I’m So Ready!

I put on my alb, tied the cincture around my waist and draped my towel. As we were waiting in the entry of the church, I placed my hands inside my pocket. I pulled out a pocket full of tear stained Kleenex from Ben’s funeral. A smile came across my face for a brief moment as I remembered celebrating Ben’s life together with so many of my beloved friends a few weeks ago. It was a bittersweet moment.

Then we processed into the sanctuary waving our palm branches. As we celebrated Palm Sunday, with the palms spread out for the king, I was reminded again of the reality of this Holy Week. A week that begins with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, then his last supper, his crucifixion and death, and finally to the empty tomb. An extravagant reminder that death does not have the final word.

I’ll admit that this Lent, a huge part of me wants to run directly to the empty tomb. Yet I need to walk through this Holy Week experiencing every aspect of this week. I need to wave my palm branches high announcing the arrival of this king. I must sit at the Lord’s Table knowing it is for all of us. I must cry out as Jesus was crucified. I will tremble knowing what Christ has done for me; done for all of us. And then I will wait and come to the tomb on Easter morning to find the empty tomb.

This Lenten wilderness has been so very long. There have been so many times I’ve wanted to collapse onto the road; weary, so very weary. Yet today, as we celebrate Palm Sunday and Jesus entry into the city, I can’t help but see glimpses of that resurrection hope. A beloved Wartburg Seminary professor commended to God’s care on this very day; a fitting entry into God’s kingdom. My friend Ben’s favorite team winning their game (Rock Chalk Jayhawks!) Children joyfully dyeing Easter eggs. Simple signs that new life is on the horizon.

And with these simple glimpses and having traveled down this Lenten weary road, I’m so ready to walk down this road to find the tomb empty on Easter Sunday. I’m ready to triumphantly declare, “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

The Routine of Words

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “routine” We would love to have you join us.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”–John 1:1-4 (NRSV)

My fingers click against the keys as words spill onto the page. A gift bestowed upon me by God. The routine of words that carry over into #fmfparty and #slatespeak on Thursday nights.

It’s a llittle crazy, but every Thursday night I pull up Twitter on my phone and IPad. I follow along. Listening, learning, engaging with online communities. Another gift that God has shown me.

Through words, we tell stories and speak of life’s realities. Sometimes our routines of life are disrupted by unexpected events. The sudden loss of a friend. Realizing that Lent this year has made you weary. The joy of new birth. And the list goes on.

Yet in the occurance of these events, it is the routine of words that help me to process; that help me to remember that my words, our words embody the love of God shown through God’s one and only son Jesus Christ; the very Word made flesh.

For is in the routine of words, that I find new life.

 

 

Weary and Worn

Tired!
Worn!
Weary!

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word “weary” is defined as “exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness.” My friends, I don’t know about you, but I am feeling especially weary as we meander down this Lenten weary road. There has been so much death around me; around many of us.

In October, a seminary classmate/friend died. In November, my favorite high school English teacher, drama director and mentor died. Just a few weeks ago, my dear friend Ben died. And then today, one of my beloved seminary professors also died. I don’t need to look very far this Lent to be reminded of those words we hear every Ash Wednesday “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Throughout life, we experience death in a variety of ways. But sometimes, like this Lent, people are taken before their time while others live a good and faithful life. The reality of death is that it is painful, hard, exhausting and grief weary. Death also reminds us that, as my friend Bryant said in his sermon last week, that we are given these people to love on this earth. But ultimately that heaven and being united with Jesus is the end goal because we are God’s beloved.

I will admit that is hard to see when people are taken from us way too soon. We would much rather have them with us in this world. We find ourselves proclaiming “This sucks!!!” Because the reality is that the world is filled with cancer and other illnesses that take those we love away from us way too soon.

So this Lenten weary road is filled with grief for myself and many others. I find myself wanting to collapse onto the road. Yet I know that if I get back up and keep meandering and trudging along, I will make it to the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. I will see and be reminded that “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there (Clarence W. Hall).” Only God has the power to overcome death and the grave.

