A meditation from Day 4 as COVID nurse in quarantine
The rose from a friend sits by the bed. He called it the “rose of Sharon. ” But it is not , it is a long stemmed red rose with thorns. It is beautiful But I cannot smell it.
Is it a rose if it has no scent ? And Are we Gods flowers if we have no fragrance ? Is it only the bloom , the dress and the smile , that matter ?or does this Perfume of of my soul matter?
The rose is always catching me as I go by it. It invites me to sniff. But again and again i breathe deeply yet cannot smell it. I sit in my scrubs in the chair . I only know to dress in my scrubs . They are the soft worn scrubs I wear as my pajamas. Once crisp and smelling like new fabric. And I too was new , fresh wine in fresh wine skin.
Once when my scrubs were less worn there was a fragrance on me . A sweet Aroma of Christ permeated me. But the stench, Lord the stench of Death it is in my nostrils and I can smell nothing else.
But no , no , not even now oh Death where is your Stench ? It is not on me ! I can’t smell a thing ! Clinical, Numb of Scent.
I bend once again draw the stem of the rose ever so close to my nose. Then I draw all the air I can . I ask and imagine a great aroma. Yes ! I can imagine a smell , it is the sweet almost fruit like smell of a rose.
Does not God do the same with me .. does He not gracefully bend towards me and tenderly pull me to His nostrils … waiting waiting longingly , with Divine imagination inhale for a scent of His divine creation! Does He now longingly inhale for my fragrance to return? Hopefully longing.
““O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And He who bends to inhale breathes out !
It is in the Exhale of the Breath of God that I live and breathe and have my being . Breath of God recesitate me that I may be the aroma you long to inhale ! I need the breath of God !
I Corinthians 15:55, 57 NKJV
““O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,”
I see them . no damn Einfuhlung ! I feel them .. I feel all of them , lined up over the year. All those patients who I bent over like a cook over a pot. “Oh dear you feel so hot, can you smell this/ can you taste this ? No worries my dear.. this will pass” “a little of this , a little of that”
And then like a pot unattended over fire. Something is not right.Smoke fills the air with screams “He’s not breathing, he can’t breath … “ This will pass. “He passed, I’m sorry “ We type “patient deceased” and go to lunch. But yet another patient arises in my mind and I feel them as I take my own temperature .. .
Oh sweet heat of the soul , you burn an empathy in my being….. Einfuhlung, Einfuhlung , the fire has melted my stone cold heart.
My heart ,little stone, presses against Jesus’s plump and pulsating heart. Like Elisha on the boy , he spreads over me. “When you get up oh Lord .. when you rise up ,I will live. But stay for now , press your heart to mine, create in me a new heart oh Jesus. . I feel them now , all of them , how they suffered and burned within, how they said “I can’t breathe am I okay” “ oh you are fine” I would say “ am I really ? “ they would ask .
. I see them now with fires around and the green of hope gone. I see lines and tubes as embers settle over the land . They are the ones , the soldier heroes , the brave men who fought to breathe. I see with my heart next to yours.
I feel my breath which I cannot hear . But theirs I once heard rattle and gasp .. O Lord now , oh now I know their pain . Though in my bed I look from time past to time to come , I feel so far. But I am not so far as I once was . I am in your heart . And your heart is blanketing them.
When you lift your body from me oh Jesus , leave me your heart. Let me come out caring again, come out believing again, Let me arise alive feeling your healing on them.
“And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto Jehovah. And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon him; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. Then he returned, and walked in the house once to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.” 2 Kings 4:32-35 ASV
“Einfuhlung,” a German word from which comes the English word empathy. Meaning “feeling in” It draws from the Greek “em”for “in” and pathos” for “feeling” .
Both the nurse and the patient and all outcomes of health are hindered when the nurse “lacks empathy” . But, in war like times ,we find empathy scarce and we learn it cannot be bought or taught. We who seek find , it is given. And it is perpetually given by the Lord who says.“And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh;” Ezekiel 11:19 ASV
A simple meditation of a nurse in COVID quarantine
The burning fires have come inside me. Those of of the demon and of the divine. Like dueling fires of the prophets of long ago, a campfire is set inside my soul. ‘ it will takes days to burn “ they say. “Bring the hydrants and hydrate the flame” While others say “try this potion or that, or a Tylenol with a toddie”. I am too far from the phone to see the experts advice.
