Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Saturday!

Today was the Texas vs. Oklahoma football game. I was greatly reminded of two past game days. I cannot tell you who won, but I can tell you stories. The first one happened two years ago just before Casey was diagnosed. Travis and I decided to tease Casey by wearing our Texas burnt orange shirts. So here we sat in the living room and waited for Casey come out of his room wearing his Oklahoma maroon shirt. When Casey walked out into the living room and saw Travis and I in our UT shirts he stated very strongly, “You people are wrong, just wrong!” It was too funny.

The second and most memorable was the game last year. We held the party in his hospital room. There was most definitely a division of orange and maroon in the room and the crowd was so large that it overflowed into the family room across the hall. Casey lay in his bed with his beloved OU pillow wearing his OU shirt and when he was coherent he rooted for the Sooners. That was on a Saturday and we lost him on the following Tuesday. Casey always loved a great party and not one time did any nurse tell us to be quiet or settle down. They just came on in and cheered for their favorite. I think their favorite was Casey.

Today while making chicken wings for during the game snacks, I wore Casey’s OU shirt. (My mom told me to wear my UT shirt under the OU shirt just to be safe!) I must admit I shed some tears while making the wings, as they were one of Casey’s favorites and I thought about the fun everyone had at last year’s game.

Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus…who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross…and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

My Mom called me today to see how my week had gone; especially Wednesday. I told her that parts of the day were hard and parts of the day were okay. The memory of a year ago is still burned in my memory and will be forever. But I told Mom that I tried to keep busy and that really helped, but the times when I was still were pretty hard. I also told her that writing has really helped me work through my grief.

Writing has helped a lot, but staying focused on Christ has helped most of all. When I sort through whatever is bothering me and get to the face and heart of God then things become clearer. The devotion guide I frequently use calls this Faith-Vision. “Faith vision is when you look away from sordid surroundings, lack of beauty and imperfections” and see only Jesus. When we seek and see only Jesus then we desire only Him and what he wills for our lives. When we grow in the likeness of Christ then others will know we have been with Jesus. We, then, abide with Jesus while still here on this earth. In my prayer time this week I have been praying that when others see me they will see the eyes of Jesus looking back at them. My prayer is not to wait until I am close to entering the Kingdom of heaven before others see Jesus in me. I figure this is a prayer and a growth that will take me the remainder of my lifetime for God to accomplish this in me.

So the question I am throwing out there is “Do people see Jesus when they look in our eyes?”

I want to thank each of you for letting me work out my grief, share joys, accomplishments and for praying for our family for the last two years. You have all been an amazing support and the most wonderful example of grace in action. Thank you friends and love you lots.

Take joy in the journey and wear a sweater. Love you all and see you in worship!

Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Friday!

Psalm 37: 1-4 “Fret not thyself because of evildoers…Trust in the Lord and do good…Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

I have a friend whose son is engaged. This is a young man who has been raised in the church, understands about service and loves to serve the Lord and has a personal relationship with Christ. His fiancĂ© is not a believer and Satan is on the attack in this relationship. His parents are riding a fine line of speaking only when it seems appropriate. It is a tough spot for any parent to be. Finally, these wonderful parents have given their son the best advice of all. They have told him to “get your heart right with God and everything will fall into place according to His will.”

This young man is in a place of confusion and is desperately seeking peace in his heart. The way to peace is through praise. Praise is so hard when the circumstances are tough, but when you praise God in your stress, your despair, your sorrow and your confusion, then sorrow is turned to Joy, and confusion is changed from disorder to order and chaos is turned to calm.

Remember, all of these changes must begin with each of US. Change must occur from within us. And when our hearts change, the outward circumstances may not change, but we will guided and directed in the way we should go. When we change our hearts through praise then the power of God is released and sorrow and confusion is changed into Joy and Peace.

As I write this piece I remember a song I used to sing called “Praise You Just the Same.” One of the lines is “Help me to remember that even You were made to cry. O Son of God, Redeemer, You knew that Yours was not to reason why. And when I feel like dying, help me that I don’t stop trying, but thank You, Lord, and praise you just the same. Let me thank you Lord and praise you just the same.”

God has walked all of our roads before us. Let us praise Him when we are lost and confused and He will always show up to bring us out of chaos, confusion and sorrow and restore us to peace, joy and calm.

Take joy in the journey and wear a sweater. Love you, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.
Happy Thursday!

Today was a really great day at school. A couple of weeks ago one of my team members was surplused from our campus to another campus because of a low enrollment in first grade. When that happened his class was divided up among the remaining teachers. There were five children added to my classroom. I went from a dream class of 17 children to a reality class of 22. It has taken some time, but finally today, for the first time, my class began to gel. Talking was down, listening and learning were up and following directions went far better today. I have been waiting for this day for quite a while. I hope this is a trend and that tomorrow is just a nice.

