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Thursday
May242012

Post Fifty-Seven

Turning A Corner 

I was dreading the moment.  On Saturday afternoon, May 19, the Detroit Annual Conference met in Herrick Chapel at Adrian College to honor those from our faith community who had died in the past year.  Terry's name would be among those read to the assembly. As her name was read we would stand and come forward to receive a memorial gift and a brief statement would be read summarizing her ministry. 

It was not that I did not want to honor Terry.  I did.  But, how can a life be summed up in 150 words?  How can any number of words do justice to a life such as hers - a life that was marked by profound joy, enduring resilience, and an outreach of nurture that lit a fire of love and service in so many young adults in our denomination?  I was dreading the moment for the inescapable inadequacy of it.

Before the service began I caught a hint that something was up.  I stumbled upon a tweet that hinted at Project Matchstick.  I noticed Carl and Mary in conversation with others of their generation.  I thought I noticed the distribution of something small that immediately went into pockets and purses.  I decided that I did not need to inquire.  I knew that the people involved loved Terry and could be trusted.

Terry's name was announced and I stood to walk forward as the summary statement was read.  I greeted Bishop Keaton and received a beautiful memorial glass tile inscribed in Terry's honor.  Then I turned to face the assembly.  There before me stood hundreds of consipirators.  They stood with lighted flames held high and with the biggest smiles and tears I have ever seen.  My dread evaporated.  This was the tribute that went beyond any number of words.  Jeff Nelson's poem stood in silent tribute before me. "She was matchstick. Sent here to shake things up, to light our souls."

In that moment my heart turned away from the long months of suffering and ineffective chemo treatments.  In that moment Terry returned to the true joyfilled bearer of hope that she had been to me and to so many others.  It was a holy moment.  It was a turning of my heart.

Dave Gladstone

Friday
Apr132012

Post Fifty-Six

Living Through Saturday

This was a first and last Easter for me.  It was my first Easter without Terry and my last Easter as pastor of Port Huron First United Methodist Church.  The metaphor of Lent and Easter has been much on my mind all this past week.  I began my Easter message to the congregation by admitting that if ever I personally needed an Easter experience it would be now.  I do not mean to trivialize the magnificence of Easter as a part of God's great work in the world, but if I cannot embrace Easter on a personal level, how will I ever appreciate it on a mysterious and divine level?

Thinking about these things it came to me that in the flow of the Easter story I remain stuck living in Holy Saturday.  Good Friday and its loss has not yet been replaced by the triumphal renew of the resurrection.  I am in the in between place waiting for the dawn of a new day.  Terry's loss remains a searing experience.  I trust that God will direct me toward the day of resurrection, but for now I wait between what was and what is yet to come.

In this in between place I am becoming slowly aware that when that renewal emerges it will not look anything like what went before.  Encountering the risen Christ the Disciples had to accept that the resurrected Jesus was different than the Jesus with whom they walked through Galilee.  Easter does not put things back they way they were.  Easter is the crossing of a threshold into a new experience.  This time in Saturday helps me get used to the fact that my life is now different.  The past goes with me, but the future will be a new creation.

If, as I firmly believe, faith is defined as living with a radical trust in God, then I am content with this Saturday experience.  I trust that given time God will direct me toward a renewal of purpose and love.  I trust that God will teach me how to honor the past and hang on to my love for Terry while making room for the rest of my life to proceed.  I know this.  I must trust in God to see me through this Saturday moment.  Left on my own I would waste the experience watching old movies and reruns of Myth Busters.

Dave Gladstone

Monday
Mar122012

Post Number Fifty-Five

BE STILL, MY SOUL

Sometimes things jump up and grab my heart at unexpected times.  So it was yesterday as our bell choir began to play for worship.  They played a wonderful arrangement of Be Still, My Soul.  As they played, the words of the first stanza of that hymn took hold of me.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in every change God faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Suddenly I experienced the message of that song in a way that I had never experienced it before.  It seemed to speak directly to my troubled heart and I felt a great peace come upon me in the worship service.

