithfulneess begin to flow outward. God colors, God flavors, God himself seems to be flowing out from within. And I realize just how needy I am of Sabbath moments.

 
I resolve once again to be purposeful in setting aside time that is sacred. Time to reflect and allow my God to rest me. Time to celebarate his goodness. Time to turn my ear to hear this voice without words.

Matthew 11:28 says,  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (The Message)

Wounded Worshipper

Posted: October 12, 2012 in Compassion, Reflections
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I am convinced that our created selves are formed in ways that are remarkably resilient. The human body can heal itself and regenerate parts of itself in ways that are nothing less than a miracle. It can withstand unmentionable injury and find ways to compensate for lasting weaknesses.

But then there are those times our bodies are profoundly fragile. One wrong little substance introduced, one injury to just the right body part and a cascade of breakdown removes the vitality of life.

The first funeral I did as a minister was for an 18 year old high school student. He was carefree and cheerful in the way he carried himself. He was the grandson of one of my first parishioners. Her name was Gracie.

Gracie was one of those resilient people. Her body was literally only half here in this world. She had only one lung and one breast, no appendix and only one kidney. She had a full hysterectomy. She was in a wheelchair due to severe arthritis that prevented her from walking. She had been a domestic violence victim who related stories of being thrown down a flight of stairs and being slammed against walls. One of her children suffers from mental illness. She did most of the parenting of her grandchildren because of it. She suffered from small strokes that robbed her of her creative outlet of oil painting.

I could hardly believe she could survive all of it. She was a remarkable woman of strength who made her mark with the saying “Jesus loves me!” She lived that proclamation. She put skin on it. She demonstrated how to be resilient with a working faith.

She called me one afternoon and said simply, Kenny is dead. He died in his bedroom. I could hardly believe the words she spoke. She discovered him lifeless, lying on his bed. She was helpless to reach him however, as her wheelchair would not fit past the furnishings blocking his door. Calling for help, they discovered he had died just hours before, his heart stopping.

Upon further examination, it was discovered he had been using Gracie’s pain patches along with other drugs. With an undiagnosed heart condition, his heart simply stopped beating as the medications released the drugs. Gracie struggled to overcome the grief. She spoke of the memory of delivering him on her living room floor 18 years prior. With dignity, she lived up to her name and pressed on. She was resilient.

One day, she called me from the hospital. Cancer. Again. Pneumonia. Infection. Barely able to breathe, she asked me to bring communion to her. She struggled for every breath. She struggled to press on. She struggled to be resilient…again. Every time I went to see her, she struggled. She fought to remain strong for her kids, her grandkids, her great granddaughter.

One day after her doctor came into the room, she looked at me with a longing in her eyes. She said she was tired. She was afraid she could not fight any longer. I could sense she was looking for permission to let go, to be the wounded one, to be the one who would be carried and cared for. Her battles had been many and her scars were deep and thick.

I told her it was okay to be the wounded one now. I gave her permission to be wounded. Quiet, large tears rolled down her cheeks. She smiled and thanked me. She asked how she could tell her son she was too tired to fight anymore. Her main concern was always for her family who depended on her to be the strong one. As we talked and prayed, her spirit seemed to breathe deeper even though her body would not.

She died, struggling for every breath. I could tell she was waiting for Jesus. With her wounded body, she rested in the arms of one who was wounded for her.

I wondered then. And I still wonder, what makes a person strong and yet so fragile at the same time? Why was her young and strong grandson so fragile and she was so incredibly resilient? I found myself being more careful with my own life and health. I watched my adult children more closely. I coached my grandchildren to be safer.

The addicts I work with- My heart longs to tell them. When they wake up tomorrow, will their bodies be strong? Today will they be resilient? Or today, will they be fragile?

To my daredevil sons- My heart leaps and longs to caution them. “You may not be resilient today! I am glad you are strong. Please be careful! “

I think of Gracie often. Her example of resiliency I believe is directly a combination of her personal tenacity and the mercy of God. She lived Romans 12:1-2. She gave her everything to her Creator, even her body as a sacrifice to be used for Kingdom work. She sang Jesus Loves Me wherever she went and lived it with all the life she could muster. It was her act of worship to be used, however it would benefit God’s Kingdom.

Gracie worshipped God in and with her woundedness. She worshipped with her scarred body, a God who was also wounded and scarred.

I think there is redemptive value in her example. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint us. My heart is overflowing with her reminder of pressing on toward hope.

The Everyday Holy

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Reflections

Lent is one of those times of year that passes me by without my understanding getting a good grip on it.  I often think I may be getting an idea of the point of it, then I discover another layer.  My understanding is being shaped by experiences of the Lenten season.  Layers unfold and help my awareness brighten by what is and by what is not.

Lent is not another holiday. Lent is not a simple fast. It is not about self sacrifice in public service projects nor is it about family gatherings or church programs.  Lent is a season. Lent is internal and corporate at the same time.  Lent is for contemplation of The Holy in the midst of the ordinary.

How do I find that which is Holy in the everydayness of my life?  How can something, someone be found in such chaotic rhythms and schedules?

Psalm 24 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”

Can I wrap my fingers around that? Can I comprehend what that really means in regard to my faith-walk?  If I believe Jehovah, the great and incomprehensible “I AM”, The suffering man-God, created this earthy world and all the earthy stuff in it.  I have to ask myself, How can I not find The Holy in the midst of the everyday?

I walk and touch, feel, taste and smell God’s goodness to mankind everywhere.  Taste a tree ripened peach and ask, “why did God give me tastebuds?”  Did he have to allow us the pleasure of taste?  What about the pleasure of touch.  The touch of your beloved, the touch of your newborn baby, the touch of fresh, cool grass under your hot feet on a summer day-where does that pleasure come from?  Why do we get to experience such pleasure?  Why do flowers each have their own fragrance?  And how do they reproduce only their own kind?  What wonder!  Even what is created reveals the Creator!              

But, how do I find The Holy in the shadows of life?  The sudden and senseless death of a loved one or the pain of a prodigal child.  Where is The Holy in that pain?  A child is abused, a veteran dies alone is substandard housing.  Holy? I can’t see it!  But wait!  Maybe, just maybe my perspective is clouded by my finite brain.

My blessed Savior, sits at an ordinary table, spread with the annual Passover feast.  The table is full of everyday, earthy foods and Jesus bends over to lift up those everyday things and make them holy.  And shadows fill the room.

He knows who will betray him and yet, he serves him symbols of what is soon to come.  He knows those he teaches don’t fully understand yet he prays for them.  He knows the harsh realities and cruel ignorance that will bring his end closer, ever closer, soon to be reality.  Yet, he loves those he serves, those who will betray him, those who will soon be confused and seemingly lost in more shadows.

He makes even their ordinary lives, holy.  And he stares his end full in the face beyond the shadows that press in on his humanness and cause him to cry to his Father, “Please let this pass from me!”  Yet, he submits to something much greater than the pain and says, “nevertheless, your will (Father) not mine” for the sake of these earthy creatures who will carry his light into the shadows that remain.

Romans 5 tells us we can embrace our sufferings. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, character produces hope and hope does not disappoint us.

Lent is a season of shadows.  But on the other side of it, comes a season of light.  My prayer is I can follow the Jesus example of bending over to serve others around me, even in spite of ignorant behavior or misguided passion. I can follow his example to press forward beyond shadows into the light.

May I be able to say with increasing conviction, Not my will but yours. Let your kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven. Here and now, let me be part of the everyday, ordinary and earthy experience that is lifted up to be holy in his hands.