Psalm 50: 10, 12 “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills…If I were hungry, I would not tell thee; for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof.”

Let’ face it… for most people money is tight right now. How many of us have asked for an extension on this or that or can I pay for this on payday? Sometimes the “storehouses” of our lives run a little low. It makes me nervous when there is too much month left at the end of the money. When our earthly storehouse seems a bit bleak I pray for God to just meet the needs of the day. And out of His love and His faithfulness, the daily needs are met. They may be met creatively, but the needs are met.

But the storehouses of God are full to overflowing. God asks us to remind ourselves that His storehouse is never empty or even runs low. His storehouse of love is always full and overflowing. His storehouse of grace is so plentiful that to feel satisfied all we need is to ask. God reminds us that material things come and go, but His love, grace, forgiveness and tender mercies are always available. When we ask for these priceless gifts of God we are not just given a portion, but we are given in abundance. I think the reason that God gives His gifts of grace, love, forgiveness etc… in such overflowing abundance is so that after we are soaked in these gifts we can share the overflow with someone else.

So the next time the pantry is looking a bit bleak and the fridge is looking a little sparse, remember that God loves us so much and His pantries are eternally full and ready for the filling of our souls with His love. Love enough for us and someone else.

Take joy in the journey and wear a sweater. Love you, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Wednesday!

This morning a year ago Casey was alive. Before I go to bed tonight, a year ago, Casey was gone. Bruce and I lay in bed wide awake last night and commented that a year ago we were just as awake. We had gone many hours without sleep from Thursday to Tuesday. In fact one of the nurses came into Casey’s room and said that she would stay in the room with her computer to monitor Casey if we would just go to sleep. And Casey was once again in the middle. He loved to be between Bruce and me. We slept in chairs on either side of his bed for a few hours that night.

Luke 8:50 “Do not be afraid. Just believe…

I remember being in Arlington memorial hospital 25 years ago and saying to myself “today, our baby will be born.” And 24 years later I stood at that child’s bedside in Arlington Memorial Hospital and wondered, “Will my child die today?”

In Max Lucado’s book “Cast of Characters” , Max tells the story of the daughter of Jarius in a modern setting. He tells the story through the eyes of a pastor named Wallace whose daughter is dying. Wallace hears of a healer. As a pastor he has always disdained “faith healers” as the parasites of the pastorate. But in his feelings of hopelessness and desperation he seeks the healer. “What choice do I have?” He locates the Healer in a bus station dressed in average dress with a slightly receding hairline but a shock of long brown curls. Wallace looks at the face of the Healer and realizes that in this very average looking man, he has seen those eyes before. The Healer is pressed out of the bus station by the crowd and Wallace fights his way through the crowd to get close enough to the Healer, but before Wallace reaches the Healer, the Healer stops and says that someone has touched him. The Healer then asks who has touched him and a young woman answers, “It was me. I have AIDS. I just wanted to know if you could make me well.” The healer then tells her she is healed and to go and sin no more.

Now Wallace is angry. Here was one who has “needle-tracked arms and midnight lovers” and she is saved. But he also realizes they have much in common’ “What choice did she have?” And yet even though Wallace had never seen this young woman before, he knew he has seen her eyes.

Just as Wallace has finally arrived at the side of the Healer and is about to beg him for the life of his daughter someone runs up to him and says “Your daughter is dead.” The Healer tells Wallace that his daughter is not dead, but simple sleeping. Wallace and the Healer run to the hospital where his wife and others from the church are there trying to comfort each other. Wallace and the healer walk into the hospital room that holds the still body of his daughter, lays his hands upon her and called to her, “Princess, get up.” This young girl got up from her bed and walked into the arms of her family.

Sometime later Wallace finally remembered where he had seen those eyes; those piercing eyes of compassion, the eyes that held the secret of eternity, the eyes that promised healing, Wallace has seen them the day before in the eyes of one of his parishioners who lay in the hospital with cancer and told him, “I’m ready to go.”

I saw those eyes reflected in Casey in our last conversation when he told me, “Mom, it won’t be long and I am not afraid.”

“Take joy in the journey, son, and I will see you someday. I love you.”

Love you all, Gaylene.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Tuesday!

