Privilege of Being the Body of Christ

Today love grew roots

crocheted lives

A “tide you over” shower she called it

til the job firms.

Prayer saturated a feast and the Kingdom came

in salads and croissants

Hope whipped into mocha chocolate mouse

spread into creamy cheesecake

and poured out in gifts.

 

Healing is a catalyst for hospitality, Nouwen said.

Healing too carves space for grace to receive.

God spread a banquet and we ate

love  unguarded,

the privilege of being the Body of Christ.

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Fasting From Chaos

I live deep in chaos. I envy Brother Lawrence, the Carmelite monk from the 1600’s with his hundreds of monastery dishes stacked.  He slipped easily into practicing Your Presence, soaking in divine love.  He made cathedrals of the ordinary while wiping the Provencal stew off of brothers’ plates.

While I do dishes, I have the piercing cry of a child yearning to be held, the tiff in the other room that needs a referee, the turkey call practice, (Please!  Stop calling turkeys!  I’ll bet you’ve never yelled that!!!) the piano banging.  Life jumbles and the phone rings, Pandora randomly picks my music, and I have notebooks around the sink designed for all the things I know I will forget.

It is hard to shovel in a blizzard, my friend joked watching my life.

 

I envy the clink and the swish and the silence.  I want to soak my hands deep into God’s Presence.

Einstein said aha moments flowed unencumbered during his daily 3 B’s: riding on the Bus, soaking in the Bath or laying in Bed.

Imagination sparks just like prayer when brain waves settle.

Neuroscientist, Dr. Dan Siegel explains that the brain was not meant to multitask.  When we tangle wires, anxiety sparks.

This week is the beginning of Lent and when I enter, I always hear the words of Hosea 2:14, “I will now allure her into the desert (a place set apart, no distractions), I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.”

Sunday night I forgot and indulged.

Sunday night I crawled onto the couch exhausted after a day of ministry and mothering and clicked on the Academy Awards to find out which movies to put onto this year’s Netflix queue.  Then, I opened my laptop and began designing a winter wedding inspiration board for a cousin on Pinterest (short white fur cape, feathers and birch bark candles: yum) while simultaneously instant messaging a (lovely ) long lost friend in Minnesota.  Looking up occasionally between pins and bleeps, I would register dresses and soundbites, then gape at people flying high above the stage.

Hours later and I found that all this time, surrounded by this mass of media, I had been holding my breath.  Indulging had not created rest at all, but stress.

How can I practice the Presence of Christ when I am consumed?

I recently shared these words of God-correction: that the reason I believe God desires we should keep our alcohol intake to a minimum was so that we could be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, so that we could be listening to the Word always speaking. Get tipsy and I can’t hear God.

It seems that this concept needed to flow across the different forums of my  life.

In answer to the chaos, a word keeps pinballing around my mind: Kenosis.

Kenosis is humble self-emptying in order to submit to God’s will for the purpose of union with Christ.  This is the journey.

Yes, I want union with Christ…and I’m positive this self-emptying is the only way.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and lose their life?” Mark 8:31-38

Do I want Christ enough to turn off my smart phone/laptop/radio and carve intentional cathedrals of quiet?  I hear You say, “Be still and know that I am God” and remember a quote from an Eastern Orthodox saint who said, “Find peace in your own soul and a thousand will find it.”  If others are grasping for peace, can I show them to the Way, Truth and Life when I myself am drowning in media, disconnected to the Source?

The fast of self-emptying, of humble stillness, is the God-alluring invitation to the desert … to put down roots, drink deeply of the present I AM.

This is what Brother Lawrence would say we all can practice in the midst of our ordinary.