I shall sit and ponder what Jesus says. What is it the lord says about this fire?. Could it purify me ,lord ? Could you be running across the cells of my body chasing the virus with flaming torches? Are you not so large, Lord? AND Are you not so small Lord?
I will sip , sip, sip , and consider your smallness . I will fill and consider your largeness. Your smallness . your largeness . You inside of me. Oh perfect God oh perfect man, yet still a morsel within me. I am tired now Lord and I will rest . I will rest while you busy around the campfire , the fever of my soul.
“And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening oblation, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, O Jehovah, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Jehovah, hear me, that this people may know that thou, Jehovah, art God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of Jehovah fell, and consumed the burnt-offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, Jehovah, he is God; Jehovah, he is God.”
Day 1 : A simple meditation of a nurse in COVID quarantine.
I am going on a retreat without leaving my seat. I am going to see Jesus. I know that I am going because none are near to stop me. A little virus on me has them far away and even if they were to come close , I would say “unclean Unclean” . Then , they would surely run. So nothing is between me and my retreat with Jesus.
Here where I am ,Jesus draws nearer . Here where I am , I will hear again. I will hear him say “daughter” and I will hear him say “arise” and I will hear him speak to the virus . He will speak louder than the whisper voice He has for speaking to me . He will be commanding ”retreat!” . And at this word of command, the virus will flee . All the while ,I will rest . I will rest away from all created things that distract me from Jesus.
“Now hear the word of the Lord, you women. Pay attention to the word of His mouth. Teach your daughters a lament and one another a dirge, for Death has climbed through our windows; it has entered our fortresses, cutting off children from the streets, young men from the squares. But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me — that I am Yahweh, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things. This is the Lord’s declaration.”
“The biggest closet is the church “the old woman told the child. “But we cant go there Grammy ,the doors are locked” the child told the old woman. “I will take you to a secret one “the old woman whispered as they walked down the sidewalk.
Today side by side they walk towards a chapel. It is a very strange day in history when all the churches are closed like vaults because of a virus. Still, the old woman took the child in hope ..in Hope the child might know God.
Fifty years earlier, I was child. I rode my bike many places. It was long before it became common for men and women to abduct and abuse, before it became dangerous to ride without helmets and phones, before bikes had many styles and gears. It was in the days when a red Schwinn bike could take you to the biggest prayer closet in town. And so it took me one day, my first day of worship in a church.
I was very thirsty on my ride and found the park waterfountain out of water . So I thought if the church was open they may have water. I pulled the door open. It was like Alice opening into a wonderland. Suddenly I realized I also might find out about a question I asked my mother the night before. “Who is God?”
A friend , Susan McGahee , talked every day about “God” as if he was someone in her family . She would often introduce me to “God” by referring to him often and saying I needed to meet Him. But everytime I would say ” God” , it felt awkward. I was certain it sounded to her I might not like him. I was somewhat suspicious since my father had told me to not trust people that talked about “God”. And I just wanted to know it wasnt someone she made up in her imagination. Fifty years ago every child had a great imagination. There was no doubt that she or anyone else could have made up a character called “God”.
When I entered that first church, I didnt plan to ask bout “God” but, something about this big closet demanded a either a request or a greeting. For those who knew “God” they might greet him. But I did not know Him so when I saw a box with a labeled “prayer requests” I wrote my request. I had just had the word request in my vocabulary list and knew its definition.
Though I was 10 years old , I felt as big and bold as an adult in a prayer closet . I wrote”Hi Mr. God who are you? Let me know you like my friend Susan” I folded it tightly in a square , slurped from the fountain beside the wooden box , left singing the chorus of a song my mother played “I really wanna know you” from “my sweet lord” by Beatles member George Harrison. This was my first encounter with church and this was my first entrance antiphon.