However, the tears are still wet upon my face. I find myself wanting to take the pain of death and losing someone dear to us away. I cling to the promises that we are all beloved saints; called and claimed in the waters of Baptism. “You are a baptized child of God; whatever else you are remember that you are that, for that is the basis of whatever else you are.”

Both in life and death, we are intertwined with the community of saints before and after us. I will forever cling to the image of 80 plus of us linked together as we stood around Ben’s urn and commended him to God’s care. A tangible reminder of the cloud of witnesses linked together in time and space.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”–Hebrews 12:1-2 (NRSV)

Trusting in this promise, I will do my very best to lay aside every weight and sin that clings so tightly. Yet on this Lenten weary road, with tears still wet upon my cheeks, I will continue to journey to the cross and then eventually to the empty tomb. A reminder once again that death does not have the final word, but that God does. And because of that promise, I can picture heavenly racquetball matches soon taking place, broken bodies restored to wholeness, and so much more. For it is at the empty tomb, that my tears come not for death, but for the promise that life and resurrection hope that emerge out of Jesus’ own life, death and resurrection.

 

Sunday Blessings 206

(1) Awesome host and hostesses. Thanks MK and AK.

(2) Seeing beloved friends!!

(3) Celebrating and remembering our friend Ben. Beer and Hymns for Ben!!

(4) KB picking me up at the train station.

(5) Visiting with another passenger on the train .

(6) MO coming to my rescue by bringing coffee while stranded in Minot for 4 hours.

(7) A nice card from a parishioner

(8) Texting with my faves

(9) A gorgeous Spring day

(10) MK drawing me a pretty picture which is now on my fridge.

(11) A great day off

(12) Solid sleep

(13) Popcorn.

(14) Seeing the movie I Can Only Imagine!!

(15) A little PLN!

(16) Halo Top Lemon Cake Ice Cream

God Provided!

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “provide” We would love to have you join us.

God provides!

This week God provided so much.

God provided….

–Friends to mourn together.

–An incredible cloud of witnesses who stood together to commend our friend to God’s care.

–Amtrak who got me safely to my destination.

–Gracious hosts who went above and beyond the call of duty

–Bagpipes played for our friend.

–That silly Wartburg Seminary shield packed full of so many memories.

–Hymns sung loudly

–Hugs, hugs and more hugs!

–A local brewery who opened just for us so we could celebrate and send our friend out the way he would want; through Beer and Hymns.

–My friends two year old daughter asleep on her mom’s shoulder throughout the service….waking up during the Words of Institution.

–Memories that capture our friends joy and zest for life.

–An incredible community to support and walk alongside one another.

–Holy holy tears!

Through all of life’s journey, through the ups and downs, God provides! And I’m so thankful for the ways God provided for my friends and I this week.

A Road Weary Traveler

I am a road weary traveler.

Throughout these days of Lent, this particular road of Lent seems so very long. I feel like I am traveling along, but have made no progress. I am stuck between the limbo of life and death. My favorite high school teacher lost her battle with cancer in November. In addition, since October, two seminary classmates/friends have died. I still feel like we are standing on the road bearing the reality of death in the midst of the chaos and brokenness of our broken world.

Not that long ago, the ashen cross was marked on our foreheads with the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This Lent, it feels like that cross is still wet upon my forehead. Yet it was over three weeks ago when those words were said and the cross marked on my forehead. This week, the reality of death set before our very eyes once again. A beloved pastor and servant of Christ taken way too soon.

On this weary road of Lent, I have found myself saying frequently “This sucks!” Words that embody the reality of the theology of the cross. The theology of the cross calls a thing what it is. Death is all around us, but sometimes death occurs way too often. I am weary from the grief so many of us are carrying. I am trying to stay strong in the midst of yet another loss. Yet my heart hurts still and I just want to collapse on this Lenten weary road.

