Monthly Archives: May 2014
I missed going to worship service last Sunday, due to illness.
I missed seeing my church friends and family.
I missed praying with my women’s prayer group.
I missed hearing the pastor’s message.
I missed singing choruses and hymns.
But I didn’t miss out on worship.
After resting most of the morning, I took a brief stroll in the yard. I dressed in frayed, blue pants and a stained sweatshirt and pulled on my chore boots–definitely not my Sunday-go-to-meeting best clothes. I walked the short circuit around the house to see the flowers that had come into bloom that week.
Orange poppies have begun their brief but vivid show. A new (to me) variety of geranium graces the front porch. Dame’s rocket has claimed a corner of the asparagus patch. The iris have unfurled their fleur de lis flags of white and gold and violet.
I marveled at the beauty in God’s creation and was thankful that He had created flowers with such exquisite color, shape, and fragrance. When I gazed more closely at the blossoms, I saw even more amazing details. Our God is an awesome God.
On Tuesday I read a quote from my brother-in-law’s sermon:
Worship is to encounter and experience the presence of the living God, Jesus Christ, and to respond in reverence, adoration, and praise to Him.
I encountered the Lord on the path around my house. I was reminded that He is the living God, the great Creator of life. How could I respond except with reverence and praise?
Even though I was not in the church building, I didn’t miss out on worship last Sunday. My worn and stained clothes weren’t a problem, because I was dressed in my Sunday-go-to-meeting heart.
A heart God is making new, ready to worship
For it’s not where we worship that counts, but how we worship—is our worship spiritual and real? Do we have the Holy Spirit’s help? For God is Spirit, and we must have his help to worship as we should. The Father wants this kind of worship from us. John 4:22-23 RSV
Let heaven and earth praise him, Psalm 69:34 NIV
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever. Psalm 86:12 NIV
You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. Nehemiah 9:6 NIV
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me. Psalm 13:6 NIV
These last few days in May have been gentle and stretched long.
Golden light and thunder showers have invited the tender walnut leaves to unfurl,
the asparagus to bravely push shoots toward the sky,
and the rose bushes’ buds to swell pink and white.
The thought of roses leads me to remember . . . January.
January’s days fell in the deep darkness of winter, when the short hours of sunlight barely warmed the afternoons.
January was a time of wind-sculpted, white drifts that piled up high against snow fences and blockade driveways and sidewalks.
January was also a month of many funerals. A friend, who worked with Hospice, said the dying often rally for Thanksgiving and Christmas and then, exhausted by their battle, surrender to death in the weeks following the holidays.
This January I was privileged to attend the memorial services of two souls who were ostensibly very different but who shared core values.
Doris was born in the shadow of World War I, the war that was supposed to end all wars.
Bill was born in the guarded optimism of the years just after World War II.
Doris was raised on a truck farm in Texas.
Bill grew up in small town Iowa.
Doris served in Quaker (Friends) meetings in Texas and the Midwest.
Bill served in the Army and was stationed in Germany.
Doris waited to be married to Tom until her thirties.
Bill proposed to Debi three days after meeting her.
Doris attended a Friends Bible College on the Kansas plains.
Bill received his Bachelors, Masters, and Juris Doctor degrees in California, Maryland, and Iowa.
Doris was a homemaker, mother, and pastor’s wife. She loved her family.
Bill practiced law and loved his family.
Doris taught Sunday School, served on committees in Friends churches, and ministered to the elderly. She was also known for her ministry of prayer.
Bill served as permanent deacon in his Diocese and to the parishioners of his local Catholic Church. He was known for his service to and leadership in many organizations in his diocese, church, and community.
Doris’ funeral included a time for open worship, where anyone who felt led of the Spirit could share, as is practiced in Friends meetings for worship. The fragrance of roses was in the air.
Bill’s funeral was a Mass of Christian Burial, with the rites and liturgy of a Catholic Mass. The scent of incense was in the air.
Doris’ life and Bill’s life are gifts, and if you set aside for a moment the Catholic and Quaker wrappings, you’ll see that the core of their lives is remarkably similar. They loved and served their communities, their churches, their families, and their Lord. That’s how they wanted to be remembered. Bill specifically asked that
any celebration of my life should be limited to my life in God and not to any mortal success or achievement I may have had.
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The feathery flakes of the latest January snowstorm had yet to drift when I walked across the sidewalk, compressing the snow under my boots. The next day the bitter, northwest winds scoured the cement clean and revealed my footprints.
A long, knee or hip-high drift always forms between our house and the shed where the truck is parked. We needed the truck that day because the roads hadn’t been plowed yet. My husband walked through the drift first in his size 12 boots, which made it easier for me to follow behind, stepping in his footprints.
Quakers often used a series of questions (called queries) to prompt the hearer to reflect on their life and relationship with God. Here are a few queries for us all:
The winds of time will blow away much of my life–what will remain?
Do my footsteps lead to the forgiving Savior?
Are loving and serving God priorities in my life?