Summer Gross

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I Almost Stayed At the Sink

My nest was empty…my life being resorted.  Old habits were no longer useful….a new parenthesis had begun.  The depiction of this evening in my life was symbolic of new things to come…new goodnesses to be explored and enjoyed.  God spoke loudly through the beauty of earth.  And I loved hearing His voice.” – Linda

It was getting late.  Evening pressed hard on the heels of day.  We had just finished a leisurely dinner, and I had begun to clear the table.  I had feasted on this day already: so sunny yet cool; crisp and bright.  My morning glories had outdone themselves, and spilled over my porch railing in heavenly blue abandon.  I watched from the kitchen window as our kitten chased his elusive golden tail in a frenzied series of circular leaps and turns.

Yes, all was very well with my changing world.

“Get the dishes done first, and then take a walk,” I told myself.  I had purposely said “no” to having a dishwasher installed in our new home, and enjoyed the dishwashing time as my personal ritual–a time to think and plan–a soft transition between daytime and night.  I began to wash the first dish, and was distracted by a low ribbon of sun lying across our row of sunflowers.  There wasn’t much time.  I sighed, slipped the dishes into the silken bubbles, and obeyed the swelling of my soul.

My husband came along, picking up the walking stick his mother had used, and donning his wide-brimmed hat.  Hand in hand, we strode across the hills surrounding us, keeping to the little trails made a generation earlier by some farmer needing access to his cropland. The ducks flew low–so very close to our heads: silent, moving black dots against a tangerine sky.

Two deer watched us, alert and graceful on their tiny spike heels. A farmer climbed brown wrinkles of plowed earth on his tractor, and fitted his land for planting.

Breathe deeply, man.  Breathe deeply, woman.  It is earth, and it is now.  It may never be again exactly as it is this moment.

On our right, God had hung the moon, a single pearl: gossamer against the dove-gray sheen of an evening sky.  On our left, a continual parade of color washed the horizon: now pink, now gold, now scarlet–a palette of luminous color moved about by a celestial hand.  We were transfixed between the two, incapable of speech.  “And evening and morning were the first day.”

The valley below unfurled into undulating fields of corn, and tiny yellow lights blinked comfortably from farmhouse windows.

It was time for all God’s creatures to settle in for the night.  The ducks nestled happily in the marsh.  The deer were secure in the maze of corn.  Farm families were gathering in their homes.  We walked in silence up the steep gravel drive toward our house, savoring the exquisite moonglow lighting our path.  Our spirits touched the hem of His garments in thanks for our home, our family, our internal peace, our future with Him.

The banquet of nature had been spread, like a feast, before us, and from it we drew sustenance for our souls.

Some gifts are given every day.

And to think: I almost stayed at the sink.

Linda Andersen

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The Fast which Exposes the Dragon

Lord, how do I fast from selfishness?  How do I take apart my DNA, unwind the axis and find where selfishness has hidden, beg a surgeon to take tweezers and pluck original sin?

And now here’s my honest question: Do I even want it out?  And another: What will it truly cost me?

A more telling question: what will it cost me, my Love, my little child-loves, to leave the self rule running rampant?  Tim Keller (in the Meaning of Marriage) says that selfishness is the main issue behind every pang in marriage.  He says trying to fit together two going their separate directions creates a dance discordant.  I’ve started watching, seeing the selfish act afterwards when it is too late to do anything but repent.

Before Ash Wednesday I ask You about the fast and You usually point to the rooted sin, that which will not exhume except from daily focus, constant practice, self-denial connected to accountability.  40 days in the wilderness.

This year I see the shortcuts, the ways I huddle around “me” time growling at anyone who snatches at it, the way I believe I am right, always right and see the sin cancer fog clear.  And greed is selfishness run amok when others are fighting just for daily bread. What kind of fast will grasp the hoe, root the self-god out?

Romans 8:13-14 says, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Tomorrow morning, my husband will sweep across my bangs with one hand, wipe a cross of ashes wide.  I will stand with the children trying to keep order and whisper in their ears, trying to make sense of mystery.  He will get down on his knees, press burnt palms across their unwrinkled foreheads from last years Palm Sunday where we all cried, “Hosanna” not realizing what it would cost.  And with his Adriatic sea blue eyes, the ones I’ve watched over nearly 20 years grow wise, he will look into mine, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

I am dust, and to dust I shall return.  How easily I forget.

