A WEEK OF CONTRASTS AND PEACE

Gene had been suffering from Dementia, and his death just before his 89th birthday can be seen as a blessing. I often provide final blessings and lead memorial services as a pastor. You cannot help but absorb the energy in the room that can range from peace to anger to sorrow – and anywhere in between. This, however, was different – for Gene was also my father-in-law. As I led his service on Tuesday morning, I was ever so aware that this was my wife and our family stung by such a pain. Our nephew gave a beautifully heart-felt eulogy of his grandfather. Cousins, who always make me smile, stayed with us. Friends continually checked in to meet our needs. A whirlwind of emotions circulated through my soul. As I stood at the podium during the hymn “Beautiful Savior” that morning, I intentionally took a moment to gaze around and see the loving tears rolling down familiar faces, and a mysterious sense of peaceful blessing washed over me.

Emily and Ryan gathered at my church with family and friends on Friday for a rehearsal of their wedding. We count Emily’s family amongst our closest friends in this world, and I had been looking forward to this weekend for months. That night we attended a festive rehearsal dinner and heard stories. The next morning we hosted the girls in our home as hairdressers, make-up specialists, and florists came by to help them get ready for the afternoon. The laughter and anticipation was palpable. Later, I smiled again as the groom and his friends played ping-pong in my church’s youth room just minutes before the wedding. During their wedding, I asked them to turn around and look at those gathered in our sanctuary, and then I reminded them that God’s love is ever present in the people who surround us. Their smiles made my heart jump. At the reception, I led a prayer, enjoyed a wonderful meal, and danced with my wife. As the music played on, I took a moment to gaze around and marveled as so many people I personally know and love celebrated with such unbridled joy. Once again, that same mysterious sense of peaceful blessing washed over me.

In one week, two events that stretch across the extremes of our life cycles, both reminded me of the same truth. God’s Love flows through my life in every moment regardless of the mood, bringing a sense of peace and calm. Sure, the world’s negativity can occasionally knock us down, but only if we forget to stop and gaze around. Thank you, O Lord, for the rolling current of your love that ever buffets the moments of our lives. Amen.

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

 

MOMENTS IN A FAMILY’S LIFE

An old man sits in his wheelchair, waiting… He is in hospice care, and no one can know with any certainty his thoughts. A name of a friend or relative is mentioned, and for a fleeting moment there is a slight glimmer in his eyes. A story from long ago is shared, and he looks upward as if watching the memory like an old movie reel. His wife, who passed away years ago, is referenced, and he points to the side of the bed with a weak smile. Perhaps she is here. All the while, he looks around and around, reacting at times and deeply pondering at others. If only he could tell us what he sees.

This family prepares for his death, while they also anticipate the birth of his next great-grandchild. Life simply continues to cycle, as God calls one home while breathing new life into another. Emotions swirl between joy and sorrow. Seconds tick away on the clock hanging on his wall. One might say that life is unpredictable, but that is only partially true. Some constants remain the same, including God’s activity with life. Soon, this man will stand face to face with the God who breathed life into him almost nine decades ago, and will also be reunited with his wife and so many others he has loved and lost through the years. Soon, a baby will scream his or her way into this world, lungs filling with air gifted by the same God. Tears will be shed, laughs will be shared, and memories of the next generation will be added to the oral history of this family. Through it all, God will stand in their midst – loving and interacting every day. This is the flow of grace, and it is one of the few constants life on this earth knows. Thank you, O Lord. Amen.

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