Day 1 of 40

Dead for 3 days, we buried him.
“We commit his body to the ground and his soul to God.”

I could not help but wonder, what if this third day was the day that “the dead in Christ shall rise first”? (1 Thes. 4:16) This moment. Right here, with us gathered around this grave?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mid-day I was asked, “Did you realize today is the first day of Lent?”

No. My thoughts have been else where… on a funeral.

It seems strangely appropriate.
We are remembering and hoping for the resurrection.

1921
He often talked about the things he had seen:
the first family in the area with electricity,
the first phone,
his father’s model T,
the 1939 World’s Fair,
the names of everyone who attended school with him in the one room school house down the road…

He knew all about farming, plowing, milking, carpentry, cutting stone, storing ice from winter through summer…

90 years.
Living history is passing away.
I feel the loss of a day gone by.

At our neighborhood Christmas party, he looked a little tired. Still, he was strong and sharp. What a blessing to live healthy in mind and body up to the very last days! Even into his 80’s, he worked the family stone quarry with his son.

90 years.

We read Psalm 90.

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn men back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”

4 For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning
6 though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.

What a strangely warm and beautiful day for February!
All sunshine, and no snow.

Coming to this familiar place is like stepping out of time.
Generations have stood on this same ground… what has changed?
much and little.

10 The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty,
(maybe even 90) if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Married 68 years… not enough.
Our hearts were created for more than this.

Desperate for words of comfort.

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Is all “lost”?
Those with hope, grieve with hope… (1 Thes. 4:18, Phil. 1:21)
Those without hope… know only loss.

The hearse followed me for all but the last quarter mile of our back country roads as I drove to pick up my little one. In the solemn silence of those miles I pondered…
Death is behind me.
Not chasing me… it is conquered (1 Cor. 15:55)
and
I have already died and am truly alive. (Gal. 2:20)

Driving back to the church for lunch, I pray the words of the Psalm.

12 Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I sing, “No guilt in life, no fear in death…”
…because of Christ’s death and resurrection,
the reason for this season we are entering.

“To live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil.1:21)

Oh, Lord, I want to live well.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

After lunch, I went home with leftovers to prepare into freezable meals for the widow. That afternoon, I delivered my box along with soup and sandwiches. We had tea. And, thus begins the “new normal”. How shall we live?

Rushing home to feed my family, I then dash off to visit another old country church, that of the kind preacher who conducted this morning’s service. A heavy rope in the back is pulled to toll the bell; the service begins. In discussing “The Nine Tailors” this year with my children, I learned a great deal about the traditions of ringing in the year, the hour, a birth, a death. In the warm glow of the gas lit sanctuary, I pray, meditate, receive communion, and am exhorted to remember, ponder, consider, seek… I do.

“Lent” – Latin for “forty” … This is Day 1.

Comfort in a Cup of Tea

stuffy head, sore throat

This mortal body betrays me.
I am not invincible.
I am not immortal.

I am weak.
I am human.
Like all of humanity, I am dying from the day of my birth.

Oh, wretched heritage of sin and death. I would curse thee, but thou art already cursed. And I am one born under the curse, burried by the fall. — My brain is mush. It seems my mind has escaped me, blown into a pile of tissues all about me.

“tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
creeps in this petty pace from day to day
to the last syllable of recorded time…”
Macbeth, you sinner, you echo the tedium of life after the garden.

Who has not been here?
“the whole creation groans and suffers together right up to the present time” -amen, and don’t I know it, Paul.

I forget the hospitals filled with the ailing and dying as I “strut and fret” upon my busy stage; until… the virus, the bacteria, the microscopic-unseen enemy creep in and shows me for who I am:
frail
dust
vapor
grass
a fading flower

I move among the living dead,
groaning inwardly for the redemption of my body.

and yet,
it is because of the pain and fall that there is such great need for kindness, gentleness, compassion, mercy, grace…

in the darkness of all this, there is a brilliance of hope, of goodness.

It is the cup of water given in the name of Christ, because we belong to Christ.

how much more, when the water is boiled
and a tea bag is added,
soothing steam melt away and clear away all that clouds my head

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but the sick.”
It is when we are vulnerable that we are the most receptive to goodness, truth,…
our pride is broken down enough to see reality.