And I gradually understand, this dragon cannot be slain by any weapon I have in my hand, but only exposed and conquered by the Spirit’s work. My fast will be to lay down daily on the surgeon’s table, beg for Spirit’s intervention:  To journal, search scripture.  To listen.  To pray.  A fast of increased attention.

I pray the dangerous prayer, the one I know will be answered, the one that will send the Spirit riding to deliver, sword flashing:

 

Come Spirit

undragon me,

wipe scales with knife

separate Your daughter vulnerable

from selfgod

clinging in an unholy worship.

Undragon me.

I wait, listen, search the heavens for the Coming.  He always comes when I call.  He promises.  He promises you too, friend, dear one.  He promises you, too.

Summer Gross


What will your fast be this year?

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Spring Thanks

“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone”  Song of Solomon 2:11

Oh, Lord, what a wonder You are!  I stand back and exult in the coming  of yet another magical spring, so beautiful it takes my breath away.  I’m over-the-top pleased–surprised at its sudden arrival, and astonished at  gossamer puffs, high and lifted up,  cloud upon cloud, and  sparkling sun jewel hung high in  sky awning: necklace of light.

When did it begin, and why?  Was borning beauty tucked quiet under white, and protected under blue-gray ice? Was cold, good earth pregnant and white and mother in waiting? Were bulbs bursting and becoming even when all I saw was icicles on roof edge?  Was life begetting life in unseen womb and giving form and shape and color and essence even as crusted snow trudged under filtered light?

Was there a wooing and winning of one season over another even as  I waited and stirred vegetable soups and tapped feet, impatient for the wedding and done with the engagement?

Did Spring bedeck herself and don fragrance even as I searched the sky for evidence, and sighed large?

Where really “was” the season I craved?  Where had it gone and for how long should I wait?  Would it come and would it seal my longing with “yes!” and “here” and “now”?

Was there anything I could do to hurry the debut, the opening act?  Could longing be a key to open the lock?  Could prayer push or shove?  Could wishing devise a door?  I wondered and I tried.

But no, and no, and no!.   I could not make it come, but I could stay in the waiting room and “faith it“ out I could take hold of what was, and embroider it with a true presence.  I could enrich the wait with a song in my heart, and a lilt in my step, and  laughter out loud and big.  I could dance the dance of  the season at hand — not wish it away or erase the days so freely given.

So then, I can and I will.  Sit still in the season at hand , and watch the birthing of another. Abide.  Still my soul.  Order my feet.  Touch base with today.  Sing the songs of now, and this, and “is”.  Take hold of  gift and  giver.  Good God of the seasons, hold me!  Touch me with wonder, sweet and now, and fill me with “this” while spring erupts.

Spring will come, is coming, is present and very present under  the last of the sheeted snow and frosted ice and tommorrow.  Restore my wandering gaze and teach me thanks.  Help me love the season that is: in life, in weather.  Here then, are  questions,  longing, and premature desire.  Here, is me.  Here is now.  Here is this, and this, and this.

Seasoned bliss!

Thank you,

And thank you,

And thanks, God of winter, God of spring, God of all.

Linda Andersen

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Songs of the Night

There’s something about evening, after the sun says good-bye to the
day, that opens a new room for the soul to enter and explore.  In a
darkened room, all pretense falls away:especially in a cold winter
with a fire crackling in the fireplace–or under a night sky.

In a darkened room it doesn’t matter if our hair looks good, or  our
clothes are pressed, or if we forgot to brush our teeth.  No one can
see.  Besides, the darkness becomes stronger than any of these
concerns–a gentle robing for our truest selves.

In the kindness of the dark, or dusk, we need not focus on our flaws,
our extra weight, our aging, our failures.  Instead, there is a sense
in which our most authentic selves come out.  Some say that who we
are in the dark is who we really are.

