Heart Space –
This morning at worship service with my mom I bumped into an old friend and asked him how things were going. His birthday was a few weeks ago and he said that he was going to celebrate with a trip but had encountered some heart problems and wasn’t able to go.
I’ve reflected on the short conversation several times today. It is Advent season. A time of joy and celebration but our hearts are heavy with the passing of my dad. As we sat in church this morning, visited a home improvement store (which my dad loved to do), did some work around the house our hearts just haven’t been in it.
We know this is the path we must travel and one day much of the pain will dissipate but right now, this evening, it is not the time. Our broken hearts still ache and space which my dad filled is empty. There is no template for mourning, no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. We take it one day at a time, one moment, one tear and laugh as the memories, experiences, and love flood us and fill us.
Beth and I went to a small church a couple hundred yards from our home this morning. Even though we’ve been in our house for almost 3 years we hadn’t visited and thought it’s about time. It is an old church complete with white wooden siding on the outside and wooden pews along with an altar rail on the inside.
The people who met us were nice and inviting. One woman was “too inviting” as she forced a hug from me, a notorious non-hugger. We settled in our pew and waited for the service to begin. As a one-time pastor of a small church I’ve witnessed what folks do when they spot someone new; descend on them like kids on ice cream. They kept coming, shaking our hands, telling us they were glad we had visited. Finally, after what seemed like forever, the service began and everyone found their seat. I whispered to Beth; “We should’ve arrived late so as not to attract so much attention!”
The service was loose and unorganized. There was no doubt these families had worshipped a long time together and knew each other well. After the singing, prayers, a kids moment, and offering the pastor stood behind a big pulpit and began to preach. As he did a woman stood up who was sitting in the front pew, holding a basket and began to go to everyone and offer them something. When she got to us I noticed it was candy. She offered me a piece, I took it and she moved on making sure everyone had a piece before sitting back down.
I had never experienced a church doing that before. Was it distracting? A bit. Was it necessary? No. Was it nice to have a piece of candy while listening to the preacher? Certainly. It was a fresh way to feel united with a bunch of strangers. It almost made up for the hugger!…almost.
The struggle is real! This morning it was 7 degrees outside. 7! Being Sunday this morning also means community worship at church. The blankets pulled up as I sat on the couch, the heating pad on high, a cup of coffee and the thought; “It’s too cold to go anywhere!” was running through my mind.
Beth, however, got up, began to get ready and this meant; “Up and at em!” So, on this frigid morn, we made our way over still partially snow-covered roads to church. We were running a little late but as we walked into the sanctuary we were right on time for communion. The pastor was quoting the familiar phrases and verses to prepare our souls for this sacred moment as we found our seats.
The elements (small pieces of unleavened bread and grape juice) were passed around to everyone and together we celebrated the; “The Lord’s Supper. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eucharist).” As we digested the tiny morsel of bread and the taste of the grape juice was dancing on my tongue I felt, as John Wesley famously said; “My heart strangely warmed. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldersgate_Day)” and was thankful to be among the people of God this cold, wintry morning.
droplets fall unsteady from the branches above
landing heavy on the roof of a small porch below
the fading goodbye from a storm now passed
which bent trees and wind to it’s will
grass blades unbowed as water rolls off their backs
and rise like the dawn that scatters dark cloud filled skies
birds unruffle damp feathers and christen a new day with their calls
bees hum, ants and beetles pitter and patter
a choir of movement and rhythm fills the air
a lone man watches and lets silence be his worship
…written early this morning as I sat outside, quietly drinking coffee, reading/praying the Psalms and reflecting on how often we miss the miracle of nature…