Home Part 2…Memories

I’m getting settled. Husband and I have worked together to make our one room (large family room) function as bedroom, living room, office, and exercise space. Cozy. Putting the bed (twin with trundle) together was actually a fun experience. Sleeping in it even better.

Today in Arizona my siblings will be scattering my mother’s ashes across the desert she loved so much. Because of limited finances (neither husband or I have jobs or income), I decided not to fly out and participate. Part of me is sad to miss out, but the practical side of me won out. I will close my eyes and see her smile as she spoke of her love of the desert, and I will be okay.

Many years ago, after my dad died, we scattered his ashes on the 18th fairway of one of his favorite golf courses. At first this seemed odd. I had served as a pastor in several states, performed many funerals, and each one ended in a cemetery. Dad wanted to be cremated: pragmatic and cost effective. No services: too emotional, not his style. So, casting his cremains where he would be happiest made sense. Enough that it then became my mother’s wish to follow suit.

Here’s what makes that extra special in my mind. Every time I pass a golf course (and I did that daily on my way to work for the year after Dad died) I would think of my dad. I would remember his smile and stories of good games and lousy outings when he got home and put away his clubs. My husband golfed with my dad and it has been a special source of memories for him, too. That’s how we remember Dad. Not e don’t have to go to a certain cemetery and stare at a rock. We see him alive and happy.

So today, Mom will become one with the desert, and that makes me smile, but it will forever be owls that will trigger my memories of Mom. Like this little guy, perching on my coffee mug. It will be endless games of Scrabble, or Words with Friends…and I’m sure she would have loved Wordle.

This morning, I’m immensely grateful for the past two years (see previous posts that explain this life change). The cost was enormous. The discomfort, loneliness, distance, and loss immeasurable. I can’t thank my husband, daughters, and grandchildren enough for supporting me and loving me through this.

Once when I was in the throes of a teenager angsty tantrum, Mom and I had words. Exasperated, I went to the garage where my dad was creating beautiful pinecone wreaths. I had barely left the steps when the angry words came tumbling from my mouth, “How do you put up with her?”

He slowly removed his work gloves, set them on the table, and turned to look at me. I swear the moment was developing in the slowest motion possible. I stepped onto the garage floor and waited for him to speak.

“She’s your mother and you will respect her.”

That’s it. That’s all he said and then he went back to work.

I thought about that scene several times over my two years caring for Mom. Her rigid schedule and OCD behaviors could make me crazy in a blink. Her quirky rituals and superstitions most times made no sense…but that’s how she was. And I learned that I not only respected her, but loved her fiercely. And I would do whatever it took to make sure she was happy and well-cared for…to the very end.

I miss daily Scrabble. I miss knowing what day it was and exactly when it would be time to eat…and what. Nine pineapple chunks for breakfast with sliced banana—12 slices and exactly the same size. How to make a half a deli ham and sliced swiss cheese sammich with just the right amount of mustard. Dinner: Monday hotdogs; Tuesday boca burger; Wednesday mashed potatoes with Lloyds bbq; Thursday Gorton’s panko fish portions; Friday pizza; and Saturday grilled cheese. Sunday was up for grabs, but her two favorites were jumbo shrimp from Culvers, or a quesadilla from Chipotle.

I miss so much, but more than things…I have memories.

Lenten Thoughts: Service

I’ve always thought that I had a servant’s heart. I’ve gone so far as to consider getting a personalized tag for my car with the Greek word for servant. I would and will do whatever I’m asked. I look for ways to make the lives of others more comfortable and enjoyable. Today as I worked with my little lady with Alzheimer’s, I decided perhaps I needed to rethink this.

As is sometimes the case, she was not in a very good frame of mind when she emerged from her bedroom. She immediately began to fuss and grouse and order me about. And it had an instant effect on my spirit. I wanted to point out all the things I do and justify myself. Not a very good servant response.

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What I decided was: serving is easy when it’s easy to serve. As soon as it gets difficult or dirty, we find ways to back out. And if we don’t turn away, our attitude slips a little.

Here’s Paul’s take on servanthood: 1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:1-5a, NIV)

I think that part of what I learned putting these verses together with my run in the other morning is that it’s so not about me. My feelings were hurt when I felt unappreciated. Serving others can’t depend on their expression of gratitude. Jesus told his disciples if they were working for the pat on the back of others then that would be the sum of their reward. What we need to motivate us is not the praise of people, but the well done from God.

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Jesus could teach this because he understood it. It was pretty clear that Jesus didn’t back away when things became difficult or painful. His service took him willingly to the cross. And that’s whose mindset we are to emulate.