How very good, then, that the God of light, who pierces the darkness
and sees our truest selves, will not be shocked!  For by His own
confession, he loves us wildly, without condition, everlastingly.  In
the dark, we come to Him more easily, without shame or sham.  Not
propped up or puffed up.  We let down our hair, and sense a call to
wipe his feet.

In the heart of darkness, somehow, our souls are set free.  It is a
place of release.  Pent-up tears of joy or pain can flow: raw and
real.  We have no expectations to meet.  Breathing comes more
easily–deeper.  Dreams surface–longings show up.  Buried wishes
come out to play.  All these, and more, are the stuff we’re made of
and the stuff that seems to surface when we slow down and let it.

So…tonight can you choose to do just that?  Can you turn on some
music, or opt for no music at all?  Can you light a fire in the
fireplace or candles on a table?  Open the curtains and let the moon
be your shadowmaker as it waltzes into the room.  The shadows are a
whole new world, and they speak.

Can you step out into your yard or sit on your steps and listen to
crickets, frogs, or owls?  Do you have lightening bugs?  Can you be
still long enough to seem them scatter a blanket of diamonds in the
air? Listen for the sounds of children or animals, as they prepare
for night.  Listen, for there are songs in the night.

Let your spirit rest, your head clear.  Hear the voice of God against
your heart.  Come home to yourself, and to your God.  Receive this
time of quietness and joy.  Make the night your own.  Let prayer
surface.  And may your rest be sweet.

Linda Andersen

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Love Saturated Evangelism

 

Mark 1:29-42

Andrew and another disciple zigzagged with Jesus through the crowd to his home, perhaps a room at an inn, maybe a space on a rented rooftop able to feel the vibrations of a busy family below.  Their minds must have echoed the words of their own teacher, John the Baptist, who yelled out in a busy town square the day before as he saw Jesus come near, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him…I testify that this is the Son of God.”  Andrew and the other must have asked what treasures will pour out of a man on whom the Spirit rests or truly, will we even be able to understand His cryptic messages?  The mystery draws them on and then they sit, stay, listen to this man Jesus, this Lamb of God.  They soak words, eat bread and then soak up more Word in the Presence of the Alpha and the Omega, the Creator.  Then, Andrew impatient with joy jumps up, says he will returns and runs…straight for his brother, “We have found the Messiah.”

My commentary on this scripture said this: “it appeared that Andrew had been with Jesus that he was so full of him. He knew there was enough in Christ for all; and, having tasted that he is gracious, he could not rest till those he loved had tasted it too. True grace hates monopolies, and loves not to eat its morsels alone.

But, here is the question: How can we like Andrew point to the living God, go home and grab our brother when we have not tasted, have not seen God Himself, not soaked in His voice?  When we have only tasted God someone else has shown us, we have no desire to usher another into His Presence, drag them to the holy.  We’ve got a Roman road and a track and evangelism tools thrust in a box under the bed but we are so often leading people to an assent to ideas about God and not tearing off terra cotta roof tiles, lowering them down into the Presence of the One who sees their pain, but speaks straight to the source of what is festering in their heart, “Your sins are forgiven.”  They are released and Grace Himself heals.

If we have not been home with God and tasted the good news of life free from the twisted pain and shame of sin, free from the captivities which like cataracts layered, hold us blind, our “Come and See” is anemic, embarrassed, hollow.  It was only when Andrew had been in Jesus Presence, sitting at the feet of the one in whom is hidden all the mysteries of wisdom and revelation that his calling to his brother had any substance.

“We have found the Messiah,” Andrew told his brother.  Found.  He, the pearl of great price, the treasure in the field, the Messiah the earth has been groaning to feel walk upon its dirt is Found.  And you, my friend, my brother, my sister, should come and see!

