Sunday, October 8, 2017

"A Prayer As I Ponder Creeds, Hymns and Prayers'


(A prayer as I think upon the sermon series based on The Apostles' Creed by Dr. Michael Gehring / Broad Street UMC / Statesville, NC)

O God, I will admit that there are times in a worship service when I fall silent and listen to those around me sing the hymns or join together, in like belief, to say the Apostles Creed or pray in unison (yet with their own inflections) the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray.

I hear memories of my grandmother, sliding up and down the notes of the old hymns. I hear a child's voice praying the Lord's Prayer and think, quite possibly, my voice in my own childhood sounded much like that to those who sat near me so many years ago. I hope so. I stand beside my mother and hear her belief in the same creed that is within me (even in her different "raising").

It is a beautiful thing to hear the old and young, the women and men and children, the perfect-pitch and the off-key. I thank you for each one of these voices. And then there are times when I sing and pray and stand together with others in our statements of faith and hear only my voice. I give thanks that what I sing and pray and declare is for me. I claim my beloved status in your heart in song and faith and prayer.

As rich as I feel, O God, you say, "Become a servant." If I truly listen to those around me in this world, I will hear humming, or see prayers and faith creeds in action ... hymns and prayers and creeds outside of the sanctuary walls as others, too, have heard "Become a servant." It isn't easy (but then again, you said that it wouldn't be easy, didn't you?). Hum with me in my days. Hear my prayers. Help me to turn creeds of faith into actions of faith.

Amen.

Monday, September 4, 2017

"The Wealthiest of All"


During the month of August, while Mom was in the hospital for rehab because of her July 30th stroke, we (Mom, Steve - my younger brother - and I) grew to love the CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) who work in skilled nursing. And they fell in love with Mom (and maybe a little with Steve and me as well).

One of the blessings of the month of August at Iredell Memorial Hospital is that as Mom remembered names of CNAs (and the names of their children … and the CNAs’ hopes and dreams and goals in life), she began to celebrate who they all are apart from the hospital. She listened to them and they listened to her. Steve and I found common ground and laughter, and even a few long-running jokes began to develop between a couple of the CNAs and us.

One CNA came back to the hospital on her day off to visit with Mom one last time before Mom’s discharge. Mom told us of how this young single mother was raising her son to love school, be responsible and respectful (she told this young mother often how proud she was of her). The young CNA/mother kissed Mom and, as she left, said, “If I’m ½ the mother Miss Betty is, I will be OK.” A hospital housekeeper brought her husband into Mom’s room after they had gone to church so that her husband could meet Mom. And yet another hospital housekeeper brought her brother and young grandson into Mom’s room so that they could also meet her. A CNA on the nightshift quietly came into Mom’s room in the middle of the night and wrote, “I love you” and drew a heart on Mom’s bedside notepad.

I have learned a lot during this time....

1.) Life can change in a flash.

2.) There is a mysterious strength that begins to surface in our weakest moments if we will allow it to do so … and if the strength and care of those who are there to help are welcomed. In those times, God quietly comes into our darkness and writes “I love you” on the notepads of our hearts.

3.) Everyone has life stories, goals, dreams, hopes, and struggles. Everyone has a smile to offer, time to listen, and love to give. EVERYONE … no matter what the color that our skin might be, or stage of life, or accents, or place of birth.    EVERYONE (am I saying that so that all might hear?)

4.) Wealth has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with love and generosity of heart.

For the month of August, I was in the presence of many “wealthy" people for there was a lot of love and generosity of heart in Room 134 at Iredell Memorial Hospital.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"In Remembrance of Crumbs"


(Matthew 15:21-28 ... life and lectionary scriptures come together)

“In remembrance”,
 the young minister said
as he pointed to a prepared table.
Whispers could be heard.
“Christ’s body … Christ’s blood”.
Over and over again -
“Christ’s body … Christ’s blood”.
The words ended only
 when all had been fed.

The crumbs of the ripped-apart loaves
had fallen at his feet.
When all had been served,
the minister, a guest in the church,
bent down to pick up one crumb.
“Tidy”, I thought.
“He is so tidy.”

The service soon ended.
While all others were shaking hands
and discussing where to meet
for Sunday lunch,
the minister, this guest in our ‘house’,
fell to his hands and knees
and began to pick up crumbs.
One at a time - crumb after crumb …
finally brushing them
with one hand
into a small pile of crumbs.

I whispered to him,
“You shouldn’t do that.
I will clean the crumbs
from the carpet.”
He looked at me,
still on his hands and knees,
and said …
“I have been made worthy
to receive these crumbs.
I do this in remembrance.”

And then with a smile, he whispered,
“Would you care to join me?”
And so, that morning
I found myself on my knees,
picking up crumbs,
brushing them into a small pile.
This, too, I did ‘in remembrance’
of the day when I said,
“Lord, help me” …
the day that the
crumbs of Grace
filled me with
Holy Nourishment.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"An Angel in Our Midst" (8-14-17)


I walked into the tea room at the hospital earlier this evening, wanting only a sandwich and iced tea. The person who took my order said, “Have a seat (pointing to the dining area, such as it is). Your sandwich will be ready in a minute or two.”

