Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Go, Silent Friend

At long last, my friend with cancer, who I have blogged about over the last year, has breathed her last. However, through Christ she and not death will have the last word. My fiercely determined friend, with whom there has been intense and personal sharing, more than our fair share of laughs, and more than a couple glasses of wine. Who lived life writ large- big smile, big laugh, big heart. With piercing eyes that could sparkle with great Irish wit, or slay you with the glacial glare if you have hurt her clan. Never afraid to be real and honest and loving- NOW. She has been a friend, a confidant, a client, a supporter, and the person that would tell you that you just did, or were about to do, a really stupid thing. If she had your back, there was little to fear.
In this week I, like many of my peers will be meeting on Friday ( Reformation Day) with my candidacy panel. I hope and pray that I will be recommended for endorsement to continue my studies and discernment. On Sunday, our younger daughter, our spare teen and six other youth will participate in their affirmation of baptism. Juxtaposed between these two days will be the service for my friend. In many ways a microcosm of ministry and life in the community of faith. And it has become time to honor the promise she asked me to make, that week she learned she had cancer. When she swore she would beat it, but just in case, " will you sing at my service?" Our eyes both welled up as I assured her that day was farther off than it might seem.

Gracious God, we give you thanks for the life and witness of one who we so deeply loved and who so deeply loved us. We give you thanks for that ways in which you used her devotion, and her example of faith in good times and in struggle, that helped us to be faithful too. We give you thanks for the saving act of the life, death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, and the promise that nothing can separate us from your love. May this bring comfort in the times ahead as we mourn our loss, and may we also be sustained by the memories of the gift of time with which we were blessed. In the name of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

A year and a half. The gift of time we shared as friends after that day, the day when I promised and acted as a friend, when it seemed so distant. Any thought I had that this had been forgotten was dispelled when today I learned that the service had been planned. From my friend's notes throughout her illness. Notes now scooped up lovingly and brought to the church, by her devoted hubby. And among the wishes and thoughts, that I would sing a solo, the words she wanted to leave with those who mourned. So after I have assisted with communing the gathered, the post-communion canticle will be this song, sung to the tune of "Londonderry Air," more popularly known as the tune of "Danny Boy."

"Go Silent Friend"
The Iona Community

Go, silent friend,
your life has found its ending:
To dust returns your weary mortal frame.
God, who before birth called you into being,
Now calls you hence, his ascent still the same.

Go, silent friend,
your life in Christ is buried;
For you He lived and died and rose again.
Close by His side your promised place is waiting
Where, fully known, you shall with God remain.

Go, silent friend,
forgive us if we grieved you;
Safe now in heaven, kindly say our name.
Your life has touched us, that is why we mourn you;
Our lives without you cannot be the same.

Go, silent friend,
we do not grudge your glory;
Sing, sing with joy deep praises to your Lord.
You, who believed that Christ would come back for you,
Now celebrate that Jesus keeps his word.

Til we meet again, my dear friend. You have won- Thanks be to God. +

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ocean Wide

I am planning a confirmation lesson in our study of the commandments. We are up to "you shall not bear false witness." Of course, we all know that this is about lying, perjury, gossip, false promises. But it is also about prejudice and our ways of denying someone their true identity as a child of God. This may mean one thing in the middle school cafeteria, but on the world scale, it means so much more. So much is being bantered about these days concerning race, racism, gender, gender bias, that I offer this song by Mark McLachlan.
Ocean Wide

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Saved the World Today

I have been on a break from blogging. Too many personal things that needed attention, followed by nasty sickness that almost ended me up in the hospital with pneumonia. But the drugs are helping my lungs and the rest of the world is back to the normal levels of insanity we love.
Here in the middle of what is known as the "T" in Pennsylvania, we are bracing ourselves for the final crush toward election day. The "T" is the center and across the northern tier of Pennsylvania, considered to be the more "conservative" area- as in expected to vote Republicans into office. Here, in my corner of the world, people actually disagree about who is the more True Republican, True conservative, True man in the image of Reagan..get the picture? Our area is expected to turn out en masse and offset the "liberal cities." As though somehow those of us who live here are a monolith of Republicans who swarm on command. We could I suppose have been the " vast right wing conspiracy" of days gone by. And now we are bracing because we have learned that McCain considers Pennsylvania win-able and a "must win." And we have gotten a few McCain and Palin visits. Probably more to come. I cringe to see what mail or phone calls await in the "Get out the Vote" frenzy. My neighbor has an Obama sign he brings in at night so no one will steal, maim or otherwise wreck it. The TV, radio, internet, and even gaming worlds are slathered with ads, and bold claims. And in the midst of this I look at our country with the financial structure lurching, with resources in ever greater straits, and wonder amidst the soundbites, where is it all headed? I have watched my daughters' college accounts dwindle frighteningly- so much for saving. I see my friends agonizing about jobs, and health care, and the cost of heating.
And yet in the midst of this, I can't help but wonder whether anyone really believes that somehow a change in the Resident at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue is somehow going to miraculously save the day. I guess in the end, the decision is one of who you think will actually try to effectuate dialogue and action, versus someone who will not; and someone whose running mate you would actually be OK with seeing be the commander in chief if something ( God forbid) happened to the President.
And while I find all of the SNL and Jon Stewart bits entertaining there is a sadness that bespeaks something deeper in us that needs a laugh because the truth is too painful.
All of which made me think of the Eurythmics song, " I Saved the World Today" hence the title of the post. Since the embed is disabled, the best I can give is a link.