——-

It’s strange to read today what I wrote when I was sick.
Since then everyone in the house has had their turn to serve and be served.
I was up through the night with my youngest son, and I know from experience, he has about a week to be restless with temperature, cough, and cold.
What a comfort to know that all we face is “common to man”! We are never really alone. “And, this too shall pass.”

My intention in life is to suffer well when it is my turn, and then to be a blessing and an encouragement to others, to love and to serve.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.”

“Wouldn’t like to…”
…go to church?

What?

Are you kidding?

Which sounds more inviting:
the Cheers theme song or Sunday worship?

“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody
knows your name,
And they’re always
glad you came”

What if church was more like a bar?

A place for “the sinners” to gather, to find comfort, a listening ear, and a friend.

Recently, I’ve become familiar with a church that has a bar…
well, sort of.

Their church was growing so fast that rather than build a larger building, they decided to start another service in a nearby town at the Legion (which does have a bar that is open during the church service).

I even heard some one say that they hoped the folks that were headed to the bar on a Sunday morning might hear the music and decide to come on over.

A beer in one hand and a Bible in the other… What a picture!

The “church goers” come early to the Legion pancake breakfast fund-raiser each month and then walk about ten steps over to the other side of the bingo-hall for “church”.

Some of these folk have never been inside a church before this place, and fortunately, they never heard the lie that folks are “supposed” to pretend to have it all together in church.

“You want to be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same.”

I couldn’t help but think, this is what church is supposed to be like.
Come as you are. Leave with your burdens lighter (and no hang-over).

They end the service each week with this:
“Remember, when we leave, this place turns back into a bingo-hall; so take Jesus with you.”

If you’re like me,
“You want go where people know
People are all the same”

I’m not looking for the “perfect church” or for “perfect people”. I just want to be with humble people that give grace and encouragement to any sinner seeking God.

People ARE all the same.
We are all sinners.



Lord, You hung out with tax-collectors and sinners, prostitutes and pagans, lepers and thieves, and me. You loved them, died for them, freed them from their sin, and made them saints. 

The Church was Your idea. Forgive us for the ways we’ve shamed You and distorted Your plan, through Crusades and Witch Trials, through out history and even to this very day. 

Build Your Church, Lord Jesus. Make us pure and beautiful, ready for Your return. Use me and the other imperfect people that You have forgiven to share Your love. This is my prayer until You return, when every knee bows and every tongue confesses to the glory of God the Father that: 
You, Jesus Christ, are Lord.  

Wherever we gather around the world, may it indeed be a place  
“where everybody knows YOUR name”.

It’s All Good

“So, what season is it, Mama?”

Winter.

“I thought winter had snow.”

Usually.

This sure is a crazy winter,
isn’t it?

“No, mama. God did it; so it is good.”

We flipped the calendar and reviewed our months, holidays, and seasons.

Then stepping outside, my little one and I had this conversation.

Wise words from a little one bring deep thoughts…

We live in an area with distinct, predictable seasons:
Winter – white snow
Spring – brown mud
Summer – green grass
Autumn – colored leaves

This is April weather.
It’s not ‘supposed’ to be like this.

hmmm…

unless this is the way He wants it to be.

a chorus runs through my mind…

“Lord of all creation, of water, earth, and sky…”

“God of Wonders” (and Surprises), You amaze me. You are not predictable. I took these pictures and wrote these words yesterday, and today (Feb.2) the temperature is below freezing again (a drop of almost 30 degrees). Brrr… and wow!

You blow the winds across the earth,
cold fronts, warm fronts, colliding
hail and ice, storms and lighting
Who are You?

You are Lord.
You are the boss.
You are in control.

When the “seasons of my life” don’t look like they’re “supposed to”, when things are “unpredictable”, I will say with my daughter, “God did it; so it is good.”

I will lean back into Your arms and trust and wait to see what wonderful things You are up to, what surprises You have in store when You work all these things together for good.

You are good, and by faith I say, “ALL You do is good.”