Saturday, February 11, 2012
This is the story of my week (Feb 6-11) (wrote this Sat 2/11)
What is faithful living?
It is living each day with an assurance that God is good no matter what.
That God is providing- no matter what.
God is loving no matter what.
God is present no matter what.
It's knowing and feeling that God's grace is sufficient for all things.
It's trust and abiding
It is seeing joy in all things.
This week I have seen this. - In fact I see this all weeks... but I this week-- I was confronted with God's grace and faithful disciples of God in powerful ways.
As a pastor- I have the honor -- the deep deep powerful privilege to witness this- to experience it and see it every day.
Two of my dear friends have been on a journey that they have described as joyful and filled with God's grace.
One of them is dying.
But we know that this is not the end of the story.
My friend Joe* is dying and his wife Sarah* is a woman filled with the purest love and devotion.
Each day I've sat with them, prayed, hugged, held, read scripture, laughed, told stories.
I prayed, loved and pulled Sarah* into my lap literally as our smiles turn to laughs as we knew and exclaimed this is what God is doing with us! God is pulling us into God's lap! I had asked her what words she felt that day-- they were loved, embraced, sad.
The next day her words were peaceful, comforted.
I sat next to my friend Joe* and wept this week. Wednesday I was able to sit next to him and weep-- just me and weep. I told him stories of some of our times together. I read him scripture--out of his beautifully marked up bible. Scriptures traced with green pen, and highlighted... I read him my favorite Psalm 139 (marked my him as well-- and learned later from Sarah that it was one of his favorites). I read to him from John 14- so he could hear and know Jesus was waiting for him-- Jesus had gone and prepared a room for him. So he could know that Christ has not left the rest of us alone-- We are not orphaned. The Holy Spirit is holding him, and Sarah, and their two sons, and all of us who love, and weep, and will miss him. I read to him Revelation 21 telling us Heaven and this place where there will be no more crying, or tears, or mourning, or pain. A place where all are united in everlasting joy and praise of God.
I talked about joyful times when he wondered into my office and we would sit and talk for hours about life, theology, family, church, politics.... he would often tell me he was worried I was working to much and wanted me to slow down. He cared and wanted to hold me accountable. We challenged each other. We prayed, laughed, and shared joys. He always made me laugh-- he always had a way of disarming everyone around him and helping them to be at ease, authentic. He helped you to laugh at him, yourself, everything-- and to simply be humbled. Everything he did was to lift others and let them be whole as they are. He wanted you to feel like the hymn "Just as I am" that God loved you and he loved you.
Thursday I visited with my daughter Sophia.
Thursday is usually "day off" but I wanted to be there. I have Sophia with me on my day off. We dropped Grace off at preschool, dropped Kevin off at Starbucks for a meeting and got a few treats for us and a latte for me to take to Sarah*. Sophia is 3. We talked about Joe* and Sarah* and why we were going to visit.
I said, "We're going to go see our friend Joe and Sarah at a place called the Hospice.
Sophia said, the hospital? - she knows I go there a lot
It's a lot like that- I say. We are going to go tell them how much we love them and that God loves them. Our friend Joe is sick and he is going to go see Jesus."
That's about all we talked about...
We also sang some songs on our way (She loves to listen to the musical "Into the Woods" - she calls it "the fairy tale CD"). We got there and she got her own name tag- I signed the Clergy check in sheet.
We went in to visit and take Sarah a latte - I figured we drop off the latte, give hugs and prayers and head out. We came into the room and family and friends were gathered around as usual. Sarah had taken a much needed break (she's been living here) to go home and take a shower and change.
Sophia came in and smiled at everyone. She looked so so cute in this pink outfit top, skirt, and tights she picked out. I asked her if she wanted to go say anything to to Mr. Joe. She went up and said, "God loves you Mr. Joe!" and she kissed his hand.
There he was-- covered in his prayer shawl and prayer blanket from church, wearing a cross necklace from friends, and clutching the palm cross I brought him from Jerusalem. She kissed his hand as his hand clung to the cross.
Our wonderful Dir of Congregational Care (Kathy) took Sophia for a walk and I sat and prayed with *Joe.
Then off to find Sophia and figured we would head home. They have a beautiful sun room/sitting room at the Hospice and a giant toy box. Kathy and Sophia were happily playing with toys. She took every stuffed animal out-- we had a parade, and took them to the beach- she has an wonderful imagination. We visited for over an hour with family there as we played with toys.
(Pic of Sophia as we were leaving Hospice)
Friday afternoon I was able to go and I took my 4 year old Grace. I did not have long- Kevin was taking youth to Laser Tag and I had to get back by 5pm.
Grace is usually the first to hug anyone- she's been on many visits with me. She knows Mr. Joe. As we checked in and got her name tag other visitors came behind us and greeted Gracie which made her excited. When we came in - there were many people who love Joe who were there.
