Tuesday, July 28, 2015

a sunset song (in loving memory of Uncle Tom)

Before we went to Lake Michigan for vacation this year, we spent a few days on the cliff, at edge of eternity.

In hospital waiting rooms, crying openly, embracing frequently, we journeyed to the end of life in this life with my uncle. He was taken from us with such speed, it seems; given only three days to three weeks to live from the moment they said “cancer.”

Family came, fresh from the beach, with burned skin and red eyes. The air was thick with their warmth, their love, like summer humidity. As that harsh light on the cliff of eternity burned away so much that doesn't matter, we talked more freely about the things that do.

His wife would not leave his side. Those who love them both kept vigil with her. My dad stood with his arms crossed at the end of the bed, wet eyes. I went up next to him and leaned in heavy, and my sister did the same on the other side. We watched the horrible sunset of a life, together.

His wife wet his lips with a sponge; she held his hand; she moved the tubes and climbed into bed and held him close while she still could. Whether he had the strength to return the embrace or not, it didn't matter; she was breaking, too, but she gave what she had to her broken husband. He loved her, and she loved him, and they loved until the end.

During the last evening of the last day of his life on this dying earth, when goodbyes had been spoken, and there was nothing to do but wait, my sister sat at his bedside and did something ridiculous: s
he sang. She sang a cheerful song, a song of victory, and it didn't match the oppressive sadness in that dark room, it didn't line up with the suffering there. It was not a song inspired by the grim scene unfolding there... it was a song from beyond the cliff.

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

Oh, the emotions I felt as I stood and watched the ridiculous concert, the nearly insane words of light spoken in one of the darkest rooms possible! “Victory in Jesus,” sung over one who was losing the battle to cancer! Victory? Really? If anything in this world is defeat, is it not this, a man taken in his strength down to nothing, cancer in every cell of his bone marrow? Even as she sang, he groaned, then fell into deep morphine snores, only to be woken again by more pain. How can this, even this, be made into victory? And yet my sister, there singing, declared by her presence itself exactly how. That sister, who for years sought her own death in the dark rooms of addiction and rebellion, is now made alive in Christ, and here, on a deathbed, declaring his works of light in the darkness. Here is a girl who knows the works of the Lord, and knows there is no hopeless situation if His hand is at work.

When she finished, he gave a faint smile and a weary “yaaaaay!” Not many hours later, he was finished, too; finished with all work on this earth, finished with the days he'd been given here. He is now finished with breath, finished with cancer, finished with his motorcycle and projects and mowing his own lawn.

But is God finished? Or is there reason for hope, even now, even when he is gone over the cliff and we see him no more? We will keep singing, in hope, as we live out our own days until our final sunset. We will sing of this God who makes dry bones live, whose Jesus died for us and rose for us, and who promises to raise us, too. And it will sound ridiculous, and our feelings will sometimes be unable to join the song, but what does it matter? Our feeble flesh and our fickle feelings will not stop His hand in its gracious work.

I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I'll sing up there
The song of victory.

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

Victory seems so far off, and it is hard to wait, hard to believe while we wait and do not see. Gently turn our eyes to Jesus as we grieve. Gently comfort us in Your Words of promise. Let the harsh light we feel at the edge of the cliff burn away all that does not please you, and those things that do not matter. Fill us with faith towards you, and fervent love for each other, as we wait in hope for your coming in victory.

Especially uphold my dear uncle's family as they continue life in this broken place, now with the hole where he once was. Gently, Lord, help and comfort them and all who grieve.

In Jesus' Name, Amen.
view from the edge of eternity
(hospital window)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

running commentary

So, you’re a silent prayer. I was too, before kids. I was a silent hair-brusher and laundry-starter and weed-puller, too. But now, I am a Narrator.

Read about it at Katie Luther Sisters, and keep talking!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

a morning with nets

The orange nets from the dollar store wake us early.  The boys hear them calling from the porch, promising bullfrogs, or at least a dragonfly or two.  

With coffee in one hand and a bucket in the other, I follow them to the pond.  It's not likely we will beat the storm, but we are not afraid, not even a little.  We are big and we have nets.

The boy sneaks and lunges, but it is just a stick. We tiptoe on. I gasp, make them pause, then we realize I'm pointing at dried mud. The little shirtless one is cold. He presses up against my leg as the wind increases.

It is getting darker. Perhaps the bullfrogs are afraid of the storm.

We head home, but we are not sad.
"Mom, you have to see this!" he points at the sky. God is playing with a clouds.
We will not go inside.

We watch the art change on the giant canvas.

We see dragons, and whales, and beds for the angels. Before long, we cannot even guess what God is drawing; we sit in silence and watch Him do a new thing, new to our small eyes.

We breathe in cool, wet oxygen, and we watch in awe.
We are standing inside a living painting, watching the work of our living God.

We watch until the drops are fat and the lightning is near.
We are chased inside.
We are small.
We are alive.
We have nets.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
(Psalm 29)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lutheran Labor Singers

Join me over at Sisters of Katie Luther for an onion-style piece, inspired by the women singing and growing babies everywhere I look these days.