Summer Gross

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The Gift of Vulnerability – The leper and my story entertwine

 

“All of us are old. And all of us are frail. All of us, indeed, are handicapped. It’s just that some of us can pretend better than others.” John Kavanagh

Mark 1:40-45

All around the Galilee region the wind was kicking up dirt and throwing it around, exposing hopes that came to the surface and false dreams of manmade kingdoms.  The eye of the hurricane was right over Jesus head and in his wake he left a flurry of redemption.  Word was spreading fast, maybe too fast causing joyful mobs unable to contain centuries of disappointment.

Messengers spread out from villages running across hills to family in another town with news that a new kingdom was brewing, and a new prophet healing.  Family members hurried out to the countryside where lepers were huddled, a colony of the living dead.

Ancient Jewish society believed these lepers carried pollutants from the inside which boiled to the surface and contaminated all it touched, human or inanimate.  Dignity disintegrated.  Fear sliced through bonds of love and lepers were discarded to the land beyond the village never to return to healthy society unless a priest pronounced them “clean”.

The flood of good news spread across the region even penetrating these hovels of poverty and disease and in this one man from today’s scripture, igniting hope.  I wonder: Had a family member waved him down from the food drop off point thirty feet away?

Hope climbed into courage and despite opposition (isn’t there always opposition?), he wraps up his open wounds and starts walking…toward the village…toward people…toward this Jesus.

This man, this leper holding only naked courage, strode directly into the fire of rejection.  He was not only not welcome, he was not allowed to come near.  There were laws on the books, in the Torah against this, and yet, his desperation created a courage, and the stories he heard, ignited a faith that drew Him closer, positioning Himself in front of the Healer.  I imagine folks gathered, listening to Jesus, watching Eden life spread into one pain-racked person at a time.  Into this joy-drunk gathering, marched this leper sending villagers spreading like shotgun pellets in all directions.  Society’s contamination was walking in their midst, personified death.  Horrified with the sight and stench of moving pollution, they fanned out.  Only Jesus would stand still.  Only Jesus had eternity’s eyes and a compassion which pierced through the jumble of rags and wraps, the white skin flaking, the maimed extremities and recognized a man He had created, a person carefully made in His image.  He recognized a man as vulnerable as a baby bird, mouth wide open to Him, the Giver, Nourisher, Healer.  A man holding his skin, his heart out for healing.

Standing alone before this Jesus, desire for life completely exposed, he begs: “If you so choose, You can heal me.” Faith rising bursts out of him.  Jesus had been seen healing, was filled with power and that is all this man knew.  He had heard stories. He had left his life and could not go back.  Jesus to him embodied Life.

Jesus had just proclaimed to the synagogue his mission statement:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor,

to bind up the brokenhearted,

proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…”(Lk 4:16-21)

This same Jesus was moved to compassion for this walking forsaken and a slow anger built against the maker of disease, this evil captor.  Compassion rises and Jesus does not just speak healing as Elijah had to the gentile Namaan hundreds of years before, not coming out of his house, Jesus places Himself in the very center of this man’s cavernous abyss.  He sees beyond the spoken need to the hidden wound.  He reaches out his hand, and risking contamination and society’s rejection himself, He places his hand on that white flaking skin, touching him.  And this leper, he who has lived without human touch, he who had been discarded by family and society, is healed, body, mind and spirit.  The touch that once created the Universe, now remakes a man.

I have been living in this scripture for a week and am struck by this man who wore his pain, his disease on the outside of his skin.  His bold audacity is disquieting as it works into our plastic surgery world.  This leper unabashedly runs toward Jesus, exposing his true need and we remember, God can only answer questions we ask, He can only heal when we position ourselves before Him…  He heals wounds we vulnerably lift up to the light of His Presence.

This leper teaches us and exposes vulnerable while we try so hard to smooth wrinkles, to erase pain with medication.  We live maimed, wounded, but covered in a world which worships the pristine, the sunny.  We try to conjure faith, devoid of desperation, do not weep repentance on Christ’s feet.  We pray, whisper for abundant life but do such a make-up job covering our sin, our scars, that  we often cheat ourselves into believing we are fine Jesus, thank you.   We have no need of your touch, your free resurrection.  We have found and drunk from the waters of sanctification or honestly, at least we are better off than Betsy two rows down.  Instead of laying a hold of healing ourselves, we settle for enough and then run to isolate when the pain geysers.

The leper teaches us to leave the fine, walk away from the tortured comfortable, all that is known and pursue God Himself.  It is here that I listen for the voice of God calling me.  This is what He seems to be saying: Summer, do not fear the vulnerable.  It is in your vulnerability that I will build a cathedral of grace, a place of healing for others.  Only under the shelter of your vulnerability will they be able to risk taking off their bandages, risk exposing their wounds in front of Me.  Build an authentic community bold with vulnerable grace.

People cannot heal, cannot uncover their sores where it is not safe, where there is a veneer of perfect.  Our Jesus’ grace developed an atmosphere where sinners were rooted, convinced they were loved and so could confess freely, where grace could do its good work of revelation. My friend, unsure of how to heal, opens her wounds every once in a while in front of various friends at church.  Her daughter was brutally raped five years ago.  Exposed, she is told in placating tones uncomfortable in the presence of suffering that “she should be over it already.”

Last year at this time, I stopped writing. I put myself in my Surgeon’s hands and both learned and with lovely women in my church simultaneously taught Terry Wardle’s 16 week inner healing small group.  Through the fall and winter I was landscaped, dug up, sin excavated, wounds exhumed and I was left in February raw. Emotions that usually surfaced only a few times a year, now screamed for attention. Fear of rejection spread across my body as if I was diseased with it, making me hungry to uproot, move, isolate.  Others around me in the small groups were singing victory but I was left sitting in an empty garden, upturned earth, completely back hoed.  I was the one teaching this stuff, yet it was I who was discouraged, short-breath fearful that the emotional pain would never go away!  In desperation, I began to spend hours in scripture accompanied with the materials, fiercely walking right into the pain positioning myself in the healing Presence of God.

I couldn’t go back, didn’t know how to go forward and so like the leper I took to begging.  I encountered a phrase in Isaiah 51:14 which spoke truth loudly to my pain and I claimed it as a lifeboat, “The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread.”  What started whispered sometimes in the privacy of the minivan would be yelled, stomach doubled over, anxiety sharp. I demanded healing because I could do nothing else.  The possibility of living in so much emotional pain was sparking anger with my children, sandpaper over the kindness of my marriage.  “Abba,” I cried, “don’t leave me this way!  Jesus, I know who You are, You are the healer and ‘The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread.’  If you so choose, You can make me well.”  Like the leper, I had watched others get healed, heard stories.

Francis MacNutt in one of his early tapes on healing gave an illustration of being with God, our Abba at a dinner table.  He asked us to imagine a scenario around the dinner table where we are asking our father for food.  “If you ask your Abba, ‘Abba, will you please pass the chicken?’ He is not going to deny one of His children:  He promises He is going to pass the chicken!”  We can be certain, Francis was reminding us, it is in His mission statement: He will always choose to release the captive, to heal brokenhearts, create beauty from ashes when the captive positions him or herself  before Him.

And through the next few months, the healing spread creating healthy scars with little emotional power left.  He touched and He healed and He proved time and time again that He is more than able and that it is His absolute joy to make all things new.

I told my friend still aching with her daughter’s pain about Journey and the hard work of healing and God’s intervention in my life.  She could lean on me and we would go together to Christ.  She could be fierce for her own freedom.  He, the Healer, the One who knows the landscape of her wounds, will always choose to meet her when she decides to take off her bandages.

