Saturday, February 19, 2011

...though the earth gives way.

Thursday, we were headed to the memorial service of a man from our church.

Cancer. He was eight years older than Kevin. He leaves a wife and two just-grown children. He was the first person we met when we moved to Minnesota 14 years ago. We had asked the church if there was anyone who would help us unload our moving truck, and somehow Bob ended up at our door on a cold, snowy, winter's day. Cheerful and welcoming, with plenty of Minnesota jokes to get us acquainted with northern humor right off the bat. Through the years he was a regular person in the background of my life. Not one of our best friends, but someone I took for granted as being around here somewhere, someone I would never hesitate to enjoy a conversation with if we happened to be in the same place at the same time. Always with a joke and smile for the kids, a surprise from his pocket, the real deal, and unique in every way.

Driving down the highway to the downtown Minneapolis church, I wondered at my lack of sadness on the road. That didn't last long. As soon as I entered the lobby, I noticed the rotating slide show on the monitors. We came in midway through the lifetime of pictures. I looked up at Bob standing with his family, Bob cracking a joke with a friend, Bob in a Civil War uniform at Ft. Snelling, Bob in London with his wife on the big trip, Bob looking tired, Bob with oxygen on his face, Bob sicker than I had ever seen him. Tears started leaking out of my eyes as I slumped into the pew in the overflow area, where I planned to sit with the baby. I stopped wiping my face after a few minutes and just let the tears drip off my chin. And that was before his Civil War reenactment battery marched in to the wail of bagpipes and the service began with its carefully chosen hymns, memories of life-long-friends, truth-provoking poetry, friend-filled choir, well suited sermon and scripture that resonated with my heart. Bob has gone from what he called pre-life (nevermind that afterlife talk...this is just the pre-life!) and has joined Jesus in LIFE. His civil war with sin and this body of death is over. Victorious. Redeemed. It was a beautiful service remembering Bob and honoring Jesus Christ. Absurdly, I was reminded of Bilbo Baggins saying, "but today of all days it is brought home to me that it is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life."

Sitting in the back, nursing my chubby baby–watching pictures of Bob from infant, to child, to teen, to young man, to husband, to father, to mid-life, to cancer–I felt I was somehow holding earthly life from beginning to end with all its joys and sorrows, right in my arms, as the tears continued to leak quietly from my eyes.

I remembered the verses that had so gripped me a few weeks ago, from Psalm 46, verses 1-3.

God is our refuge and strength,
     a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
     though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
     though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

I had walked around with the words rolling in my mind. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way. Therefore we will not fear...  Though the earth gives way?  What does that mean?  How can we not fear if the earth gives way beneath us? It really stuck with me.  Do I have that faith?  I want to have that faith.  Oh, Lord, give me that faith! I started thinking of all the things that happen in life that feel like that. Like the earth giving way beneath our feet. What am I trusting in? That thought has been with me for the past two weeks.

Sitting at the back of the church, behind the glass of the sanctuary, holding the baby and pondering the fleeting days of this life, I began thinking of how it is true, that through our hope in Christ, we can face death and not fear.  I had this image in my mind of the earth falling away from us in this manner: When loved ones, and others who form the tapestry of life around us, die and leave us–it is as if the earth gives way–one person at a time.  If I, or this child in my arms, lives for 110 years, the earth will give way, as one by one people disappear around me, around him.  In my mind, all the people I have ever known were standing soberly, facing me, then turning to dust and blowing away, quietly, one at a time.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way...


God is our refuge and strength,
     a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
     though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
     though the mountains tremble at its swelling....

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
     the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
     God will help her when morning dawns....

Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
     the God of Jacob is our fortress. 

                         ~Psalm 46:1-3 and 4-5 and 10-11

Robert W. Lockman, Jr.
November 17, 1954-January 24, 2011

Honoring Jesus Christ and Remembering Bob Lockman:
A Memorial Service of Worship, February 17, 2011

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
~1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Prelude: Morning Has Broken
Welcome and Prayer
Bagpipe Processional: The Minstrel Boy
Trooping of the Colors: 
     Company A, First Minnesota Volunteers Infantry. 
     Battery I, First U.S. Artillery.
Congregational Hymns:
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
What Wondrous Love is This?
O Let Your Soul Now Be Filled With Gladness
Choral Praise: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
Poem: Jesus
Congregational Song: Be Thou My Vision
Romans 7:13-8:1
Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Message: Bob Lockman's Civil War
Choral Anthem: The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Congregational Hymn: Victory in Jesus
Bagpipe Recessional: Retreat

Friday, February 11, 2011

Loving February? Part 2

The challenge (and humor) of loving February seems to have struck a chord with a lot of my friends. A surprising number have mentioned additional things to add to the Merits of February list. Quite a few have told me they are going to try to love February along with me!  Fun!

So here are a few more great things about this month. Perhaps they will entice a few more of you to join the February Fan Club!

