Sunday, December 21, 2014

God In the Shadows

This morning’s prayer included the litany called the “O Antiphons”. This litany of seven short prayers (each beginning with the word “O”) is prayed from December 17th to December 23rd, and one prayer is said each day. This was this morning’s O Antiphon:

O Radiant Dawn, 
splendor of eternal light,
Sun of justice:
Come, shine on those who live 
darkness and in the shadow of death.

There are many living in darkness and in the shadow of death. Glenn’s death four weeks ago cast a pallor over my family and friends and I do often feel as though I live in its shadow. But this afternoon I read something on Facebook (of all places!) that has helped me to begin to find my way out from under that shadow.

Fr. James Martin is a Jesuit priest, author, and served as a chaplain for Steven Colbert, the staff and production crew of the “Colbert Report”. He recently had this to say:

“Frequently I meet with people struggling with devastating news. In those times even the most devout can begin to doubt God’s presence. But often what helps them to regain trust is a simple question: "Has God been with you in difficult times in the past?" 

His simple question has the effect of causing us to stop and wonder. The truth of the matter is that  for me this question is answered with a resounding, “Yes!” God always has been, always is, and always will be with us in times of difficulty. As Fr. Jim puts it, “Memories of God’s activity in the past enable us to embrace the future.”

Just as each twenty-four hour period turns from day to night to day, our lives turn from light to dark to light. Whether we are in the shadow of death or simply enduring a difficult time in our lives, we can trust that God is with us because we remember the Divine presence from our experiences past. 

This is how we move out from being in the shadow of death. This is how we move through a difficult circumstance. This is how we begin to trust, live and love again. 

Thank you to all who continue to pray and care for me. I am so grateful. Let remember to pray for others who are also struggling.

…grace and peace…c.

Monday, December 15, 2014


1 Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;
2 serve the LORD with gladness 
and come before his presence with a song.

3 Know this: the LORD alone is God;
we belong to the LORD, who made us;
we are God’s people and the sheep of  God’s pasture.

4 Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving; 
go into the holy courts with praise;
give thanks and call upon the name of the LORD.

5 For good is the LORD,
whose mercy is everlasting;
and whose mercifulness endures from age to age.
(Psalm 100)

It’s time. Time to begin to discover how to live life again. Memorials have been attended, said, and done. Travel has been made out to the homestead. Family has returned back home. There is a longing for a routine, for a familiar pattern of prayer, work, recreation, and rest. There is a readiness to return to my work of pastoring and caring for a congregation, of doing my part as we head into the throes of one of our busiest seasons. 

By far the first question I am asked after the BIG question of, “How are you doing?”, is the question of “How are you doing this?” Serving in a large congregation, I have entered back into worship on Sundays and today marks my entry back into a full time schedule. To some, it seems incredulous that I have returned just three weeks after Glenn’s death. 

Honestly, there doesn’t seem to be a really good answer to this question of how. All I can say is that it is the Christ in me. My boss has been gracious and his pastoral care, extraordinary. The congregation has been so kind. My coworkers have stepped in and taken on the critical tasks of my job. No one has said, “You must…” 

Psalm 100 provides us with some guidance on what to do…

Verses 1, 2, and 4, contain the words: BE. SERVE. COME. ENTER. GO. GIVE. These offer a way to re-enter into life. 

But sandwiched in between these verses about what to do, there seems to be the answer found in verse 3 that points to how. 

Know this: the LORD alone is God;
we belong to the LORD, who made us;
we are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture.

It is this “knowing” that answers the question of how. Knowing that the LORD alone is God. Knowing that we belong to the LORD. Knowing that we are made to be a people set apart and who live in the places set before us.

I’ve been in fellowship with others who have known this for all of my life. All of this time, this “knowing” has become ingrained in who I am. It is the “Christ in me” recognizing the “Christ in you”. 

And now I face one of the hardest things I have ever done…living this truth in the midst of great sorrow and grief, in the midst of feeling as though my world has just come apart, as though everything has been unraveled at the seams. And it occurs to me that everything up until now has been in preparation for the place I am in today. 

Knowing that it is time to begin to live again, time to return to work, time to consider next steps, is an individual process that is different for each of us. In my case, Glenn was sick for a very long time and ever since his first diagnosis of cancer in 2010, I have been grieving losses. For some, the shock of his death started the grieving process, and so I can understand why they ask me how I can step back into life at this time. 

This is not to say that it is always easy. There are moments of panic and fear, moments of tears and sorrow, moments of loss and suffering. My brother Ken calls grief a “rogue wave”, because it sneaks up on us and knocks us down, mostly when we least expect it. 

Knocked down as we are, we come up for air, sputtering, the truth of verse 4 remains. 

Know this…The LORD alone is God and we belong to the LORD. This is how.

...grace and peace...cindy

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Open Places

In the midst of these days, there is a deepening recognition that life now contains a great deal of open space and a whole lot of quiet. Life is different. The knee jerk reaction is to fill that space with the first thing that comes along…with work, activities, books, music, social engagements…with anything and everything. 

But somehow I hear the still, small voice suggesting a better way..suggesting that there is a wonderful lesson to be learned in allowing the open place to be as it will..that silence can indeed be a wonderful teacher. 

Our lives are busy. Mostly we can easily recount the things that we have gotten done, are doing, or need to get done. Our to do list seems to be never ending. We wonder where the day goes and time really does seem to fly. 

It takes courage to face open space and not hurry to fill it. It takes determination to be ok with silence and not seek to push it aside. 

This morning’s prayers were from Psalm 18. This verse caused me to stop and linger…

He brought me out into an open place; he saved me, because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:19)

I never, ever thought of the open space or the silence as a gift. I have not said thank you for leading me to such a wide and open place. I never for one minute considered that the open place is the place where I am saved over and over again. I never welcomed this open place in my life, the place that was once occupied by my beloved. I almost missed His delight in me, because I was intent on refusing this gift. Never that is, until this morning...

Almost missed it… May God grant us the wisdom and courage to embrace the open places in our lives.

Thank you to all who weep, mourn, laugh, and celebrate with me. I am grateful for your presence in my life. Let us remember to pray for others who are suffering. 

…grace and peace...cindy