Dying or Being Born?

Psalm 34:18

The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

I got a call the other day that my very dear friend.  Her mother-in-law is losing her battle with life, with Alzheimer’s.  No longer is it only her mind that is lost, but her body is failing now too.  How can we comfort those who have already lost so much, those for whom losing even more is imminent?  I found a poem written by Tim Garner who writes:

her-memory

Her Memory

The floor was her stage

when she moved to the music

now the floor, was her cage

mind and body arthritic

every decision she makes

made in hesitation

the words that once flowed

uttered in reservation

A mind full of memories

she can no longer grasp

like sand through the fingers

of hands that can’t clasp

color fades from her eyes

with the walls closing in

memories but ghosts

of things that had been

when the memory goes

time starts to slow

frustrated, confusion

it’s all they know

I question you God

what have you to gain

when the faith that we place

is rewarded in pain

When the weight of this life

drives our knees to the floor

do you lend us a hand

or pile on more

When I look in her face

does she know who I am

is the person I know

trapped deep within

When the disease gets a hold

the mourning begins

it’s death without dying

it’s loss without end.

~ Tim Garner

I wonder, is that how they’re feeling, those left behind?  If so, what about the lost, who can not express?  Where do we find healing?

Alzheimer’s Prayer

Father, free me from these walls

which imprison my mind.

Bring me from this place

into your arms and good grace.

Grant me wings to fly,

unto the sky with angels,

that from this horrid forgetfulness

I may emerge in heaven,

enter through the pearly gates,

stand by your side with

All who I ever loved

And be no more in this broken shell

where my masters are they who

know you nor me not.

Amen.

~ Terry Lynch

It occurs to me that in baptism we die to sin and are raised up to new life in Christ Jesus.  Isn’t it the same then, in death?  In liturgy we drape the coffin or urn in white, signaling the newly-baptized, new life with Christ Jesus.  Another birth.  This is our promise as Christians.  Death is not the end.

Revelation 7: 14-17

These are they who have come our of great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.  Never again will  they hunger; never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

These are God’s promises to you, to me.  No longer will there be any pain, any suffering, or any tears.  He has cloaked those he loves with his great white light and gives them eternal life with him.  And one day, this light and life will guide you and me as well.  We will be with all of those whom we’ve loved in this life, in the next.

 

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From Palms to the Cross

 

Palm Sunday at CHN

Palm Sunday at CHN

Holy week is now upon us.  This is one of my favorite times of the church, when we are asked to share in Christ’s love, joy, and sorrow.  Jesus comes to us humbly on a donkey.  You’ll see above and below, that CHN (my parish) starts it’s service outdoors with shouts of Hosanna! noise makers and the waving of Palms.

Palm4

Palm15

It’s a service that begins with joy and transitions right into the Passion story as the shouts change from Hosanna! to Crucify Him!  We had a guest preacher, The Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows from the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, who gave us a lovely homily.  Thank You.

Jesus comes to us on a donkey.  A humble animal, a working animal.  No one would call it magnificent or striking.  It’s a donkey.  An animal that carries heavy loads or gives rides to children, certainly not an animal any king would ride.  What do we learn here?  What to we see here?  Is it significant?  I think so.  Jesus is preparing to do his final work, the work he was sent here on earth to do.  To carry our very heavy loads.  Paraphrased, to carry our very heavy burdens.  This final work, so we can be free of them, our burdens, our heavy loads and we can experience joy and be filled with the light of Christ at Easter.

Yesterday was Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday.  One might say our sermon had the title, Stinky Feet.  Another reminder of Christ’s becoming a servant for us, that he brings himself to the ground to wash our feet.  I’ll be honest and say, I don’t usually partake in the washing of feet.  I’m usually singing in the choir as people receive this beautiful gift.  But as many of you know who have read this blog, it has been a challenging Lent for many at my parish.  The love and the humble service from my sisters and brothers at CHN has so moved me, so humbled me, that I felt I must take part.  I had to take the time with tear filled eyes, to take part, because I am a part of this community filled with so much hope, love, and compassion…and always the strength to overcome.  Strength that comes to us from knowing, that God is with us and God will take care of us.  God is showing us lessons of faith, experienced through the tangible, our life’s realities.  What a gift to know and experience this kind of Love.

MThurs2

Thinking of you T.J., with Love and Peace

As my dear friend prepares for her open heart surgery today, and fear and worry can’t be helped, I wanted to honor her and ask for your prayers that God will be with the surgeons and my faithful friend during this time.

Matthew 18: 19-20

Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.

 

If you’re not familiar with Baylor University’s Christian Reflection, a series in faith and ethics, I highly recommend it.  T. J. introduced it to me when we served on the Christian Formation Committee together at CHN.  They publish a new series each month to reflect on.  These can be done in any order.  This month, for obvious reasons, I pulled out the series on Lent.  I want to share a song written by Eric Howell, a pastor from Day Spring Baptist Church in Waco, TX.

Come Near Today   ~  By: Eric Howell

The holy son of God descends

to human pain and need.

O Lord, to my assistance come.

Come quickly, Lord, to help me.

With love assured, your healing word,

the Spirit’s flame, your holy name.

Redeeming grace in this place –

come near today to help me.

Who is this man, the Great I Am,

who loves so fierce and free?

My Lord! You lived our suffering.

Come quickly, Lord, to be near me.

 

Refrain

The holy Son of God walks on

to darkened Calvary.

To bear his cross is now our path.