A couple with two small children ( a baby and preschooler) and Grace was excited to meet them. I asked her if she wanted to say anything to Ms. Sarah and and she said, "God loves you." I pulled the curtain back to reveal Joe- and Gracie responded by stepping back. She was scared and didn't want to go close. It was apparent that she knew him and he didn't seem as vibrant as what she knew. I said that it was okay. I gave him and hug and kiss and shared a prayer.
Gracie was more precocious than usual it seemed.
She asked Ms. Sarah- "Why are you here?
I said- she's here for the same reason we are- she loves Mr. Joe.
G- Do you live here?"
We all chuckled a bit. I said- she kind of does this week.
Then Gracie said, "This is like a really nice place..... But... is there a bathroom here?
Because I have to use the potty!"
(Awesome four year old conversation)
I then took her to the potty and then we wondered into the sun room area-- and she saw the toys. We had about 10 minutes and she played with the toys with Mr. Joe's father (a true pied piper loved by children just like Joe). I visited a bit more and then we headed home.
We had a very good conversation on the way there about how we were going to visit our friends Joe and Sarah. We love them and God loves them. Joe is going to go see Jesus soon and be in heaven. We talk a lot about my sister Sally (who passed away in 2000) and how she is in heaven.
I said- your Aunt Sally will greet Mr. Joe when he comes home to heaven.
Gracie talked about our dog Lady that died. "Is there a dog heaven Mommy?"
I'd like to think so, I said. God made everything. God loves dogs. But I don't really know. Maybe you should keep asking Jesus when you pray, I said.
But Mommy- Jesus doesn't talk back to me.
You know what Gracie? Sometimes he does-- but its not the same as when we talk. Sometimes when it is really quiet, we can hear God whisper to us. He speaks to our heart. Sometimes we feel what he wants us to understand through the Holy Spirit.
Grace- That's cool Mommy. Could Jesus help me walk on clouds?
I'm not sure, but if you became an astronaut... you could walk in space-- that's very much the same, and Jesus is always with you- so he is helping you do everything you do.
Mommy, I want to go to space- right now!
So as we turned the ramp onto Glebe Rd we had a countdown and blast off and our car became a space ship. We were in space.... we saw stars and planets and landed on the moon. Gracie saw every character from Star Wars.
But even with our conversation-- seeing Mr. Joe... even though we knew he would soon be in heaven, it was hard. It is hard for me. It hard for Sarah. Its hard for all of us.
It is hard but it is also amazing and wonderful and powerful and profound and embraced in joy.
Even Jesus wept as he stood outside the tomb of his dear friend Lazerus. He knew that death was not the end. In fact he raised him from the dead.
But first he wept. He mourned. He felt. He experienced this pain.
And he felt the joy of his friend walking towards him again.
Driving home Gracie and I had deep conversation about life, death, and heaven on the way home. I asked her how she felt when she saw Mr. Joe.
Gracie: I was sad and scared. I thought he was dead.
Me: He was sleeping really soundly. I know he looked really still. He held his cross in his hand. He is very peaceful.
Gracie: I liked the little boy and baby there! Ms. Sarah is sweet and pretty.
Me: He was a sweet boy.
Gracie: I had fun playing with the toys with Mr. Joe's Daddy. He was fun! ..... Mr. Joe is going to see Jesus soon?
Gracie: What is it like there?
Me: The bible tells us heaven is a wonderful place filled with joy and singing praises.
You know how you fall down sometimes and hurt yourself?
Me: Well- there is no more pain. No more crying or tears in heaven.
G: It is a wonderful place..... Mommy, When will you go to heaven?
Me: When I am an old, old, old, old, very old woman.
G: When I go to heaven I will be an old, old, old, old, old, old, old, old, old, very, very, very, very, very, old woman.
Me: Yes and we all be together in heaven.
G- Mommy- can I watch a show tonight?
Me-- We'll probably read books tonight....
etc. etc. etc.
I wrote this 11 days ago.
My friend *Joe went home to be with to the Lord on Valentine's Day.
Tonight is Ash Wednesday - tonight we said, "From dust you came, and to dust you will return."
Tonight we sang "What Wondrous Love is This" and as the last verse:
And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on, I'll sing on;
And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on.
And when from death I'm free, I'll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I'll sing on, I'll sing on;
And through eternity, I'll sing on.
Tears fell down my cheeks as we sang-- I was so sad, and so in awe, and so joyful-- all at the same time tonight. I confronted my sin and mortality- I confronted that my friend has returned to dust-- but in so - has returned to God. I contemplated the ways I am to return to Christ in this journey of Lent.
My friend has journeyed home.
No more pain.
Today we begin a journey with Christ to the cross.
The cross is a place of pain, and of redemption.
The cross is a place of death, and of new birth.
The cross is our home-- for it is where our dust is redeemed and transformed into new life.
The cross is our home-- for it is the place of victory over death.
We begin the journey to the cross today.
Somehow- this year, it is filled even more powerfully.
I am dust- and to dust I will return.
Praise be to God who created me from dust.
Who breathed life into me.
Praise be to Christ Jesus who washes me clean.
Praise be to God who has brought *Joe home.
Praise be to God who takes our ashes and makes all things new.
(*The names of my friends have been changed).