Monday, January 16, 2012

In God is my salvation

I am sleeping on a dairy farm tonight. It's a farmhouse graciously given to us for the night. My aunt's friend has left a note about food in the kitchen for breakfast, where to find towels, and the password for the wi-fi. We're staying here on the night before my uncle's funeral.

It's a wonderful home, full of things that must have come into the house with stories. A collection of cruets in the dining room and another of flat irons on the landing, baskets and crocks and heavy wood furniture, new and old. Things here feel like they are loved not for what they say about their owner but because of themselves. These things had working lives once. They have their own dignity and stand tall with pride at being well used.

My uncle, Edward Pankow, was a pastor in this community, a farm community originally, but now one where there is a variety of economic activity beyond dairy farms and soybeans. Some things are different from the suburbs where I come from. There are no black people here, for one thing ("less diverse" would be the proper way to say this). People seem to know more about each other. Maybe this is just an effect of there being fewer people to know--same amount of news but fewer characters in the cast.

As people here remember Ed's ministry they speak of a gentle and unassuming leader, positive and encouraging. His own faith was an example to others. I know from stories I've heard that he walked through some sad times with the members of his flock, times when people must surely have asked him why things happen. I think his answer would have been a gentle one, a reminder to trust in God, to have faith. But I can hear him adding in inflections learned from his German immigrant parents, "Yah, yah, but it is hard sometimes."

We've just had the "Do I lock it?" debate about the front door. We are city people and don't feel safe unless the door is locked. But here on a country road, locking the front door is silly. Who would you be trying to keep out?

The funeral is tomorrow. The word of God will be preached, Christ's death and resurrection proclaimed, the cosmic struggle and the eternal victory. But there will also be my uncle's life and example, an earthly life of earthly struggle, following Jesus' example of praying to Abba, Father, following Jesus' example of trusting and finding salvation in God. In his later years, Ed was bent over because of back problems. He often walked with a cane, and he lived with pain. But now in heaven with the God he trusted he stands tall and well-loved, redeemed.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Can't get back to sleep, too early to get out of bed. Yesterday was long and stressful, the kind of day that leaves you twisting and turning when you wake up at 3:00 a.m. My brain, which needs to rest, dear God, instead was locked into search mode, the little wheel spinning and spinning and coming up with the kind of reference list that does not differentiate between good and bad, trashy and useful.

If I breathe, can I sleep? And return to the thinking later?