"I grew up in the Lutheran church, and my mother plays the organ. I cannot think of my own childhood without hearing the comforting sounds of Lutheran hymns at church, at home, and even in the car. And yet, it seemed odd to me… never once did my mother or grandmother have a choir involved in the childbirth process. I think the faithful of today need to take the next step and make that happen."


Friday, June 12, 2015

Beautiful waiting

She listens from her hospital bed and her smile does not falter.  She fixes her one good eye on the little girl singing at her bedside. Her husband stands beside her, steadying himself with his walker, and mouths the words as she sings. Is it age that makes him tremble, or his proximity to the Savoir of whom she sings?

The fruit of my womb, now ten years old, holds her hymnal and sings with confidence. "Beautiful Savior..."

And I get to watch.

Dear Wilma. Her body is failing; even speech is hard for her, and yet she waits on her Lord.  She accepts the care of others with grace.  Life is not all about doing, producing, and working.  In this, her quiet season, she shows us the grace of waiting.  Without words, she preaches the futility of placing hope in things that are seen: in heath, in bodies, in life as it is today.   The things of this world are crumbling, and yet her spirit is strong. 

Indeed, her Savior is Beautiful.

And my daughter, she sings.  With the strength and confidence of youth she sings-- words of our shared faith that she has only just begun to learn. She is a tender shoot, a vulnerable young plant, but her song gives us hope for the future.  Perhaps the whirlwind of busy living will not whisk all faith from every heart. Perhaps some will slow to hear, to learn, to sing, and to trust.

Oh Lord, open our ears to your Word, and fill our spirits with that which the world cannot give: peace beyond understanding, and a sure and certain hope in Your mercy towards us. Jesus, Savior, pour out your beauty upon us, and give us eyes to see.  Amen.

Beautiful Savior
By: Gesangbuch, Munster

Beautiful Savior, 
King of creation,
Son of God and Son of Man! 
Truly I’d love thee, 
Truly I’d serve thee, 
Light of my soul, my joy, my crown.

Fair are the meadows,
Fair are the woodlands,
Robed in flowers of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer, 
Jesus is purer,
He makes our sorrowing spirit sing.

Fair is the sunshine,
Fair is the moonlight,
Bright the sparkling stars on high;
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer
Than all the angels in the sky.

Beautiful Savior, 
Lord of the nations, 
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration
Now and forevermore be thine!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Important stuff to write when you don't have Important Stuff to Write

A guest post by Rebekah Curtis

I've read a number of books on writing, and somehow the one I liked least has one of the lessons that stuck with me most. The book is The Right To Write by Julia Cameron, and there isn't anything wrong with it, it's just not my style. But I thought the author had a useful perspective on publishing: who cares? If you like writing, write. Go out of your way to do it. 

I have been very blessed to have some of my writing published. But I have also written a whole bunch of things that have only been published on my home printer. Writing for your church is a low pressure way to contribute to the life of your congregation, and homes can also gain some great things from a writing family member.  Here are some of the ways I've gotten my write on in my regular life.

For church

1. Write a Christmas program. I stumbled into this because it was such a pain to try to fit our parish's kid-resources into a pre-fab program. It was easier to write around the kids we have than to try to makeshift and substitute. You can tailor to your congregation, both in terms of what they're able to do and which ideas they'll benefit from hearing more. Your pastor is your doctrinal reviewer; I always learn something from his comments and edits.

2. Write press releases or articles about things going on at your church for your local newspaper/media source.

3. If your church has a secretary, ask politely if she would like some of the church's stock letters updated. A lot of churches have been ker-chunking out the same cradle roll letter or fundraiser notification for the last 40 years, and sometimes they get a little mildewy. (But some are too funny to change, so use discretion. Our church's Dinner Auction letter is gold, and includes such formulations as: "Callers will be in contact to find out what your donation is by April 7. THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE ITEM READY ON APRIL 7. NO!")

4. Write notes to shut-ins, college students, snowbirds, deployed members of the military or people in the congregation who are working away from home. Sometimes I think this sounds trite until somebody sends a note to me and I remember again how nice it is to get one. This also helps if you're an awkward person and better on paper than in conversation.

5. Write silly songs* for Rally Day, the church picnic, the last day of school or Sunday school, your pastor's ordination anniversary, and for something to do that isn't unloading the dishwasher. Add a ukulele, and you can live in a house of squalor and beautiful homemade music indefinitely.

For home

1. Use a dry erase maker to write very menacing notes about basic courtesies on the bathroom mirror.

2. Make memorable events in your life into a story or poem. If you're a lot less lazy than I am, you could even have it printed up at Walgreen's or something and make a historical document out of it. Make sure you pick something significant, like the time the kids caught a leech in a creek and you had to treat it like a cherished family pet for four days.