Entrance antiphons start the mass with an expectancy. An expectancy that we will meet God and he will meet us in our minds and hearts. As the leader anounces “the enterance antiphon”, folks rise, even since the beginning of Christianity, to say a text or verse of the psalm . It’s friends, brothers and sisters , in unison, greeting and asking of God.
Even folks that are not catholic enter their prayer closets with such intention. They want to meet with God. It is the knock on the door of heaven when we say from our hearts “show me your ways oh God” . The enterance antiphon has been the created way of the church since its inception. Not because of mans intent, does the antiphon enter our worship, but because of God’s intent in us. God creates us requesting of Him to show Himself and Him desiring to fulfill our requests by showing Himself to us.
It was for 48 more years that I entered the empty open churches with my own enterance antiphon. Most all my requests were desperate pleas and most all were childlike . And everyone of them , every enterance antiphon ,placed as a prayer request , was answered by the one I first called “Mr God.”
I write this now outside such a church . I write this outside the biggest prayer closet of all… the Catholic Church. I write this now as I watch the old woman and little girl sanitize their hands before going into a chapel, a closet that is always open.A closet that is always open when everywhere is closed. I write this now knowing that forever little girls can ask “Mr God who are you?” and get an answer.
Entrance antiphons were first solidified as part of the mass by Pope Celestine 1 432 . In early time, lines from the psalms of David were to be sung. Presently , mostly psalms are used but, other scriptures from the old testament and sometimes new, are used. It is usually a short sentence that reflects the core message of the mass for the day. For me it sounds as if it is a souls summary of the Lords intentions for the day… but that is only my interpretation. I am after all a closet catholic.
https://youtu.be/8qJTJNfzvr8My Sweet Lord was a song by George Harrison that tried to incorporate Christianity into all religions. A postmodern song with the intent to bring peace among all religions with a sweet chorus ” I really want to know you” that God did indeed use for me. But Jesus would return with His antiphon… no , “I did not come to bring peace but a sword ” “I am the way the truth and the life, no man can come to the father but through me” Matthew 10:34,John 14:6
“Come out of that closet child? lets go somewhere” I would coaxed my daughter many afternoons. Forever I will remember the face of her reluctant obedience as she would leave behind her beautiful world to go walk with me to a park. As we walked she would awaken out of her imaginary world . Slowly she would tell me of what she saw and did in the closet. Every conflict was resolved in her closet. And everything good was preserved.
I had other children. I would say to them , “its time to come out of the closet!” Their faces ,I remember ,were filled with reluctant shame as they were leaving behind an addictive world. A world where conflict is resolved with the pained senses being anestisized by image or substance. Since creation , Everyday , children all over the world ,are coming in and out of these closets.
But as much as there are imaginative kids and addicted kidsa ,there are also big children in another closet. The biggest and bravest kids I know still talk abut going to this beautiful place called their “prayer closet. ” these closets may be as big as a bedroom or as small as a backpack or even the hem of Suzanne Wesley’s apron. It is a hiding place for a child of God to enter the beautiful world. Even Jesus came from a closet out into calvary. Jesus went to a beautiful secluded place before He brought His beauty to us.
I suppose it was not so different than the duplicitous closets the first children. Adam and Eve lived in. in their innocent prayer closet, the garden, they divided. at one point were with the beautiful and holy. Here all was more than they could ask or imagine And then , in their shame were hiding in the same closet with their imagination pained and paranoid imprisoned in darkness. At another moment they were reaching for the forbidden.
Still the whole of mankind groans in closets.While some are in prayer closets, others are in addictive closets trying to kill the shame. Instead of hiding in garmets of beauty and truth they are hiding in drink or food or images.
Both in the closet are drinking from a cup . One from the cup of shame and wrath, the other from the cup of acceptance and grace. From the cup of grace , the child’s eyes are opened to a world that is infused with Jesus. From the cup of wrath the child is intoxicated into a blindness where all is dark. The light is off.