I have a lot to learn about being a Jesus kind of servant. I think I’m going to skip the license plate—probably even the t-shirt.

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Rebuilding with Nehemiah, Chapter 7, Day 1


Text: After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed.

Teach: Nehemiah is a very wise leader. He knew he couldn’t do the work alone, so he appointed assistants. It was a lesson Moses’ father in law taught him and even Jesus employed.

WP Neh devo 7 availability or ability

Take: There is so much work to be done for the kingdom. Some of it is upfront, while other work happens behind the scenes by people who rarely get or want credit. Where you work is not as important as if and when.

Task: Have you been gifted for a special service in the church or community? Take time to assess your gifts and your readiness to work. There is always something to be done, and something special just for you.

WP Neh dev 7 1 Pt 4 10

Prayer Patrol

As I began the year, I asked God to give me a word or theme that would be a guide for me as I journeyed through the days. The word that seemed to bubble up for me was prayer. Right on the heels of that I found and ended up teaching Will Davis, Jr.’s book, “Pray Big” at church. No sooner had I started that than I was asked to participate on a parachurch weekend team in the position of prayer. I like it when God makes things that plain.

This weekend is the time when I will be sequestered away and focused on prayer. I can barely describe how honored and humbled I feel to be given this opportunity. I have been part of the music ministry, given talks, and even been responsible for the spiritual direction of the weekend, but being asked to pray…wow.

During our last team meeting I was sharing with someone how blessed I feel to participate this way. I mean, when was the last time someone told you that all you had to do for the next three days is pray? Some might consider that boring or a daunting task. Not me.

Now the downside to this hit me last Sunday as I sat quietly in my pew at church preparing for the worship service to begin. I read over the list of prayer concerns within our congregation and was immediately aware of a heaviness in my heart. My eyes filled with tears as I realized that to really be engaged and involved in the ministry of prayer is be broken, broken and open to the needs and hurts of others and broken and open to the God of Heaven whose deepest desire is to meet those needs.

I have thought about that a lot this week. I have walked through the week with a new sensitivity and awareness. Prayers have been whispered immediately so as not to be forgotten. I gained a deeper connection with the way the Word describes how Jesus was moved with compassion as he looked out at the people of that day. Are you familiar with those passages? Two places in Matthew’s gospel, Matthew 9:36, and 14:14, describe how Jesus responded when he looked out over the crowd and saw their needs, both physical and spiritual. Later, in Luke 15, we find the story of the Prodigal Son, which could be called the Loving Father. In it we find that when the son finally comes to his senses and is walking home, practicing his apology along the way, he is swept off his feet by his father who deaf to the son’s words meets him “filled with compassion.”

I have often been put in the position of pray-er because of my former ministerial roles or my personality, spiritual and extrovert. It’s like being given the job of secretary in a group because you’re the only girl. I used to respond with a ready, “Have prayers will pray.” I never minded it, but I don’t think I really got the real deep meaning until recently. Being looked to as one who prays is an awesome responsibility.

I remember how this awareness came to a church I attended many years ago. Our beloved pastor was dying due to the ravages of cancer. It got to the place where the cure was worse than the disease and were put in the position of standing beside him as he finished his journey. Fortunately, our congregation had several retired or unassigned pastors, I was one, who were able to divide the responsibilities and make sure that there was no lapse in spiritual leadership. During this time, the prayer life of this congregation reached a new and deeper level, and the really amazing thing was how it went beyond the walls of our building. People in the community began to see how our lives and the life of the fellowship was being changed by prayer. We began to receive calls from people asking for prayer, people who had no ties to our body, but who were moved by the prayers of the people there.

I want to be that kind of person of prayer. I don’t want to be a “rent a pray-er” or someone who gets the job just because of a role or theological training. This broken feeling is heavy, but I don’t want to lose it–not because it makes me special, but because it forces me to go deeper in my relationship with God. There are moments when I just feel I can’t not pray. (Yes, I know that’s a double negative.) I’m praying as I walk through Walmart, at the bank, for the loud kid and frustrated parent at the Library. I pray for the car speeding by me that they will arrive safely and if they’re speeding because they’re trying to get to someone at a hospital (because no one should be in that big a hurry for any other reason…). I’m starting to see that anything and everything can be turned into prayer.

I feel ready for this weekend. That’s a little scary. I believe that there are going to be some tough spiritual battles this weekend. It won’t be a cakewalk. But the words spoken to Esther by her uncle have been ringing in my ears: you have been chosen for such a time as this.

Have you ever wondered what you have been chosen for? What will God accomplish through you this weekend? Do you believe that he wants to be that intentional in your life? Will you be open to it?

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