I sat down at one of the small tables. A man was sitting at a table near mine. I got up to throw away an empty packet of lemon juice and noticed his Bible. I touched it and said, “It’s a beautiful thing to see a well-loved Bible.” He looked at me but didn’t offer a smile in return. I sat down at my table once more.

What I didn’t know was that an angel strolled into the small tea room with a sandwich and drink in his hand, making the head count to only the three of us in the room. Mind you, I do not call him an angel carelessly or in a cavalier manner. The angel took on the appearance of a tall black man with graying hair. He sat down in the far corner as if he might have been sent as an observer.

The man with the well-loved Bible turned to me and said, “Do you have someone in the hospital?” I told him about Mom … about the stroke … about her progress each day. I heard a soft, “Amen” from the corner of the room and then a “Praise God” (again, almost a whisper). I glanced his way. The angel had a face that seemed to glow and a smile that was all-knowing.

I asked the man with the Bible if he had someone in the hospital. “Yes, my wife. We have just been told that she has cancer.” It was all too fresh of a wound for him. I asked her name as well as his. It seemed right to speak to him, using their names. His wife was to start treatments the next morning. I told him that my mother had gone through cancer surgery, chemo and radiation in 2013 and shared what we had learned during that time. It wasn’t a lecture. It was just sharing. The man’s heart had been split-opened by the news his wife had just received and so he listened to all of the moments of hope that I shared with him in the midst of what would most certainly be very hard times ahead for his wife.

Again, the angel in the corner praised God in his baritone whisper in such a way that the man and I both looked his way. The angel declared that Mom had been blessed to be a blessing to others. And then he raised his big hands out with palms up and said, “The LORD has you all in the palm of his hand. The LORD is loving and faithful and is ever-present in your lives. Trust in God and be at peace.”

As the man and I stood up to leave, I stopped and turned to look at the angel. He had that same all-knowing smile on his face. He looked into my eyes and ever-so-slowly, ever-so-slightly nodded his head as he smiled.

I could have stayed in the tea room for another hour, sipping my iced tea, sitting in his presence and basking in the light that he had brought into a darkness.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

"For Everything, There is a Season..."



There are several things that I think should be a given in life. One is that workplaces should offer one paid “sleep day” a year.

Another is that we should never think that we are too busy to stop and appreciate the small things that are around us. A dandelion standing alone in a field of violets in my Aunt Janie’s yard has taught me to look at everyone as beautiful (there isn't a weed among us). A feather surrounded by dry fallen leaves on a sidewalk reminded me yesterday that there is change both in the bird and in the season.
On my very routine weekday drive to work in High Point, NC this past week, I passed by a beautiful, blooming crepe myrtle with First Presbyterian’s tower/steeple rising above it and the early sunlight shining on both steeple and tree so perfectly that I was convinced that they were God-lit just for me. And yet, the other crepe myrtles are losing their blossoms and I also know that heavy rains or a strong wind or passing time will do the same to this beautiful tree as well. The sunlight will, no doubt, take a different path as the days progress. But for now, in this moment in time, the composition of crepe myrtle and tower/steeple and morning light is second to none in its stunning beauty. “For everything, there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven …”

O God, give us eyes and hearts to see all that you would have us see. Whisper your lessons to us. Amen

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"Why, This Gathering Place?" (Pentecost ponderings)


In the one place,
they waited
and prayed
and with
hushed voices,
wondered
why.

Why,
this gathering place?
  
They remembered
the words,“Wait.
Gather together and wait.”
That is what
they had come
together to do -
WAIT.

What was
keeping them
together?

Memories
and murmurs
and questions
filled the room
while waiting 
and Waiting
and WAITING.

They heard
the words
from the One
whose death
and now presence
had moved them
from deepest grief
to bewildering joy -
“Believe in God,
believe also in me.”

It was
slowly becoming
more about
the confidence
in the
continued journey
with him
than the
destination.

Why were they
still in this place?
Why were they waiting?

The puzzle pieces
were falling
into place.
“Whoever has seen me
has seen the Father.”
All that they
had heard 
while with him
became
infallible promises.

WHOOSH!
Their questions
were suddenly answered 
in ways that were
unimaginable to them. 

The Holy Spirit
rested upon them
as tongues of fire.
They were not consumed
but their lives would be
consumed forever.
The Advocate 
made a 
forever-dwelling-place
within each one 
gathered in this place.

HOLY GROUND
REMOVE YOUR SANDALS!

The door is now opened!
The wait is now over!
“Go and tell others!”

Yes, let us all go and tell others!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ascension Day (Lord, Lead the Way)



She began her day with a simple prayer … “Lord, lead the way.” 

This was Ascension Day. She found herself looking to the heavens, longing to see a glimpse of the ascended Christ. She left her house to help those who had suffered damages from the night’s storms. She joined others, picking up fallen branches and sweeping away debris. She witnessed good ‘country folk’, calming fears and loving neighbors. There was no longer any need to look to the heavens on this Ascension Day for she saw Christ moving about, among them … with an armful of fallen branches and love overflowing.

“Lord, lead the way.”