So often, in this world, we want to skip over Good Friday straight to the cross. We would much rather stay up on the mountain on Transfiguration Sunday. But we must come down. So this Lent, I will come to the cross. But then I will be more than ready to come to the tomb on Easter Sunday to find it empty; to know that death never ever has the final word! For only God has the power to overcome death and the grave. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.” (Clarence W. Hall)

This Lenten weary traveler is ready to see and hear the Easter promises triumphantly declared. “Alleluia. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” And I know that this Lent especially I am not on this road alone. There are many others who are standing on this weary Lenten road waiting for the Easter promises to be revealed. We are deeply yearning and looking to see Jesus standing there next to us.

Photo Credit: Jacob Sorenson 2018

On Tuesday, as we stood around our dear dear friend’s lego urn, approximately 70 plus of us linked with Ben, Mara and Elizabeth; interwoven as an incredibly tangible sign of the body of Christ; I couldn’t help but begin to see that perhaps the Lenten weary road we are standing on isn’t so long after all. For around that urn, a tangible symbol of God’s love and the love of our friend was embodied in that time and place. A reminder once again that God’s love ultimately wins.

And so I will continue to meander and trudge my way down this Lenten weary road ready to come to the cross on Easter and proclaim with all the saints that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! However, this Lent, I may be more weary and worn from the journey to that empty tomb!

I am linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra Linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart, and Kristin and Porch Stories!

  

 

An Incredible Cloud of Witnesses (For our friend Ben)

Today, I sat in a sanctuary with many others who knew and loved our friend Ben. Tears fell from my face as I grieved this friend, but also as I saw the faces of the many he loved so deeply. Voices lifted loudly in honor of this dear child of God. Then it came time for the commendation and I along with 60+ other rostered leaders stood around Ben’s urn as we commended him to God’s care.

Voices of all shapes and sizes declaring in these words, “Let us commend Ben to the mercy of God, our maker and redeemer. O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Ben. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your own mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.”

That image will forever be engrained in my heart and soul as this cloud of witnesses gathered with Ben’s wife Mara, their daughter Elizabeth and so many others. Each hand extended to the person in front of or beside them. But I also know that this cloud of witnesses was extended far beyond those sanctuary walls as so many from the Wartburg Seminary community rally oranged for Ben and joined us from around the world.

Today was indeed a celebration of Ben’s life. As Nate said, Ben loved us and we loved Ben. Today embodied that love in so many ways. A love that was grounded in Ben’s faith and the claim that he is a beloved child of God. Ben was really good at reminding us of that. My heart aches and will for awhile because this friendship was a gift to me and to so many others.

It can at times be hard to capture friendship in single words or phrases, but for my friendship with Ben, it is easy. Ben was one who had a huge heart and loved big. As Bryant shared, Ben taught me that there is always room in our hearts for more. As I looked around the room this afternoon, as we toasted and sang in Ben’s honor, my heart ached because my heart is full of so much love and it still aches for another loss; taken way too soon. But I’m going to try my best to let my heart expand that love because Ben taught me that too. He always made you feel loved and welcomed…without question.

In the midst of death, this Lent seems so very long and we are more than ready for the Easter promises of resurrection hope. And as we stood around Ben’s lego urn, I believe we saw a glimpse into that Easter morning. A cloud of witnesses proclaiming that death never has the final word. Thanks be to God!

Sunday Blessings 205

(1) Ben and Jerrys Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

(2) A Snow Day!!

(3) Reminiscing and Remembering as I look through seminary photos

(4) Talking to Grandma and Grandpa on the phone.

(5) Messaging with my friend CA

(6) Community especially Wartburg Theological Seminary.

(7) Texts from IS and STM

(8) An unexpected call from MK

(9) Haircut and Color Day

(10) My neighbor offering to take my garbage out so I didn’t have to walk all the way.

(11) Texting with my fave

(12) Twinings Lemon and Ginger tea

(13) A blessed Sunday morning.

(14) Parishioners offering to take me to the train station.

(15) Lots of “safe travel” comments at church today.

(16) A sweet prayer from my friend NM

(17) A beautiful PLN

(18) Thirty degrees above zero weather

(19) Train only being about 20 minutes late

(20) Friends!