But from the cup of grace, the child’s eyes are opened to a world that is illuminated with Jesus . Many children of God have, at times, been in both these closets . Some by trickery and pain have been hiding in the closet that is a prison But a few small ones, by childlike faith, have been hidden in a closet as a refuge where every intention of their Father is illuminated.
I come out of such a closet . And The Father has spoken “Child when are you going to come out and lets go somewhere”
The following blogs, in the category of “Church Doors” will journal my hiding in the Catholic closet. I may lose friends, increase enemies . But, I will be able to walk again with my Father and tell the stories of all the adventures in Jesus he has shown me in this secluded closet.
I thank my husband George Unglaub, Good Shepherd Church and Blessed Sacrament chapel for every day I have been In Our Father’s Closet.
Now lettest thou thy servant depart, Lord, According to thy word, in peace; For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples; A light for revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of thy people Israel.” Zechariah Luke 2:29-32
Faces we Remember
“ I heard your father died.” they said to me today.
I thought of the word “ died” .
My father often said “ your God has died”
And today someone said the same thing about him.
“Not everything dies” I said quickly.
When someone dies… or as we now say “ passes”, we remember. While they are alive we spend our time laughing and complaining and arguing with them . But when they die, when they leave us to silence, we remember.
Some have memorials for those who died. Often services, or “homegoings” shouts of memory are expressed in words or tears or visions in our minds. These are all a gift for us to let us “remember”. Some, who “die” , however, slip away, slip away without anyone remembering. Their bodies are put in paupers graves or burned and contained somewhere in a government-owned yard. Yet, we all know , even the coldest atheist knows, someone once saw their face. Someone could remember them.
When my father died,two weeks ago, he had only a few friends. Mainly he had wives and girlfriends and two daughters to remember him. All his life he imagined he would be remembered. He was not unlike so many of us too who long to be remembered . Yet in his imagination it was grander than most….he wanted to be remembered for being “Lord Makemson” . He wanted to be known as a royal person who had “mastered” it all .
Like a Renaissance man, he had invented and written and designed and performed to the level of being the ” maestro” of all things. All his close friends would call him “lord M” and so would I . It would be many years until I could call him “Daddy”. He forbid that name, but with every greeting of “Lord M” or “Make the Snake” a impish childlike grin would erupt from his otherwise always “pondering” face. He wanted to be remembered for being very great in the eyes of man.
Looking back , I see my father’s face. I see that I grew up being changed every time I was around my father. Some records in journals record my mature love and others record adult years of childlike anger. A range of words at this man who thought too much of himself and of whom I had no name to call.
He thought so much of himself that he developed among all friends an ideology of a system of “one world order”. In the “one world order” ,he was to be the Ruler. The one and only Ruler.There would be no God, no competing “Theocracy” only His “Aristocracy” that of an Artist and Scientist. In his system, only the scientists would have faces with eyes to see. And only what the scientists saw could the artist paint. “No religion !” He would yell.
“But God still sees all and the universe is His canvas,” I would eventually be bold enough to yell back.
“Oh to hell with your God” he would say for many years.
His face in early years red and fierce later to turn pale and pleading.
” I will tell your God to go to hell” he would announce .
But God never went where my father told Him to go . He stayed right near my father on the porch waiting for him to come home.
“I still see his face” my sister texted. We last saw him lifeless , still , stonefaced. But it is not the dead alone that are “stone faced”. Many folks in our lives can become static and frozen in our mind. They stay preserved in a scene as we remember when we last saw them face to face . Away from the scene , we look at them in media but they don’t ever look back. Though we call the place “social ” , it is only a place where the sound is silence.
Frustrated, we tour faces like children in a hall of a wax museum. We prowl across our computers. Every face stares back , immobile frozen , from some moment far away. We cannot make it change with a greeting. It seems No matter what you type at it, it is only an emoji that comes back . Now even your dearest friends face remains the same. It’s an immovable face. One thought away from being an enemy or idol or dead.
But in reality everybody with a face has a face that faces a newness every moment. We are all being changed. And though we think , “ah that is so and so “and they are “doing this and that”. At the time we say it , it is past and God. . . the Creator Of time and events … is forever making something new. Still, we hang , we hold, we hope , that what we looked at a moment ago matches our judgement whether good or bad of someone.