I Saved the World Today

This is indeed a time in our country where changing landscape for many will call ever more upon us to help those in need, and a time when the message we offer over and against the swirl around us, is needed. And while none of us will "save the world" I think all of us can make little differences, ones we are called to make in the lives of those in our midst. Let us not fall into the trap that things are too big to face.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm a Supporter of The Girl Effect

As the parent of two teenaged girls, I am often struck by the vast differences between what my Lutheran Chicks face at their ages, and the reality for much of the world's girls. And so I am proud to support the efforts of The Girl Effect- after you watch this video, or visit their website at The Girl Effect, I hope you will walk away with food for thought.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Greatness of Small Things

So often we think about our actions and interactions in grand scale, the things we buy, the places we go and the actions we take. In part this is because many of us can make hundreds of choices every day and not really think about the immense freedom associated with our decisions. For a fair number of us, we also do not have to engage in serious contemplation about the cost of things or what it will take to acquire them. As our economy has undergone mounumental shift, it seems that our thinking may be reoriented. What if most of us needed to be a lot more intentional and a lot less cavalier? What if both our money and our mobility affected how we acted regarding ourselves and each other?
This week I thought about that even more, as I was a part of my friend's memorial service. Her health care costs and lack of mobility played an overwhelming role in limiting her, or so one would think.
Yet person after person spoke of her lovingly as a caring, insightful and connected person who regularly, as recently as three weeks ago was ministering to all. And doing so in the most touching ways. A phone call to leave a message- thinking of you. A homemade card collage of words and pictures from magazines that spoke to her of a particular person or their circumstance, painstakingly cut out, and fashioned. A cup of tea in the kitchen or on the porch when you stopped by. When people asked what she needed, she asked for new kinds of tea to try with friends. I gave tea, but what I got in return far exceeded the value of the tea. If one was away too long, a tea bag in the mail, with a note to sit and have a cup and call, or just relax.
A quiet ministry of little moments. Moments far more priceless than all the "great things" our culture convinces us we must possess.
My friend at one time had a great many things that she lost, but like Paul in his letter to the Philippians, what she gained was far greater. A faith deeper than almost any I have known, and a true sense of presence in Christ in a self-emptying few of us would seek.
As I sat in a packed sanctuary, I saw the intertwining of all of those little things, almost unnoticeable things many of us fail to even contemplate in our pursuit of great things. And it seems to me that my friend gained the greatest gift, a life in Christ, which she imparted to each of us, even when we didn't see it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Missing You My Friend

I have not blogged since I went to see my friend as the chaplain. She was vented, but desperate to talk. Her lips movedly rapidly while her teeth clenched the tubes. Agonizingly I struggled to grasp what she wanted to tell me. I figured out it involved "Me." Then I figured out it involved her "Face." Then eventually I figured out she needed something. I tried a white board with letters but they were not big enough. I tried charades. But eventually, after a long ardous process, I figured out she wanted three things, the hair out of her face, to see herself in the mirror and her glasses. The doctor came to tell her they wanted to try a time of weaning her off of the vent. She asked me to stay with her. Just to be there for her, so she was not alone. And then to call her husband, my friend and tell him that she had been transported without her glasses, to spend a few minutes supporting him, as he cried on the phone. For awhile it looked like it might get better. But then the hope started to fade. And her daughter shared with me that if her Mom wasn't going to get better, she rather deal with the loss than the stuck-ness. And to talk with the husband- it is so exhausting and the emotions have a hard time keeping up with what they intellectually are learning. Statistically, MS does not kill you, something else does. But my friend is the exception. And by yesterday they knew there was nothing more to be done. And this morning, the long, exhausting stuck-ness, and struggle came to an end for my dear sweet friend. Once an accomplished flute player, that's how she and her sweetie met- in the orchestra. My Jeopardy-watching buddy every Monday night during LC#2's trombone lesson. And long and humorous conversations about the roller coaster ride of raising our girls. A spark of joy and laughter, who always called me to see how I was doing in seminary. A time when she could connect even when she was trapped in the wheelchair until the schoolbus brought company at the end of the day. A stack of reading by the chair, to pray her way through the bad days. Prayers for your sweetie and daughter as they navigate this new territory. For you my friend, the hard part is done and you are free of the bondage of a horrible disease. Till we meet again.