Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gratitude for Music (by Judy)

In my last entry, I spoke about our trip to Tennessee, an experience that still excites me and reminds me about the amazing diversity of people, geography and history in our country. But it is the music that continues to dig deep into my heart and remind me about our great God. I know I am not alone. Even David sang, "My heart is steadfast, O God. I will sing and make music with all my soul."

Since Tennessee, we have embarked on two weekend trips - one to Virginia and one to Minnesota. Our southern journey was for fun, as we visited friends and attended a fair in a small Civil War style town. There were re-enactments, delicious food, costumes and games, and strolling musicians playing country instruments, like the banjo, fiddle, mandolin and dulcimer, which I am now studying. Best of all was a concert in a lovely chapel where a lilting tin whistle played notes that soared to the rafters - "When we've been here ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise, than when we've first begun."

Minnesota was different - a memorial service, celebrating the life of my son-in-law's father. We traveled 3 hours north of Minneapolis to a beautiful and somewhat wild land of lakes, pine trees, soaring birds, and people who enjoy hunting, fishing and wild rice pancakes. The evening before the service, I sat with family, talking about previous Catholic funerals I have attended. My richest memory is a hymn - "You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, who abide in his shadow for life, say to the Lord: 'My refuge, my rock in whom I trust." and then the chorus, always led by a beautiful baritone several rows behind, "And he will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand." Sure enough, the hymn was on yesterday's program and the baritone sang.

The morning after the service, I rose early, and went to the dining room of the rustic lodge where we were staying, thanks to the generosity of the lodge's owner, whose father bought meat from my son-in-law's father 65 years ago - for such is the steadfastness of love in the countryside. The cavernous room was empty, the huge windows looking out over Gull Lake pristine. As I sipped my steaming coffee, I watched the sunrise and listened to David's voice, the tin whistle, the baritone - and simply thanked God by singing His praises once again. "Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Is That You, Jesus? by Carolyn

I had a friend who was ill with cancer. It was orginally diagnosed almost twenty years ago, long before I knew her. She was treated and for ten years she was cancer free. Then, about nine years ago it came back.

I met her a year ago when a mutual friend asked me if I would participate in a Bible study with her, her friend, and two others. She told me about Carol. She said Carol was nearing the end of a long line of chemo treatments. There were no other types of chemo that she could take that would halt the growth of her cancer and Carol wanted to know what heaven was like. She was a very smart girl. She wasn't one to take just anyone's word on things and so she had chosen a book called, "Heaven" written by Randy Alcorn. She wanted to study that one because it included thousands of Scripture references and Carol wanted as much evidence as the Bible could provide.

The study began and Carol was inspired. The Holy Spirit found her heart open and ready. She read and studied like crazy! She was the type of person who did whatever she did, passionately and this was no exception. The rest of us did our best to keep up, but she blew out the curve!

Her time grew shorter and she studied harder. She didn't "taste" the Bible. She swallowed it whole. At some point in her life she had asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior, but it had been many years since she thought much about Him. Not so anymore! As her body withered, her spirit soared. It almost became incidental to her that she was wasting away. She was gaining on eternity with Jesus with every passing day.

The day came when she was admitted to hospice. She had been there only one day before her pastor showed up. When he came into the room Carol appeared to be sleeping, lying on her back, her hands folded neatly across her tummy. Not wanting to wake her, he pulled up a chair and sat beside her gently touching her hand with his. Her eyes fluttered open. She looked directly through him and said, "Is that you, Jesus? Is that you? Because I am so ready to go home. I want to go home with You."

The pastor was stunned. As he said at her memorial service, never had he had such an experience. He was speechless. He knew that Carol knew Jesus was on His way. He came and took her home that night.

Hours before my own mother died, she was semi conscious. She began asking no one in particular for a map. She couldn't understand why one wasn't provided, for without it, how would she get where she was going? She asked for directions. Apparently, foiled again she was absolutely puzzled and obviously chagrined. Her chagrin became relief and joy when she suddenly realized she didn't need a map. She didn't need directions. Why? Because, she said, "Oh! I see! You are coming to get me!" And He did.