Weary with Grief

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “tired” We would love to have you join us.

Weary grief laden eyes; eyes that have shed tears. Tears that echo a lost friendship. A friendship taken way too soon by the ugliness of cancer. Tears that tell of a love and laughter that is lost. Tears that cry for Bens wife Mara, their daughter Elizabeth and all who know and love Ben.

My heart and grief are heavy! I am tired and weary as yet another young leader has been taken way too soon. Too many of our friends are no longer here. Sometimes I wonder if friendship is worth it when we have to say goodbye so suddenly. Yet I know that this friendship is every bit worth it.

Grief is a funny thing, isn’t it? We all grieve differently! Yet the same tiredness comes over all of us in the midst of our grief. I’ve been so uplifted by an amazing community this week; a community that holds us and reminds us of God’s promises when we cannot do that for ourselves. A community that is also weary from the grief we carry. But even in the midst of it all, we have found ways to remember and also laugh.

Sunday night I’ll hop on a train so I can be there next Tuesday as we celebrate Ben’s life. I’ll be tired from traveling but it will be totally worth it to celebrate and say goodbye together. A collective grief carried together; a collective grief that we will lay at the foot of the cross and a collective grief that will open to joy as we cling to the promises of resurrection hope.

The Worth of Friendship

The words to Point of Grace’s song “Circle of Friends” popped into my head this morning as I was getting ready for work. And I cannot shake them today. Friendship is hard work. It takes effort but it is so worth it! Yet when have to say goodbye much sooner than we would like, it is easy to think it isn’t worth it. But what I have learned over the years is that it is every bet worth it. These friendships are the notes that create a beautiful tapestry of lyrics.

“We were made to love and be loved, but the price this world demands will cost far too much.” My friend/our friend Ben was the best at showing love to others. He had this way of making you feel accepted, loved and welcomed into a community. It was never forced; one hundred percent genuine. And when Ben found the love of his life Mara, that love only multiplied. It was one of the most joyous weddings I have ever attended. And then when his daughter Elizabeth was born, that love multiplied yet again. This love is the kind of genuine love that will live on through those who knew and loved Ben.

My heart is heavy and weary with grief. I am sad that it has been awhile since I have seen Ben or Mara. I am sad that Ben won’t get to watch Elizabeth grow up. I am sad for my friends who have lost one of their best friends. In the midst of the pain and grief, I want to take it all away. But what I have learned throughout this grieving process is there is a community; the community of Wartburg Theological Seminary that holds you up when you cannot hold yourself up.

I love what my friend Ali shared on her FB page last night, “But because we belong to this community we get people who love you and lift you up and remind you of God’s promises when you need them the most. And we know we are never alone and for today…that is enough.”

Indeed that is enough! And today I am so incredibly thankful for that. Sunday night, I will hop on a train so I can be at Ben’s funeral next Tuesday morning. I need to be with these dear souls who hold a big piece of my heart. Grief is so hard and again there are days we wonder if it is worth it.

Ben, it was totally worth it. It was worth it to hear you laugh with that big robust laugh of yours. It was worth it to hear you sing to your heart’s content. It was worth it to watch you be a husband and a dad. It was worth it to lose to you during those game nights and it was worth it when we got to beat you at those board games even if those wins were few and far between. It was worth it to be your friend and for you to be mine! I don’t regret that for a second.

But this loss hurts! It hurts so deeply to lose a friend because we are bonded together. We were and are bonded because of Wartburg Theological Seminary. In the words of Jean Vanier, “In any case, community is not about perfect people. It is about people who are bonded to each other, each of whom is a mixture of good and bad, darkness and light, love and hate.”

More often than not, you my friends, have shown me good rather than bad, light rather than darkness, love rather than hate. And today, that good, that light, and that love are much dimmer because we lost one of the best people I know. But my heart and soul know that this friendship, and every friendship in my life, is 100 percent worth it! Thank You for being a part of my circle of friends!