God’s Angels Abound

(Sandy Simonson is the Parish Admin. at Holy Trinity and is embarking upon a battle with cancer. Today, she shares how God’s Light shines into that which would be darkness.)

Several months ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the days that followed I had time to be alone and to think through how I wanted to live through the treatments and to come out of the process stronger and closer to God.
Because I work in a church it was imperative to let the congregation know what was happening to me. So I wrote letter and sent it to the members and friends of my congregation. It was then that I knew God was surrounding me with angels. And these are not only the angels from heaven but the angels that walk this journey with me here on earth. They are my family who has been there for me, helping me, taking care of me, and loving me. They are my church family, who after they got my letter, have volunteered to take on many of my duties here at church to help me. They are in every card I receive. My mailbox has never been so full. Each card is filled with a personal written message, which I will always treasure. They are in the prayers that are sent to God every day on my behalf. They are in the quilt that members of the congregation signed and wrote messages on. They are in the love I feel every day as people ask how I am. They are in the doctors and nurses who do an awesome job.
As I go through chemo and then surgery, I know that I will continue to be surrounded with love, support, prayers, and help from all the angels in my life. I have never felt alone or afraid. I know that I am being watched over. I know that I have peace, love, joy and hope as I thank God for surrounding me with heavenly angels and earthly angels.

-Sandy Simonson (Parish Administrator at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Elgin, IL)

A MOMENT OF THANKSGIVING

The two of us sat in a dark room at the nursing home. I had simply stepped in to check on a complete stranger at the request of a physical therapist. But this would be no ordinary visit, for God often works in mysterious ways.

My new friend was initially a little quiet, attempting to gage just who this person was who had surprised him as he flipped through the mail from home. But his need to share on this day far outweighed his hesitancy. And so I listened as he shared his guilt for having no longer been able to care for his ailing wife, and his disappointment in his perceived physical failure and weakness. They have been married for almost 50 years, and their story was not supposed to take a turn in which they ended up in two different nursing homes for Thanksgiving. I found my own eyes tearing up, even as he stopped to openly cry before me. After speaking for awhile of the remarkable care he had given for so long, and acknowledging that their love still flowed even across illness and distance, I asked him how they met. Tears turned to smiles as he shared with me a beautifully cute story of such a great love’s awkward start. I found myself compelled to tell him that he should write their story on the computer sitting in front of him, and he lit up at the idea. We even looked forward to the day in the next few weeks when he will be released and can go see her. Then we prayed and I prepared to leave.

But now it was his turn to surprise me. As I stood up to excuse myself, he grabbed my hand and said, “I don’t know what it is, but I felt so comfortable talking to you. Young man, don’t ever question your vocation in life.” In that moment, I found myself again welling up with tears, and almost forgot to release our handshake! Apparently, I needed to hear such words as these at a time of year when I always remember and give thanks for those who taught me the meaning of faith and hope, but are no longer here. Somehow this man, struggling with such guilt, ministered to me as much as I hopefully ministered to him, which is always God’s way regardless of our plans. So as I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend, I give thanks on this morning for a Calling from God that leads me into deep moments of emotion shared with beloved family, close friends, and even complete strangers. Blessings abound! Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

Silent Nights and Days

The sun tries, in vain, to poke through the deep cloud cover. The winds howl, and the trees reluctantly let go of their few remaining leaves. God’s critters are relatively quiet now, and some have made their migration south. The creation prepares for its deep rest.

Someday soon, a blanket of snow will cover the ground and trees, and all will turn to a stark contrast of black and white. The creation will seemingly fall into a gentle slumber, as the warmth of God’s Love glows like a night light providing security in the darkness. A reminder that even in our darkest hours, God is present and Grace flows eternal. Yet, even now, the seeds of new life lie planted deep within, awaiting a day in which the creation will burst into glorious resurrection. This is what makes winter so beautiful. A pure and perfect stillness takes hold of the darkness, and a steady and glorious wind from the heavens embraces, and even cuts through, each of us. Meanwhile, new life and resurrection awaits, not just promised, but indeed guaranteed.

