Monday, November 16, 2009

November hymn

For those who mourn

At the harvest, in the autumn, at the waning of the year
As we come to count our blessings, we confront the ancient fear:
Is there enough? The bushels laid up—will they last until the spring?
Can we truly count on God for enough of everything?

In the winter, in the stillness, in a barren, cold new year
As we wait and watch, we worry if the springtime will appear:
Where is the light, the voice that called us from the dim light of the womb?
Will God come to lead the way through the darkness and the gloom?

When the buds along the tree branch remain brown and tightly furled
When the waters from the rainstorms rise and flood familiar worlds
When the summer's heat overtakes us, when our souls are parched and dry--
Oh, where is the God who answers when his children ask him why?

We may rage and we may sorrow, feel new grief each time we wake.
The friends we love may leave us, we may live with hearts that ache.
Yet Christ is here. He walks beside us, knows our anger and our pain
And his dying and his rising join us all to his reign.

Anxious souls, oh, trust your Maker, through whatever comes your way
Even when the night is darkest, God creates another day.
Things we cannot understand may yet surround us with despair
But we can bear the burdens we give over to God's care.

For the God with power to save us is a God of boundless grace
And his tender love shines on us from his bright and radiant face
Love unchanging, love eternal, love immediate and strong
Love that reaches into human hearts and heals what is wrong.

Copyright 2009 Gwen Gotsch
Please do not reprint without my permission.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I don't want to write this, and yet I must. My older son's friend and former housemate, a young man just graduated from college, died on Friday night. He took his own life. 

If only there were a way to take the night back, to undo those awful moments. It should not be, and yet it is, and these young men who knew him and loved him mourn in shocked disbelief. How could he do it? What was happening inside him that they did not know, or could not know, or could not help? And what must his mother feel? Dear God, be at her side. 

Rest eternal grant him, O Lord. May light perpetual shine on him. In your kingdom keep him safe  Give him peace. Comfort those who mourn. Help them to carry him in their hearts, warm and sad, in the years to come.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

For their deeds follow them

It was, like, All Saints Week last week. Extended All Hallows' Eve. The Day of the Dead times seven. This first week of November was--not haunted--peopled, happily, with Saints Gone Before.

Item: I went back to my old high school on November 1 to see a production of "Arsenic and Old Lace." A friend's daughter, my daughter's friend, was playing Aunt Abby, the role I played long ago in high school. I was in this show again when I was 24, playing the other old lady, Aunt Martha. I met my husband, Lon, in this production. He had also been in the show in high school. Both times, he was Teddy Brewster--the quintessential Teddy Brewster, the nephew who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt. It wasn't just Lon's mustache that made the role, it was his enthusiasm, and the crazed look in his eye. Here we are, with Patte Shaughnessy on the left as Aunt Abby.

As I watched the play, the lines came back to me. I recalled where I had entered from, and that Karl Sorenson, at rest in Christ, had played the opening scene with me and Patte. When the young man playing Teddy entered the scene at the high school, all I could hear was Lon (also at rest in Christ). I didn't watch. I just listened. Those weeks of rehearsal long ago, the eleven (?) performances had left tracks in my brain easily found and followed. Lon's character was onstage; was he himself backstage, behind the scenery, in the corner? Things happened back there. Life-altering moments.

Item: There was a funeral at church last week, for a woman--wife, mother, grandmother, piano teacher, friend--known to all, who had spent the last year battling a brain tumor, a tumor that was going to win in the end--like the brain tumor that claimed the life of Ted Kennedy a few months ago, like the tumor that took my dad's life 25 years ago. Marj died a few days before her 70th birthday, her last year an abrupt end to a cheerful, busy life. She had been the woman who coordinated funeral luncheons, who always worked on the annual Fall Sale, and who delighted in the friends and acquaintances who worked alongside her. Her funeral was on Wednesday, and it was followed by a luncheon. The big sale was on Friday, with all the ladies, young and old, at their booths of crafts and bakery and pasta sauces. Another luncheon. Marj's spirit, at rest in Christ, was somehow also part of the energy in the air at the sale.

Item: My son Kurt's science class assignment was to make a musical instrument that could play an eight-note scale, out of materials you have at home. Lucky for him, objects in our home include a clavichord my father built for me when I was 18. The instrument needs work. Lots of broken strings. We twisted these out of the tuning pins and strung them across an old wooden bread box. If you tuned the thing right before you played it, you could indeed play a recognizable tune by plucking the string, or even better, by striking it firmly with your fingertip, like the tangent on the end of the clavichord keys. I do not often get involved in Kurt's homework. (He's a high school junior; he doesn't want my help.) I was glad to be allowed to be part of this project. It brought my dad back to me. Maybe in some way, it brought my dad, Herb Gotsch, to Kurt, one of the seven grandchildren he, at rest in Christ, never got a chance to meet.

"And I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.'" (Revelation 14:13)

I'm not exactly sure what that's supposed to mean in the context of the Revelation of John, but it sure felt like those deeds were following me around last week.

Saints in heaven, saints on earth, resting in, relying on Christ.