•Garden and Seed Catalogs arrive.
•Enjoying your best garden EVER… in your imagination.
•Runners can stop worrying about windchill and train outdoors. Usually.
•Blooming potted flowers reappear in the stores bringing the first true smells of Spring!
•Gorgeous mornings of hoarfrost.  A late winter treat.
•We in the north can be amused by swimsuits being suddenly and prominently displayed in stores.
•Lots of birds come to the feeders because they can’t find food anywhere else.
•Cheap chocolate after Valentine’s day.
•Star gazing without mosquitoes, plus the snow is comfy for lying on your back and staring at the sky.
•If you file your taxes early, your refund (if you’re going to get one) will arrive this month.
•Spectacular icicles.
•Warm enough to wash the car a few times this month.
•Snow shoveling muscles are finally in shape, just in time for the heaviest snow of the season.
•Girl Scout Cookies.
•Warms up enough for the kids to play outdoors for extended amounts of time after being cooped up for weeks . . . months . . . on end.


Best of all - it’s fun to smile and respond unexpectedly with “You know, I actually sort of love February!”  when folks make small talk with the standard late-winter conversation openers. Several people were laughing along with me during a funny conversation with the cashier at the grocery store yesterday after she commented, "Well, do you think this winter is ever going to end?"

So, what else do YOU (try to) love about February? 

ps. Thanks again, Rachel!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Loving February?

Sometimes we need friends to remind us of the beauty that is all around us.

Well, at least I do.  Despite my best efforts to notice all the gifts of each season this year, I found myself pretty stalled on finding any more nice things to say about winter as I turned the calendar to February a few days ago.  Sigh.  Another month of Winter with a capital W.  We like to joke on Groundhog's Day, that in Minnesota there are always six more weeks of winter...six more weeks than anyone else, that is.  Shivering by the cold glass, and looking at the white sky, white ground, white world out my window–I found myself thinking that the most positive thing to say about this time of year is that it makes us long for Spring.  I even wrote about it.  A dear friend added an encouraging comment on that post, and near the end just happened to ask, "Well, don't you love February?  I really do."

That made me think.

Do I love February?  Love February.  February?  I decided to try.  I shared with some friends that I decided to try, with some delightful results.  Soon I realized that once again I had been so caught up in noticing the things I was expecting to see, that I had missed the actual gifts all around me, waiting to be admired and enjoyed.

For the encouragement (and perhaps amusement) of those who were not in on that conversation, I'm going to share the List of the Merits of February that my dear friend easily listed off to help my attempts at February appreciation. It has led to me giggling randomly throughout the day.  And smiling a (frozen) smile as I went out into the frigid sunshine this early morning. I even got a chance to convince a stranger that February is a wonderful time of year by sharing the List of Merits with her.

Here's how that conversation went:

There we were, standing, looking out at the parking lot through the glass. Each of us waiting to be picked up by someone who loves us enough to go out into the negative 15 degree windchill so we can enter a car that has warmed up to at least zero by the time they drive over to the door.  Her comment, echoed by thousands, even millions of people today, "Boy, I am so ready for Spring."

Smiling, I just couldn't help myself. "You know, I have a friend who loves February."

She turned to me,"Really? What does she like about it?"

"Well, she has a big list of things.  And she's convinced me, too. I decided to like February. It's a good list."

She was all ears, as I'm sure you are, too.

Here we go...and this was just off the top of my friend's head.

1) Valentine's Day!! ♥ ♥
2) While it's winter, it's WAY lighter earlier & later. This gets dramatically better all month & is really wonderful! 
3) Weirdly more powerful sun. Roads become generally blacktop, not white or icy. 
4) There is time to do winter things you meant to do but didn't–get a little one on skates, family ski/tube day, etc. 
5) Spring is so clearly coming! It is like the glorious START of coasting down a monster hill you just miserably biked up. 
6) The spring idea is there to enjoy, yet there is absolutely no pressure to actually do anything spring related. Relax & milk the"sit by fire in a blanket & read" season for all it is worth... 
6) On top of all this: One of my boys was born, plus, Sara & her sister, & some great presidents!

Later, she and others thought of more things to love (or consider loving) about February.  I even thought of a few things.

Variety! Snowstorms and Sunshine. Blizzards and More Sunshine. Puddles appear on sunny days, even if it's still quite cold. Wooden decks dry out in the sun. The best month for skiing. Opportunities for Contentment and Patience. The best snow of the year for snowballs, snowmen and forts.  The emptiest activity calendar page of the year, and snow days snuggled at home. And yes, the smell of Spring is on the breeze.

I'm really not joking that all this is a gift to me. Learning to love the beauty of a season where I had only seen bleak days before, will be a blessing year after year. 

I'm thankful for friends who help me see.
Treasure from the Junk Drawer
copyright © Sara Shull
•All text and poetry by Sara
•Art illustrations by Sara
•Photos by Sara or the Shull kids
~~~~All rights reserved~~~~

Bible verses:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV)