Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Song in my Heart

Life has been full lately.  Is it ever not?  Death and major surgery, birthdays and VBS ...  from the significant to the mundane, never a moment is dull.  Sometimes a dull moment would be nice, wouldn't it?  And yet, in the fullness, God provides ample opportunity to see His hand at work, the gifts He's scattered in my days.

Last night's adventure, in the midst of birthday festivities, was getting slammed out of the blue with a stomach bug.  As I lay miserable throughout the night, I continuously asked God why He allowed this now.  Never really did get an answer.  But, as seems to be His mode of speaking to me lately, He gave me a song.  Started with just the chorus "for you are good, for you are good, for you are good to me..."  It ran through my head a few times before I realized the rest of the song.  Timely, wouldn't you agree?  And finally something to be grateful for.  I had been struggling to find something in those ill hours!

He's given me more to add to my growing gratefulness list today -- parents who willingly came down to help, a husband who pitched in to play both our roles, rubs on my shoulder with "mom I hope you feel better" wishes, God watering my flowers with a rain shower so we didn't need to worry about watering today.

I pulled out my journal to number them with pen when I realized a new song was playing through my head.  We sang it in church last Sunday and the lyrics resonated.

Ten Thousand Reasons
Mark Redman

The sun comes up
It's a new day dawning
It's time to sing your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

Bless the Lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I worship your holy name

You're rich in love and You're slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

It's easy to number God's gifts when life's sun is shining and the birds are singing.  That grateful heart doesn't come so readily when the skies are dark and we are travel-weary.  Yet my soul's desire is, like in the song, to be singing no matter what lies before me.

In his biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxes quotes the hymn Paula Bonhoeffer, Dietrich's mother, chose for her son Walter's funeral.  Though greatly suffering from the grief of losing a child, Metaxes notes that she took the sentiments of the hymn seriously.  May I, in the darkest storm, be able to sing, from my heart, such lyrics as well.

What God has done, it is well done
His will is always just.
Whatever He will do to me,
In Him I'll ever place my trust.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Memories, Lessons, and a Legacy

My grandfather passed away Saturday.  I knew it was coming, said my good-byes back in March.  Still, the tears sneak up on me at the oddest times and memories I haven't considered in years randomly crackle across my mind like an old film.

He was a strong man, had broad shoulders and working hands - big, heavy hands that, when laid on my shoulder as a child, made me wonder if my knees would buckle.  He wasn't effusive in his affection, yet that simple act of laying his hand on my shoulder said everything it needed to.  That he approved of me, enjoyed me, loved me.

I learned a lot from grandpa....

...that God has given us much to be thankful for...that ham and cheese sandwiches taste best on Grandpa's homemade bread, eaten in a boat, fishing pole in hand....that it's unwise to slow a 32 foot motorhome for a crow in the road....that "dingbat" can be a term of affection...that sometimes love is cloaked in gruffness.

The older I got, the more I appreciated him for the man he was, the more I was able to see through the gruff exterior to the heart underneath, the more I recognized the twinkle in his eye.  One summer when I was in junior high or high school, he injured his index finger in a table saw.  The injury made his usual activities - gardening, baking, canning - challenging, and I became his sidekick that summer.  My phone would ring early in the day and the conversation would be brief, "Wanna go for a ride?  I'll pick you up in 30 minutes."  -click-  (Grandpa didn't see a need for ending phone conversations with the expected "goodbye" and on the few occasions he did, my mom and I would bemusedly make note of it.)

He and his little terrier would pick me up and away we'd go, sometimes to Costco to buy butter and sugar, other times to go back to his place.  That summer he shared the art of making his famous peanut brittle, demonstrated that scalding tomatoes takes the skin right off, showed me how to knead and pinch and shape the perfect loaf of bread.  He told me stories of being in the war, of growing up on the farm in North Dakota.  And he taught me generosity, always making enough of whatever we were concocting to share.

Grandpa had a beautiful bass singing voice.  I loved sitting next to him in church.  It wasn't a safe position, as he would usually instigate some sort of silent game that would get us both in trouble with Grandma.  He'd poke me with his thick fingers and then feign innocence when Grandma would raise her eyebrows and whisper sternly "that's enough."  I think part of his fun was watching Grandma get riled up because when she'd look away he'd smirk, his eyes twinkling.

After I got married, Grandma and Grandpa came and visited us for a weekend.  I sat next to Grandpa in church that Sunday.  We were singing Jesus, be the Center.  The alzheimers hadn't yet come to steal his voice.  And he was harmonizing.  I can't hear that song anymore without closing my eyes and going back to that moment.  It's been twelve years, and I can still hear Grandpa's voice as clear as if it were yesterday, his rich notes filling the air around us.  This week, I've been so aware of Grandpa in Heaven, free from the clutches and bondage of that horrid disease.  But it wasn't until yesterday that something clicked, that I realized he once again is able to harmonize, to lift his voice in praise.  And that the lyrics of the song he sang those years ago have been truly fulfilled.

Jesus, be the center
Be my source, be my light, Jesus
Jesus, be the center
Be my hope, be my song, Jesus.

Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in these sails
Be the reason that I live
Jesus, Jesus

Jesus, be my vision
Be my path, be my guide, Jesus.