Bearing patiently and leavinig it to God to order and provide is the most difficult part for me.  I want to take charge and put things right according to my expectations and desires.  I want to force my way ahead rather than let God take the lead.  The song spoke to me and I felt able to truly trust God as a friend leading me to a joyful end.

It is amazing how a familiar song can suddenly come alive in my heart.  It happened on Sunday and I am grateful.

Dave Gladstone

Sunday
Feb192012

Post Number Fifty-Four

The World Moves On

I went to a Choir Camp planning and training meeting a week ago. Plans are taking shape for another wonderful Choir Camp at Lake Louise.  I was happy for that.  Even though Terry is no longer here and I am stepping down as the youth choir director after thirty-seven summers of involvement, it was wonderful to see new people stepping up to take responsibility.  Creativity was the order of the day.  The staff is excited.  I know that Choir Camp 2012 will be a great success and that another group of youth and children will experience God anew through the medium of singing.  I plan to stay connected by leading the evening vesper services at the fire bowl.

Still, I came away a little stunned by how easily the world accepts loss and moves on.  Here I am struggling to keep a grip on my emotions and make it through each day, but already the rest of the world is moving on.  I know this has to be.  I also know that my heart is broken in a way that others cannot understand.  I know that wishing that Choir Camp fail because Terry is gone is no way to honor her or the years we shared in that special ministry.  Never the less,  The ease and speed of the adjustment stuns me.  Could there not be at least a little hiccup to the order of the world to mark the loss?

Perhaps the lesson here is that I should spend more time appreciating the specialness and blessings of life while in the midst of it.  If it is true that the world, indeed the universe, will little note nor long remember the impact of my life after I am gone, it follows that the gift is in the moment.  I am resolved to complain less and appreciate more.  I am resolved to worry less and engage more deeply.  One final note;  the gift of a broken heart is found in realizing that brokenness of heart is the price we pay for deep and profound love.

Dave Gladstone

Saturday
Jan282012

Post Number Fifty-Three: A LA ORILLA


La Orilla

There is a popular hymn in our hymnal.  Its title in English is Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore. It is number 344.  We sing it frequently when we meet at Lake Huron Retreat Center or for Sunday worship at Lake Louise.  We sing it in celebration of peace and meeting God in the beauty of nature.  We sing.  We sway. We hold hands.  Over the years I have been part of many such moments.  Often it perfectly represents my spirit.  But not now.

The title in Spanish is: Tu Has Venido a la Orilla.  I have learned that La Orilla is more properly translated as edge rather than lakeshore.  Orilla is the place of transition; the place where one reality gives way to another.  Orilla is the place of change.  It may be lovely to think that we meet God in the serenity of nature. It transforms everything when we remember that God meets us a la Orilla - at the place where one reality gives way to another. 

La Orilla is where I live these days.  La Orilla is where  most of us live at one time or another. This is not a beautiful serene place.  It is a place of uncertainty and anxiety.  It is a place not of my own chosing, but a real place none the less.  The hymn is a gift because it reminds me that at the edge place (a la Orilla) God waits with no thought as to my wealth or posessions.  At the edge place God asks only that I follow humbly. At the edge place God calls my name and with a smile directs me to a new reality - to seek other seas.

 

Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore

 

(verse 1)

Lord, you have come to the Lakeshore,

looking neither for wealthy nor wise ones.

You only asked me to follow humbly.

(chorus)

O Lord, with your eyes you have searched me,

and while smiling,have spoken my name.

Now my boats left on the shoreline behind me,

By your side, I will seek other seas.

 

(verse 2)

You know so well my possessions.

My boat carries no gold and no weapons.

You will find there, my nets and labor.

 

(back to chorus)

 

(verse 3)

You need my hands full of caring,

through my labors to give others rest,

and constant love that keeps on loving.

 

(chorus)

 

(verse 4)

You, who have fished other oceans,

ever longed for by souls who are waiting,

my loving friend, as thus you call me.

 

(chorus)

 

 

 

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