And we proudly say “ oh I knew that all along about them” “yep , they are just. . . “ or “Im happy that they are. .. “ and “went . . and saw and have. . .” We seldom judge rightly. . . . much less than we ought. Much less than God created us to do. It is really because we do not see them face to face
And yet , if we do , if we do see someone face to face, we become so busy with the thing at hand that we do not see them at all. It may be dinner or church or work when we are given the chance to “ see” . . .But here again we are always thinking and feeling and talking. We seldom really see . We seldom really hear. We seldom are in a place where it is just us and our neighbor, loving, face to face.
And so if we cannot see our Brother ( or sister) we just might find we are far from a place where we see Our Father as well. We cannot hear or feel or see Our Father. delighting over them or us… delighting over His children.
Soon they die. And when they “die” we wonder. . . we wonder where they are and where is Our Father in all of this.
Faces that cannot see
So, Since the dawning of Face book, folks have left their life journals and tucked them dusty and forgotten on shelves. Even if we receive journals at Christmas and holidays we now are more distracted to look at Instagram and Facebook. Always we are lured away from the joy of tearing the paper, opening the present and feeling gratitude for the person who thought enough to buy us a little space in the world .
Before us , A sweet little space to record God’s story in us. But , Distracted and wanting, like spoiled children, we quickly toss blank pages aside for the next “posted” thing. Thumbs up and thumbs roll across holiday photos and friends posts of a lives we never ever saw. Of friends we never remember hugging, Of food our families will never taste.
We think we are in a story of time. But deep down we know what we hold with social media is an illusion . We hold a souvenir of a reality Our Father would want us to really enter and enjoy. Our Father wants us to meet Him with our hearts face to face.
So, Rising up away from the gift of a journal , we return to “our network” and consider what others with stone faces on screens are doing. The journal is blank on the floor. But deep down, though we have seen many faces, we are lonely to see the FACE OF GOD in something, in someone. We want something alive and close. In the “now” there is not one we know . We barely know ourselves. Somewhere we have lost what God intended for us to keep . To record. To remember….. To tell of His Story …To Remember in a life he has ordained since Before He ordained time.
Faces upon Faces, Posts upon Posts, we become like James says , walking away and forgetting who we are. Everything seems unreal. And when it is far away and unreal, we then become like prodigal sons who have run away from our Father’s face. We don’t even remember His face. We cannot see it smiling on the one who is sitting in front of us , we cannot hear it we cannot believe it is real.
Our Father, God , who gave us our first blank sheet of paper to describe or draw a reflection of His Goodness waits. Though he seems like a “BabyDaddy” and we his ‘latchkey children” being raised by a TV screen, there is something real and alive with us as a Father every moment . He has a face we cannot see.
Faces in Books
I sit now before photos and notes. Photographs and journals , as old fashioned and far away as they sound, are the next best thing to books. We all know it to be true when we hold it in our hands. We know something deep and mysterious and real may come from something bland and blank. Paper with ink. Photos with images. As trees ache, so do souls groan, for the axe, the axe of a Holy Hand to yield a better story. . . one with our name on it. One that is Alive.
“Scribbles”! My father thought it “common, trite, and close to barbaric” for me to write in a journal. While , he wrote many “great thoughts” on small spiral notebooks he ridiculed “the common folk ” writing in journals. As well , while he took many pictures, few photographs he admired. Yet often , in the last days we would delight in pictures of his ever thinning ‘European face”.
Busy through the years with “lord M’s” health and home, I did not know at the time what was beautifully unfolding. But now each journal entry, each picture, like a presents drop in my lap waiting for me to unwrap little clues to the great treasure that was given to my dad. I only unwrap the clues. The present was a gift only for my father, from my Father in heaven. .
I wish that I had written more clues and situations . I regret that I did not record every discourse and distress, every battle for belief, every tender shared joy of the atheist man and his “Primitive, slave, “ Christian daughter. But most times my entries would be interrupted by another. Mostly ,Jesus would enter between me and my father. the complaint of ours turn to praise and the hurt of ours turns to health. .