Have the footprints I’ve made while walking with Jesus made it easier for those on the path behind me?
When the time comes for my memorial service, how would I like to be remembered?
Nearly a century ago an English Anglican priest recorded the details of funeral preparations for one of his parishioners and commented on her life:
As I write these words the last home is being decorated with heather and moss to receive the body of one whom I shall bury to-morrow, the last of my old parishioners, one of God’s saints, who has lived a white and fragrant life, loving and serving God, bringing up a family in the same holy line of life, and closing her eyes in peace to pass into the Land of Promise, which here we cannot see, but in which we can believe, and to which we hope to attain.
Rev. Sabine Baring Gould
(January 28, 1834 –January 2, 1924)
This is how I would like to be remembered, as Doris and Bill are, as one “who has lived a white and fragrant life, loving and serving God.”
Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation–an aroma redolent with life.
2 Corinthians 2:15,16 MSG
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Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee’s post Tell His Story: Long Days, Short Years where she challenged us to write* a “color poem.”
Child’s eyes watch white flakes
settling on yellow, daffodil cups.
Shivering, fearing that winter will never end,
never thaw into spring,
that it would be “always winter and never Christmas.”
The un-truth swirling in the snow whispers,
“Nothing will change.”
“There is no hope.”
No white lie, but a black one from the pit.
Wisdom’s eyes watch,
waiting for the potential
held in cold sap and dark roots,
White apple blossoms bud and bloom.
full of promise
of autumn’s white-fleshed, scarlet fruit.
Like incense smoke
prayers of hope rise.
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy,
fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives,
filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit,
will brim over with hope!
Romans 15:13 The Message
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* I didn’t notice the form we were supposed to use for the color poem until after I’d written mine.
Four hundred miles from home it began: the rib-rattling coughing, the sinus-exploding sneezing, the bone-aching fever, and blanket-clutching chills. A virus had set up camp in my respiratory system, and so our visit to relatives would need to be cut short. I would miss seeing my niece and nephew elegantly dressed for their school dance.
The photos of a town known for its spring flowers wouldn’t happen. I’d only managed a few shots in the yard before the rain began (the first day of many).
When I called my husband to tell him of the change of plans, he shared the unwelcome news from home: the internet was down (he wasn’t sure when it would be fixed), and the raccoons had been back on the front porch at 3 am, leaving behind “calling cards” that only raccoons can.
Sigh. Worse than the relentless march of the virus was the invasion of self pity. It had crawled across my defenses when I wasn’t paying attention. Did I really think I deserved a trouble-free life?
I tried to amuse myself on the long drive home by reading license plates of cars that passed us on the Interstate. Who was the farthest from home? What could their personalized license plates mean?
From the passenger seat I scanned semi-trailers, too, and tried to guess what the huge letters meant–were they acronyms or abbreviations? One truck’s trailer had four large letters across the rear doors (C,R,S,and T), and I attempted to make words out of them. The first badly-spelled word I created was “CuRST” (cursed). Is that how I felt this week, despite my intellectual efforts to remain “thankful in all things?” Then I realized I could have/should have made the word “ChRiST.”
Three days after I returned home the internet was restored with a simple reset of the modem, which is exactly what I needed–a reset of my attitude. I am grateful that changing the focus from my small “t” troubles to Jesus’ love and care helped transform my thinking. A few days of attending to my body’s physical needs (sleep in my own bed, good food, hot tea, and plenty of water) helped a great deal, too.
Do you remember the story of Elijah, when he ran for his life from Jezebel? He was physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. He wished his life was over and fell asleep under the broom bush, but God did not condemn him or leave him in that state.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
1 Kings 19:5,6 NIV
God let Elijah sleep again and provided more food and water to prepare him for the forty day journey to Horeb (the mountain of God). There the great Counselor gently asks in verse nine,
What are you doing here, Elijah?
Elijah answers that he has tried to be faithful to God’s call on him, but now he is the last remaining prophet and fears for his life. God then answers him by revealing Himself.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV
Elijah recognizes the “still, small voice” (KJV) is God’s.
Reset. God starts over and asks a second time,
What are you doing here, Elijah?
and Elijah answers with the exact same words, but this time the Lord reveals His plans for Elijah’s (and Elisha’s) future and the encouraging truth that thousands remained faithful to God. Elijah was not alone.
I am grateful for the healing process that God has created in my body.
I am grateful that my troubles are small, developed-world inconveniences.
I am grateful that Jesus understands our frailties and is gentle with us, caring for us body, mind, and soul.
I am grateful for the “still, small voice” of the Lord.
I am grateful for the ability to “reset” my attitude and my relationship with Jesus.
Oh, and one more thing I am grateful for–the book I was reading when I became sick was Rich Mullins: A Devotional Biography: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven (by ), and the chapter was “Bound to Come Some Trouble.”
I know there’s bound to come some trouble to your life
But reach out to Jesus and hold on tight
He’s been there before and He knows what it’s like
You’ll find He’s there
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NIV
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Background sunflower photos by Barb Briggs
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