3. Write a Christmas letter people will like reading, or one you like writing.

4. More songs, more ukulele. I'm pretty sure if you write songs for kids, you don't have to do puzzles with them EVER.

5. Blogging, duh. Our kids love to gather round ye olde family blog and reminisce about the months of yore.

Displaying IMG_0829.JPG6. Write down the family stories from your grandmas and grandpas. Ask them to edit your drafts, and do your best to preserve their voice.

7. Teach the kids in your life to write. I love it that when my kids have writing assignments for any class, I feel like I am really able to help them think about and improve their work. Every grownup has to write sometimes, and the practices you show little writerlings along the way will shape them as writers in whatever writing work life gives them. Help a little poet with his meter; help a narrator never use the words "awesome" or "amazing"; help a reporter economize.

*There is also hymnwriting. I think it's best to wait to be asked for the use of one of your hymns so as to avoid becoming That Hymnwriter. There are several good hymns out there, so demand isn't huge, plus it's really hard to tell if your own hymn is good.

Writers gotta write. Who better to write for than the people you love most?

Displaying Rebekah Curtis headshot.jpgRebekah Curtis and her sister Rose Adle are co-authors of LadyLike, a collection of essays from Concordia Publishing House.

Book link: 

Social media:

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

This short, powerful video is worth your time.
(sorry, you do have to be on facebook to see it.)

Posted by Kerlene Rogers on Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10) 

Friday, June 5, 2015

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.

Psalm 71

(Thanking God today for faithful saints of many years.
What a joy it is to praise God with them!)

Need some soul rest?
Listen to Thy Strong Word at KFUO!

Friday, May 29, 2015

In Summer (mom version)

Bees'll buzz
Kids'll blow dandelion fuzz
And I'll be doing whatever MOM does in summer

First aid kit in my hand
Bikes and children crammed in the van
It's not a vacation- you don't understand- it's summer!

One thinks flies are bees and one's afraid of storms
Another won't go into the water till it gets warm

And I can't wait to see
If my body holds up for me
Just imagine how much more work they'll be in summer!

Dah-dah, da-doo, a-bah-bah-bah bah-bah-boo

Each of my kids are just so intense
Put 'em together, it just makes sense!

Rrr-raht da-daht dah-dah-dah dah-dah-dah dah dah doo

Winter's a good time to stay in and sit
But summer is coming and I say Oh... happy summer!

When days get rough and somebody's being mean
Just think of the laps that they will run, the things they'll clean...

Oh, the sky will be blue
And the mowers will eat their shooooes!
And we'll finally do what moms get to do in summer!

Thanks for the inspiration, Olaf :)

Summer Peptalk (for moms with school kids)

How are we going to survive this summer?

When I read about wide open summertime, with no plans or scheduled activities, nature bursting to life and kids everywhere just free to be kids, I get as excited as the next mama.

But then I have a Saturday home with my children, ONE Saturday, with little structure, and plenty of family togetherness, and rain.

Each one wants to do this or that, and I try to say yes to it all, bending and twisting to keep each one entertained, and meanwhile, nobody is looking after the housework, and how do they go through all our bath towels and pool towels in just one Saturday? Yes to this and yes to that and still they fight about the little things, and if I hear one more potty joke or one more yell about who DIDN'T flush the potty I am going to lose it. After ONE Saturday.

Once again, head in my hands, I am wondering “how are we going to make it through this so-called vacation?”

First, a peptalk.

Summer is coming, and you are no longer twelve. You cannot expect endless unstructured days, free of demands on your time and your patience. You will not read twenty books this summer. You will not have endless hours to work on your tan. Instead, you will have. . . kids.

What will you do when they fight? Tattle? Refuse to obey? Have bad attitudes? Complain about being bored? Get hungry? Want to play video games? These things will happen mama! Think through your reaction now, and tell the kids what they should expect!

What do you want to accomplish this summer?

The short mandatory list
I want them to have lots of unstructured time, but we also have a few goals: daily devotions, reading, basic chores, and piano practice.

We're going to brainstorm about things we can do this summer. I have the poster board ready, and I plan to have three categories: Things we can do at home; things we can do away; things we can do for others. Lists! C'mon children, let's list ALL THE THINGS!

This seems backwards, and I'm sure I'm going to be kicking myself for this idea later, but we are starting out the summer with one week SCREEN FREE. After the initial twitchy withdrawl period, my hope is that they will begin to make a habit of entertaining themselves. (And yes, I'm doing it too, with brief exceptions for “family management” purposes.)

What else?
I'm sitting here with my coffee, mere hours before the last day of school is out. I do not feel ready.

I still wish I were twelve.

Thank you for the gift and the challenge of summer. Please help me and all parents who will be adjusting to the changed summer schedule. Please provide good weather and safety and wonderful childhood experiences for our children. Please provide us with the energy and strength to facilitate those things. As we enjoy Your Creation, may we see it as a gift from Your hand.  As we watch our garden flourish, we pray that Your Word also my flourish and bear much fruit in us.  Most of all, grant that this summer may be one of growth in faith towards You and fervent love towards one another. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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