Friday, March 27, 2009

A Faithful Pilgrim Continues to Lead by Example

A small group of our middle schoolers met at our church this week with their moms. We had two fifth grade boys and one seventh grade boy take part in a Faith Stepping Stone for this age group on the Passover, Communion, and living a forgiven and forgiving lifestyle. It was a great class and a meaningful experience.

On Tuesday night, we closed the evening with prayer. We shared our concerns and in particular, we lifted up our 97-year-old member, Homer. He is near the end of his life, with family surrounding him, singing hymns to this wonderful retired pastor, veteran, and a servant of God. "A pilgrim leading the rest of us on the journey..." as one friend describes him. The pastor says she's just waiting for the phone to ring.

We all prayed for Homer, these three boys from age 9 to 13, and their moms. Within moments of closing the prayer, the phone rang. The air left the room. The pastor excused herself and the rest of us talked somewhat nervously among ourselves. When the pastor returned to the group, one of the boys said, "I know this is really not my business, but, was that about Homer?" No, another member of our church had surgery that afternoon and they were just reporting that things went well.

We then ended the evening with a celebration of Communion. The elements placed on a small table, we stood in a circle and the boys gave the Words of Institution as they remembered, with the adults filling in as needed.

It struck me how Homer would be so pleased to witness this Sacrament. These wonderful boys in that in-between place from boys to teenagers who were praying for him, concerned about him. These boys had never had such an intimate experience of Communion and I felt privileged to be a part of it.

I shared this story the next day with my friend Bob at lunch. Bob happens to be the administrator at Mayflower Community, where Homer lives. Bob is one of those people who tell me who I am in a way that I cannot walk away from. Bob told me that I needed to go and tell Homer the story. Yes, he's nonresponsive, but he just may hear you, and his family will want to know this story. "And Laura, this is not about you." He's right.

I felt led to Homer's room, to visit with his daughter in the hallway to ask if it was okay for me to visit with Homer. I shared the story with her and we both were overcome with tears. I wondered if I would be able to actually get the words out of my mouth when I was with him.

However, as I sat down by his bed, I felt a sense of calm and peace. I laid my hand on his arm and told him the story as if he were smiling that signature smile we will not forget. This man, this servant of God, continued to bless us all by his presence. I prayed with him, for him, and for the boys who lifted him up in prayer and concern.

When I had finished, the daughters were smiling through their tears and said that he was most interested in his ministry living on after him. I don't think that will be a problem.

One of the daughters remarked that I got through the story without choking up. I said, "I don't think it was me doing the talking."

Earlier that morning, I was feeling sorry for myself. I was frustrated and tired. There is so much heartache surrounding my close friends and families these days. But, that afternoon, I was blessed by a dying man, simply by his presence.

Rev. Homer Perry died later that night, March 26, 2009, at the age of 97. My son John offered this prayer when he learned the news, "God please welcome Homer and I hope he travels safely." Homer is home, just where he's been waiting to be.

Friday, March 20, 2009


"It's an outrage!"

Yeah, it is an outrage that companies who took bailout money from the Government gave a good chunk of it to the geniuses that ran the company into the ground. Where's their sense of morals and decency?!? The unmitigated gall!

Here's what I'm outraged about...there are thousands of people who have to choose daily between buying their medications or buying food. There are elderly couples who will cut their pills in half or share the medications to avoid the extra cost - doing neither of them any good. Might as well not spend the money on the prescription at all.

I'm outraged that we have some of the best healthcare in the world, and if you don't have health insurance, you can't get it. The need for safety net programs is rapidly rising at a time when community clinics are losing revenue. That's outrageous.

There are people in New Orleans, the Mississippi coast, Texas, who all these years later are still relying on church youth groups to rebuild after hurricanes. There are people in Iowa who are still dealing with the damage from last year's catastrophic flooding - homes, business, libraries, schools, universities.

Our government tortured people in our name, knowingly lead us into a war sending our loved ones into harm's way to settle a score, spied on innocent Americans, all in the name of patriotism. And we are silent. That's outrageous.

I suggest that if We, The People, had the same level of outrage for abuses of basic human rights as we seem to have over this bonus situation, we could really make a change in the world for the better. Yes, the bonuses are outrageous, but more outrageous than children and families in your Anytown, USA going to bed hungry every night?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The World's Wilderness Journey

Lent is such a struggle for me.

I'm so much more of an Advent person. I find such transformative power during Advent with its themes of joy, hope, peace, and love. The mystery, the light shining in the darkness, the music...

I was pregnant with our children during Advent and identify so strongly with Mary's journey because of it. Birthing hope, I get that. It is deeply affirming for me.

But Lent.... seems to be about my totally imperfect self, sin, and introspection, and giving things up, and guilt, and fasting, and discipline, and...ugh. I recognize that we have to slog through Lent, to experience the range of emotions that is Holy Week, in order to truly live out the glory of Easter.

No matter where you go these days, it is difficult to find a corner of one's life free from stress. Sure, a reasonable amount of stress is alright, but the constant barrage of gloom and doom on the news, at work, even in our houses of worship where budgets are having to be cut to size is more than a little depressing. It's like the entire world is wandering in the wilderness being taunted by the Devil. And perhaps, that's not a bad analogy of the past few years. The Mardi Gras-style spending and consumerism with hurricanes, parades, and beads, gave way almost overnight to fasting, introspection, and serving ramen noodles at dinner parties.

We know how Lent ends. We know that things got worse for Jesus before they got better. We know the Resurrection promise that transformed the world on Easter morning is coming. Maybe this year I'm finding more relevance in my Lenten experience because it is echoing what is happening in my life. I'm finding more comfort in my meditation and prayer because I know this time will pass, that things will get better, that we will find our way out of the wilderness and be better for it. The promise of Easter and all that it holds, gives me the hope to look forward to what God has in store.