Thankful:

for these women who with courage Journey with me

for a powerful God who does not leave us without HELP

for a Prayer Clinic where I get to stand on the edge of heaven and hell and healing with dear ones

for a church who is spreading healing from the inside out

for a senior pastor/rector, my husband, who allowed me to share this story, to preach redemption yesterday morning

for God who speaks truth at the point of my great need

The Holy Spirit who anoints, refreshes, builds

A husband who takes our beautiful children out on the ice to explore and fish in an icy world

 

Summer Gross

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Mercy: Worship

“Your mercy, your mercy  has stolen my heart”….the words tiptoe through my heart .  I creep close and hard under the shelter of your wide-winged love.  I snuggle close to the heart thump inside.  Under your eagle eye I rest. By your side, I am enfolded in uncommon grace.   Protected I stand under imposing love shield.

Joy sizzles down.  Laughter oozes.  Heart beats lively, in step with yours.  Rhythm pushes feet to ground and dancing begins.  First feet, and working its’ bouncy way to finger ends and up–all over, I’m dancing and dancing in this pool of “you-ness”.  It happened here.  Today.  In the sweet spot where we meet.  It is ever different, ever fresh, enlivening, hope filled.  Exuberant Niagara of unbounded grace.  We ride the wave together.

A room.  A room and a chair.  Just a chair.  A chair and a candle though, and a corner to call my own, and time.  There has not always been time.  It is today’s gift, and I hold it close and call it precious.  Time and desire–desire kindled by quiet.  Be still my soul……

And come, Lord Jesus come!

Linda Andersen

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Sermon in a Graveyard

This is a true story, written exactly as it happened to me in the “morning” of my mothering years.  It was published once, and then again and again.  It seemed to touch a chord in many women’s hearts.  And so, I offer it once again, in the “autumn” of my mothering because the power of thanksgiving is always timely.

     The morning had dawned sunny and clear in Western Michigan.  But as the day wore on, the incessant bickering of my three children (ages 10-16) began to gnaw at my already limited patience.  It was August, and school started in 3 weeks.  By 11 a.m., they had annoyed me to the point that I had to get away–something I didn’t often do.  I jumped in the car and headed for the country.  A few turns down dirt roads and I began to decompress.   I slowed the car, and noticed a tiny, shaded graveyard I had never seen, even though it was just a few miles from home.  I stopped the car and got out, strolling aimlessly at first among the ancient tombstones.

A slight breeze stirred through the pines, and my edginess began to subside.     I had asked the Lord to “please do something” as I left the house, but I really didn’t think He would.  At this point, I wasn’t even sure He cared.

Jamming my hands in my pockets, I meandered, noticing the dates on the grave markers, but listless.  Then, one caught my eye, and I stopped, kneeling to read the inscription.  The stone was so old and weatherbeaten I could hardly make out the words.  I traced them with my finger.  “Children of C. and A. Arndt,” it read.

Stepping to the side of the 4-sided marker, I read, “Charley, Died June 6, 1883, aged 5 years.”

Another side read, “Ricke, Died May 22, 1883, aged 6 years, 19 ds”.

Two children in a month!  I exclaimed aloud.  Those poor parents.

I was in for yet another surprise as I walked to the fourth side of the simple tombstone and read:

“Francis, Died May 18, 1883, aged 3 years, 4 mos, 15 ds.”

At this I sat down in the solitary place and sorrowed for the unknown parents of almost 100 years ago.  They had tasted death three times in one month.  An epidemic, no doubt.

I wondered if the parents of those children had ever had days like mine.  I wondered if they regretted every impatient, angry word after their children died.  I would, I knew, and I was sure they had.

I felt that if these parents were alive and able to talk with me now they would urge me to go back home and love my children well.  I imagined them saying, “Learn to laugh with your children.”  And they would no doubt remind me that life on earth is so very short after all, and it must be lived abundantly.

And if they knew the Lord, I’m sure they would point out God’s commands to give thanks in everything–and to rejoice evermore.  Perhaps they would even tell me to live each day with my family as if it were my last.  Some day, I knew, would indeed be the last.

But those parents didn’t need to come back to tell me such things.  Their children’s tombstone had already done so.  And I had listened.

Linda Andersen

What is it that you do to gain perspective for the ones you love?

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