Deuteronomy 32:27: Our eternal refuge with Our Creator eternal, and God’s almighty arms underneath are everlasting.
I am almost three weeks into my radiation treatments for prostate cancer (my prognosis is positive and the treatments are quick and painless, and I am thankful that so far I have had no adverse effects), and share a ride with a woman whom I’ll call Sharon from our church. It’s nice to have company on the 32-mile round trip drive, and I’ve gotten to know Sharon better over the past couple of weeks.
The past couple of weeks, Sharon has shared a number of stories from her past with me. She grew up in Derry, a small town in New Hampshire and went to the local high school, where Robert Frost taught for a while. (She told me she did not have him as a teacher.) The population was so small that one school bus covered the entire attendance area. And I thought I had a long bus ride in high school! Sharon went on to say that buses were only for students through grade eight. After that, they were on their own. Her father went to work at 6:30 AM and dropped her at a traffic circle about a half mile from school. The janitor lived at the school so he had the building open and stoves going when she arrived. I imagine it was a glimpse of Paradise to come in to a warm building from the New Hampshire winter.
Sharon’s older brother was born in 1930. While he was still an infant, his mother stood holding him in their living room while an electrical storm raged about them. Lightning struck the house, traveled into the room and hit the baby, not harming the mother at all. Of course the infant suffered neurological damage and had seizures and other medical problems the rest of his short life. He passed away at age seven when Marge was four, and she spoke with great tenderness of taking care of this unfortunate child.
I had never heard of a babe in arms being struck by lightning, much less while being held in loving arms. It seems to me a parallel to how God treats each of us as God’s eternal children. We are babes in this world, and as the storms of life rage about us, sometimes we are struck by any number of destructive forces. But no matter how we are harmed or the extent of our injuries and diseases, the arms that hold us are everlasting. Let us praise God for God’s goodness, care, compassion and eternal vigilance over us, who are to the Creator as babies to their mothers.
I posted my piece on the ladies of the church last week, and my friend and former colleague Mary McElveen and also former Poet Laureate of the City of Alexandria, put this on her blog.
She wrote, I wrote [this] for a friend who was asked to say a few words about a lady at the church who died of cancer. Gloria was one of those indefatigable volunteers, and probably has heaven organized and running like a top.
Thank you for letting me post your poem, Mary. Every church has its church ladies.
They are legion,
the church ladies:
the hands that smooth the tablecloths, brew the coffee,
bake the cookies, make the sandwiches,
arrange the flowers.
They think of everything,
then do it.
They are the voices on the phone
the fingers on the keyboard,
the gentle nudge
reorganizing and regrouping—
doing the things no one has time for,
for the people no one has time for… and for us all.
They are all things good:
secretary and sorceress,
chauffeur and counselor,
teacher and student,
greeter and galley slave…
And I can’t help thinking that if Jesus is among us,
He is cleverly disguised
as a church lady.
John 15:13: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
I don’t know if you saw or heard the news reports this week about five members of a family who were killed in a rock slide while hiking in the Colorado mountains.
The thirteen-year-old daughter of the family was the only survivor. She told authorities her father shielded her as boulders crashed down on them and likely saved her life.
Rescuers dug Gracie Johnson out of the rubble after Monday’s slide, and she was airlifted to a Denver-area hospital with a broken leg.
“She told me at the last second when the boulders were coming down on top of them that he covered her up and protected her, which I believe it saved her life,” said sheriff’s Deputy Nick Tolsma.
The Deputy said he was one of the first at the scene and heard screaming from beneath the rubble. He saw Gracie Johnson’s hand sticking up through the rocks.
“I started digging her out until I had more help come and we got her all the way out,” he said.
When I heard this sad story of loss and the bright note of salvation, I immediately thought of what Jesus said about great love. He was talking about giving up one’s life for a friend, or a family member. While either one would be difficult, I would suggest that most of us would find it easier to sacrifice ourselves for a friend or family member than it would be to give up our lives for someone we don’t know.
And yet that is exactly what Jesus did—he sacrificed himself for friends and family, certainly, but he also died for his enemies and those he never knew, and those yet unborn—and that would include each of us. Thanks be to God for this love which reached out to us and came to us through the centuries to redeem us. Amen.
Ezekiel 28:2: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a mere mortal and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god.
Now, normally, I am not an apocalyptic sort, either sociologically or theologically, but this week there seems to have been some reminders that all our achievements and all our accomplishments as humans (which are many and marvelous, have no doubt), and not the be-all and end-all of our existence.
There was the woman whose car was forced off the Bay Bridge after being rear-ended by a tractor-trailer. This in spite of safety laws and measures on the bridge.
The nose wheel on a Southwest 737 collapsed on landing at LaGuardia airport. Southwest flies this aircraft exclusively and probably there are more of the type flying than any other passenger jet today.
And then there was the terrible derailing of the Spanish high-speed train with at least 78 lives lost.
Each of these tragedies involved some amazing engineering. Each involved a failure of some sort, probably a combination of human and technological factors.
This is indeed a beautiful world in which we live, fully of marvelous things. But it is also a fallen world, prone to accident and danger and harm. We are not gods, and when we act as if we were, we find out differently. Praise to the one true God who reigns on high!
Isaiah 11:6: And a little child shall lead them.
I met a mother yesterday who told me heartbreaking story of her daughter’s illness, painful decline and death at age 10 from bone cancer. She told the tale and recounted its effects on herself, her younger daughter and her husband and their lives with honesty and courage.
Alyssa died on New Year’s Eve of 2012, and her mother Lynn and sister Lexie have told her story on the CaringBridge website. Here is a link to her page (you might have to sign up for an account, but it’s well worth doing so): http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/alyssadivers
God bless them all.