One of my favorite people is Ben. He was one of Casey’s best friends. I love Ben just like an extra son. Ben has had many meals at our house, spent the night on our couch and even done some traveling with us. But, I think one of the things Ben loves about us is when we sing grace around the table. He doesn’t sing with us. He just closes his eyes and smiles as we sing. He even came to church once to hear us sing. But I think the thing Ben loved the most is that we loved him and treated him no differently even though he has such vastly different beliefs (or maybe no beliefs). I have never figured out how that worked. We loved him and still love him dearly.

Colossians 4:5 “Be wise in the way you act with people who are not believers.”

As believers in Christ, we profess to be Christians and follow the ways of Christ. Those who do not believe seem to know better than most how we are supposed to act. Those who do not believe make decisions about Christ based on the way we act. If we show compassion then they can believe that Christ shows compassion. If we are honest then others will assume that Christ is honest. If we, as Christians, do not judge others then non-believers can discern that Christ is not here to judge.

When we talk to others we need to speak with kindness and courtesy. When we speak and act in the ways of Christ not only does it honor the Master, but to God it honors His children. Little things like letting someone else have a parking space, or allowing someone to merge ahead of you in traffic, listening to someone when you would really rather be somewhere else, returning something you borrowed, writing a thank you note, making an effort to greet those around you, especially someone you may have overlooked or do not get along with very well. When we do these little acts of kindness God is honored and we are acting on His behalf.

We all have someone like Ben in our lives. Continuing to love those who confess not to love Jesus, may learn to love Him because of the way we have treated them: in love, with kindness and fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy (those were Ben and Casey’s favorite foods for me to make).

Sometimes we are the only Bibles people ever read.

Take joy in the journey, carry an umbrella, wear comfortable shoes and speak kindly on your travels. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Monday!

John 17:6 “Thine they were; and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.”
Matthew 25: 21 “ Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of the Lord.”

Today God used me. I love to serve God when I am called to serve. Most of the time I know what my service is going to be such as serving in worship, or visiting someone in the hospital or helping with Happening. But today I sort of fell into God’s service when I really had other plans.

I had teacher inservice today. Most of the time, the majority of the teachers and leaders go out for lunch. I usually bring my lunch and work at the school doing grading or getting caught up on reading for seminary. Today God had other plans for my lunch time.

The building emptied and I found myself alone in a school. So I heated my soup and got out my papers to grade. Within a few minutes one of the teaching assistants from my school came running back into the school. She was so very excited. Her name is Mary and she is from Peru. She had just received a phone call from some friends from Peru and much to her surprise they were in town. All the way from Peru! She was ecstatic! Mary speaks English, but with a still very heave Peruvian accent and so you have to listen very hard to understand her when she speaks. She began to tell me about her phone call and how she hoped she would get to see these dear friends.

Mary had no car and no lunch. I shared my yogurt, a granola bar and one of my bottles of water and listened to her as she enthusiastically told me about her friends, how she met her husband, her needing a green card and a lot of other things. She was so full of joy and happiness that it made me glad that I had stayed at school to eat and work. As I walked up the stairs to the microwave I gave thanks that God could use me in such a way. I got to be there when Mary so needed to share her joy. Maybe that was the reason that I was the only one in the building.

What I did with Mary was just listen. It was no great task, I did not part the water or turn water into wine or preach a great sermon, I just stopped my grading, shared a meal and found myself being blessed by getting caught up in her joy.

Faithful service in the little things can be the loveliest way we can share God’s love.

Take joy in the journey take an umbrella, wear comfortable shoes and walk with a friend. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Greetings from Austin St. (a long reading, but please read to the bottom)

Blessed Sunday! I have missed writing to you these past two days! But my editor did a smashing job filling in for me last night. Thanks Bruce!

As Bruce shared with you we held a memorial celebration event at the (near) one year anniversary of Casey’s passing. I really hesitate to say his death and passing is such a much more fitting term. As Christians we are promised an eternal life. So Casey passed from this life onto the next. Yes, his body is gone, but his spirit will forever live in our hearts as well as in heaven with Jesus. The celebration was met with laughter and tears. But in reality it was met with family and friends who celebrated the love of God through Jesus as they saw in Casey’s life. We gave thanks for all of these communities of faith that helped and supported us so very much over the last two years.

I did not script Pastor Joel as to what to say or do except that we wanted the tree planted in Casey’s name to be blessed as well as the table which now resides in the place where he slept for almost a year. Pastor Joel spoke of the table. Not just the place at which we eat daily, but the table of grace where we gather each week in worship, or in small groups in hospitals or in other gatherings where the presence of God is there in the representative elements of bread and wine. We passed the bread and dipped the bread in the wine as it was passed. We shared at this table as communities from Happening, Kairos, Advent Lutheran, St. John Lutheran, immediate and extended family and dear friends. It was such a wonderful way to celebrate the Lord’s presence in our lives. Communion meant so much to Casey as it does to our family. It was the perfect venue for Pastor Joel to celebrate the table.