Our place in this cosmic rhythm is to do no more than stand watch. We observe the creation at its simplest form. Tree limbs occasionally creak in the breeze. Stars twinkle at night. Snowflakes gently float by our eyes. Icicles form overhead. The cold sharply bites at all creatures brave enough to take a deep breath of it. The earth sleeps with the calmness of a baby. A deep peace takes over. But just below the surface, hidden out of view, new life stirs, anxious to once again awaken our souls. For this is God’s desire for us, that we may experience Sabbath rest on our way into new life with each dawn. And so once again this day we cry out for all to hear: “Thanks be to the God of blissful rest, and passionate new life. Amen.”

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

THE MOMENTS WE SHARE

Childhood memories: My dad taking me down to the park to feed the ducks at the pond, as they all came swimming over and chattered away. My mom laying in the grass next to me and my cousins as we tried to identify different clouds that somehow looked like a dinosaur or an ape. My grandma ‘playing’ whiffle ball around the yard with me. My grandpa cautiously taking me to a lagoon near their home to show me a gator slumbering on the other side. Picnics with family and/or friends in the local forest preserve on each summer. Prayers shared around the table and bike rides to church. There was a common theme to each of these moments: God’s creation is beautiful, and meant to be enjoyed and explored.

These memories from my earliest years inform who I am today. I enjoy sitting outside under the trees and laughing at the squirrels as they frolic above. I enjoy standing outside on a cold winter’s night and staring at the stars through the steam of my breath. I enjoy planting seedlings in my yard and watching as new life unfolds before my very eyes over time. I constantly seek to connect with God through the creation around me, understanding that every individual detail has been placed there with a Divine Purpose and an Indescribable Love. My faith, and my appreciation of the creation and its creatures around me, have been born of the witness of those who have gone before me. This great cloud of witnesses ranges from maternal grandparents who toiled the land to a paternal grandfather who built and created with his own hands to parents who volunteered at their church every chance they had. This cloud of witnesses even included a pastor who often invited me to come with his family to baseball games in the warm sun at Milwaukee County Stadium. Along the way, I learned something everyday from every one of them, and today the person and the pastor I am is a combination of them all – and so many more.

Thus, I give thanks on this November morning to God for the glorious beauty of the creation as it changes colors, and for the grace of those who witnessed love and faith to me through the years. I give thanks for chipmunks by my porch who wait patiently for my wife or I to throw a small piece of fruit or vegetable out the door (some habits stay with us forever). I give thanks as well for my place amongst the great cloud of witnesses, for I hope that someday I may have the honor of being recounted as a part of the formative childhood memories of a few in generations to come. Thus it is with the Family of God. Faith, Hope and Love flow through hearts and march across time, transcending all that would divide us. What a remarkably beautiful march it is! Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL)

All Saints’ Reflection

It was 3am on Monday morning, October 29th, 2001, and I sat stoic by the window in a nursing home room holding the hand of my dad. He had taken his final breath just moments before I arrived. In some respects, I was at peace with this – knowing that his long suffering was now replaced with joy, renewal, and a reunion with my mom. That said, these were also the very first moments of my lifetime lived without the security blanket of knowing I had parents I could visit. I was somber, sad, and numb.

It was 10:40am on Sunday morning, October 29th, 2017, and I stood at the back of the Sanctuary as my congregation joyfully sang a closing hymn while we commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. For a moment, tears swelled in my eyes as I remembered the man who had role-modeled so much integrity, faith, and perseverance to his son. But this time there was joy in my heart, for his example is such a large part of the minister I am today. I stopped singing, and just listened. The passion of faith led by the Holy Spirit was palpable in this room, and I had the honor of standing in observance of it.┬áIn moments such as these, the saints and sinners of all generations stand as one in praise of the God who values and loves each of us so much that we are labeled as “child.” Thus, as I stood there, with my wife having joined me by my side, I could imagine my parents standing side by side in the same song right behind us. I can, on this November morning in my office, equally imagine my grandparents standing side by side in an old rural church, long before my birth, singing just the same. For even as the march of generations goes on, the one interconnected and interrelated Body of Christ remains. Sixteen years after that somber night in a nursing home, in a way I can never comprehend or explain, my dad and I stood together in worship of the God who had literally given us each other.

This is All Saints’ Day, the day in which we remember and give thanks for those who have gone before us, and yet are still with us in the mystical Body of Christ. Mine is not to explain, but simply to experience. So I thank God for all those who have gone before me to inform my faith, and for all those who are yet to come and who will someday stand in a church remembering me. The Church, especially in moments as these, is such a beautiful gift of God. Amen.

-Rev Jeffrey G Mikyska (pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Elgin, IL)