Come quickly, Lord, to lead me.

Refrain

Now may our prayer be joined with his

through life’s uncertainty.

O Lord, to my assistance come.

Come quickly, Lord, to save me.

 

Refrain

This was in my reflection this morning.  It comforts me to know that God finds a way to give words of comfort, hope, and peace.  A gentle reminder to come to him in our time of need.  May God, the healer, guide the hands of the surgeons this day and be with T.J.  Give her peace and calm as she awaits her surgery later today.  Be with P.G., that she feel the love and presence of God’s spirit, while she awaits word from the surgical team.  Be with C.J. Lord, as she tries to make it through classes.  Give her a clear mind and assurance that all will be well.

Psalm 147:3

He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.

 

It’s OK to cry…

Tears1

Today has been a rough day.  I’ve felt very emotional and out of sorts.  I’d even say, a bit anxious.  This morning, I couldn’t seem to stop crying, and the urge to still lingers.  The slightest thought seems to bring it about.  Why is that?

I’m on steroids and hormones.  Tomorrow is a very big day.  It’s the FET day.  The day I hope to become pregnant.

Where every day in this process I’ve felt mostly at peace, full of calm and hope…today I feel disjointed.  Sad.  Yet underneath it all, I also feel strong.  Talk about contradictions.  This is me.  This is where I am, and it’s OK.

Reverend Aimee gave me a blessing today after church.  I was anointed with oil and hands, loving hands, were placed on my shoulders.  A child crying in the background.  A stern talking to for bad behavior as the prayer started.  Excited dogs running around the kitchen.  Lunch half eaten at the table.  Can you picture it?  The craziness?  The madness?  Parenthood?  …and this I hope to fill my life with myself.  How appropriate.  I recall saying under my breath, “awesome”.

DogBlessed

And then, regrouping, we prayed.  Now four hands…loving hands, strong hands, comforting hands.  I was feeling so weak, but with the sudden quiet, the hands, even the dogs still and underneath my chair.  I felt blessed.  I felt loved.  Yes, I was blessed by 4 hands and 8 paws in a kitchen, amidst the chaos of life.  Beautiful.

David

That said, something tragic happened this week.  David Lamb, a boy I grew up with, a boy who played with my brother, my late brother, died.  This was a young man, his whole life ahead of him.  A husband, a son, a brother, and a friend to many.  How is it that this one family, at some point or another, have children who have all been affected by cancer at some point in their lives?  I remember when Michael (David’s older brother, who is my age) had leukemia as a teen.  I’m thankful and happy to say, he survived.  Now years later David, also with leukemia, has lost his battle.

I suppose in many ways it reminds me of my own family…our own losses.  I’ve lost 2 bothers at separate times, in separate places, from tragic accidents.  You wonder…I wonder…   All in one family?  Why?  Then there’s that ugly, awful doubt that comes at me from behind wondering if more heartache is yet to come.

Of course, the answer is YES.  Where there is joy, there is sadness and despair.  But then I remember the security I have KNOWING, that God is always there.  God is always with me.  And yes…You can…I can…We must get through it.  Always, through the darkness there is light, love, and promises of a better tomorrow.

Reaching for the Divine

 

While praying one day a woman asked,

“Who are you, God?”

He answered, “I am”.

But who is I am?

He replied, I am love,

I am peace, I am grace,

I am joy, I am strength,

I am safety, I am shelter,

I am power, I am the creator,

I am the comforter,

I am the beginning and the end,

I am the way, the truth, and the light.

With tears in her eyes,

she looked toward heaven and said,

“now I understand, but who am I?”

God tenderly wiped the tears

from her eyes and whispered,

“You are mine.”

 

~Author Unknown

So I’ve been browsing for different prayers, meditations, and guided spiritual practices for my own reflection. What keeps coming back to me is my own soul connected so tightly or closely to music. It is what at times has given me peace, allowed expression of joy and sorrow, and is a bridge for me to meander into different spaces that I might not otherwise be comfortable with or in. I believe it’s my soul’s language and allows me an openness and vulnerability that my own cognative mind won’t open on its own.   It’s funny, but as I flipped through the marked pages of my 4th Edition Maranatha! A music book of praise hymns and choruses, I noticed a distinct correlation to where I am and what kind of path I am on in my life. I should tell you these pages have been marked for years, simply because I find joy in them.   Today it’s different. It’s like I’ve been preparing for this time all these years, when I sit and play and find peace and comfort in these very simple songs.

As we seek your face,

may we know your heart,

feel your presence,

acceptance,

as we seek your face.

~Dave Bilbrough

Psalm 27:4

    Am I seeking?   Always.

I cast all my cares upon you,

I lay all of my burdens down at your feet.

And any time I don’t know what to do,

I will cast all my cares upon you.

~Kelly Willard

Psalm 55:22

    Have I intentionally left these burdens to God?  I’d like to say “yes”.  I can certainly say that I make it my intention every day and when I am tempted to fill my mind with fear and worry, I pray.  Prayer keeps me grounded. God’s presence when I tell him to help me let it go, grounds me.

You alone are my strength and shield.

To you alone may my spirit yield.

From As The Deer

~Martin Nystrom

Psalm 42:1

I have sung this phrase in many languages and different songs, and no matter what the piece, it always speaks to me. There is someone to be strong for me when I am weak; someone to shield me when I need comfort. This simple phrase, this song of many is always with me.

May God be with you and bless you as you walk your own journeys.