We then went outside to bless the tree. The tree now surrounded by colorful fall flowers and standing straight and true. It has been almost a year since it was planted and just like our family it has weathered the heat of the summer, the wind and rain of spring and the cold of winter. When it was planted, it began to lean so Bruce staked it with a pole and a rope to keep it straight. So just before the blessing, Bruce removed the rope and the tree seems to be aimed towards the sky ready to receive the sunshine and rain it needs to continue to grow. A memorial stone was given by a friend with a beautiful poem and Casey’s birth and death dates on it. There is also a cross cut out in the body of the stone. We placed the stone so it now rests in the flowers at the base of the tree. This tree will forever be blessed and a constant reminder that life goes on and even when life really contains some tough storms, we can weather them because our roots are anchored in the love, grace and the healing power of the living God. And that a wonderful young man had a profound effect on so many lives. We were blessed to have him in our midst as our son, brother and friend for 24 years.

Psalm 34: 1 “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

“God is good; all the time. He put a song of praise in this heart of mine.” I love this song. Sometimes this is a hard song to sing when your heart is broken, but God calls us even in distress and grief the first step is Praise. Do I cry daily because I miss my son? Yes! Do I cry because he is in heaven with Jesus? Absolutely not!

Bless the Lord when when troubles are overwhelming. In your greatest distress, search until you find thankfulness.

Take joy in the journey, wear comfortable shoes and carry an umbrella. Love you all so very much, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

PS As my sister-in-law, Sheena, and I were tidying up the table yesterday she brought the chalice of wine to me. She asked me what to do with this blessed wine. I told her if we were Catholic or Episcopalian we would be honor bound to finish off the wine. The volunteers lined up for this job! But in fine Lutheran tradition we poured it on the ground. Guess where? It was poured on the Casey tree. Casey would be so pleased! I am sure he is still laughing at that one now. gc

PSS The singing of “This Little Light of Mine” in the front yard was totally awesome. Completely a capella and with great joy. The dismissal went something like this: “Go in peace and be served some cake!” Thanks be to God. gc
Happy Saturday.

After the events of the day, Gaylene has called it a day and has asked me to take over for the night.

Updates first. David Russell has come through both of his surgeries well, though he is in a bit of pain from the second at this time. Please include him (and Carme) in your prayers for healing if you haven’t already done so.

Danny has been cleared of any heart issues at the present time and has been diagnosed with a really bad food poisoning episode. PTL.

It has been almost a year since Casey died. Since that time, some major changes have taken place in our lives and in our home, and today it was time to once again celebrate Casey’s life with us and his life with his Father. Joining us were 40 family and friends. We sang, we prayed, we shared communion, we drank lots of hot chocolate and coffee, cake and ice cream, and we thanked God for giving us 24 years with Casey among us. Tears were shed, but it wasn’t a sad occasion. Some close friends and family members were not able to join us physically, but were with us spiritually. It was a lot of work preparing the house for 40 guests, not to mention the food, but all seemed to enjoy the time together.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. -Romans 10:13 (NIV)

Last week, I was witness to what the love of Christ could do in a really dark place. I spent 3 days in a prison working with a team who worked with 42 inmates who may or may not have had a relationship with God before we got there, but who knew much more about our Lord and God and his Son, Jesus when we left on Sunday. These brothers in white (inmates) knew, for the most part, the words of the Bible, but most of the men I spoke with did not know of the love spoken of in the scriptures. They did not understand what could bring so many free-world men for three days away from their families, away from their work to spend time with inmates they didn’t even know. We shared what we knew with them about God’s agape love.

The Holy Spirit was with us from the beginning of the weekend. Those men who shared their lives in talks with the brothers in white could only have shared what they did through the power of the Holy Spirit. I was overwhelmed many times as I joined with some 90 voices in the gym singing praises to our Lord. Many of us who went to the prison to bring blessings to the brothers in white ended up being blessed by the the brothers. Those also blessed were the many of volunteers who baked cookies for the weekend ( we went through about 1,800 dozen cookies!), donated money in the form of meal tickets and what we call “green agape” to help fund the weekend, and those who made placemats, posters and letters to the inmates. God truly made his presence known inside that prison.

We go back into the prison every month to encourage those new Christians in their own walk of faith. Our task is not to get anyone out, we are just trying to help them see that the Lord is there with them and to help them understand their relationship with our Living God.

Take joy in your journey. Love you all so very much, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.