“ I prefer you not disrespect me by bringing your imaginary Messiah around “ my father would say “I do not need him to be in the story of my kingdom”
My pen might dry for a moment. But with a shake soon I see I could bring my father ,” The other” around Jesus at least in my journal . And when I did it would totally change my mind about my father on that very paper and for a moment I would REMEMBER HIM AS OUR FATHER KNEW HIM. . . for a moment I would see his face as His heavenly father saw His face . And even if , I could not, even if I were to slam my book shut in unbelief, there remained an eye in my heart opened for the impossible. There was the whisper saying ” no eye has seen no ear heard what God had prepared.”
I begin to write this for my family and For all who call me “family. “But I write it also for any who long to believe for another, for those, like Saint Augustine’s mother ,who prayed thirty tireless years for the salvation of one. And this is also for ones who do not want to grow weary but write to Our Lord about their wrestling in hope. And this is for my father, my sister’s father, the writers, to bear patiently with my grammar and to hear what we share. . a Story. .. A Story of a very GREAT GLORY that Our Father wants us to see . . FACE TO FACE!
So at the right time, a time when we see Glory in the end was a Glory we never saw in the beginning ,we might Believe Him much more! Yes and Amen there is Something about the way Our Father created us, all of us. We continue though all time to write stories and take pictures.
Perhaps, I said to my father “ there is a story being written about you by God. What if He is not dead but a brilliant writer ? ”.what if He is the most brilliant writer whose story he wants every one to remember ? And what if His story remembered Gives Him Glory ? ( to be continued)
Yesterday, in the park, Our Father gave us a feel of His Promise of Spring. We gathered feeling what Paul proclaimed and what the preachers now preach. We could see with our eyes that “all things ARE made new”. Little buds were on a few trees, blades of grass were bending upward breaking out of dirt. The breeze that the lord sends each month met me before Frog could spread the first table cloth. . It was warmly blowing . It blew all that was planned on my papers to the ground. How wonderful was Spring peeking through our winter yesterday. We all could sense Our Father’s hand reaching out to His children in a new way.
It was only natural for us to open with song like the birds do all day. We opened singing “Father let your Kingdom come” . Wide eyed children with small dollar store tamborines, nappy tired old children staring at lyrics, some singing, some dancing, some pondering. . . as the chorus repeated ” you make all things new. . in places we don’t chose. Halle hallelujah, Father let your kingdom come” https://youtu.be/EHIGm7qYVz4
“Unless you show us Lord , we will never see your kingdom. ” I prayed and we all stopped singing.
For months we have been learning anew the outline of what folks call “THE Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6. This prayer , this “way” or “manner ” Jesus taught us to pray neatly holds every prayer we have ever prayed. And yet, Jesus prods us ,calls us, prays for us, to pray it rightly from the heart. Yesterday we were going to enter the heart of what “thy kingdom come , thy will be done ” looked like ” here as in heaven”.
So, for the month of January I read Our Fathers word . . . “kingdom”. the word kingdom started long ago when Our Father had His Kingdom perfectly set in a garden. But , a rebellious angel set mission , out of jealousy towards Our Father, to destroy the kingdom. Our Father in His Love and Mercy for us would not let us be destroyed or His Kingdom . And so He sent His son to save both us and His Kingdom. It is a wonderful thing to have a Father like this. And One that wrote every battle plan of Love down for us in His Word.
By the time I got to the word “kingdom” in the new Testament, I saw Jesus bring the kingdom of Our Father back. He did everything that God wanted from the beginning. It was healing it was righteousness . It was love and joy and peace. More than anything, it was a perfect relationship with God. It was a perfect relationship where Jesus would ask anything of the Father and it would be done. It was perfect unity with the Father in knowing what to ask for. It was having the desires of the Father’s heart and seeing His heart manifest everywhere.
So from reference to reference I knew we must know who Our Father planned us to be and who we now can be ” in Christ “. So I prepared much for there was much to know from Genesis to Revelation. I had posters and handouts and songs and flyers and diagrams . I studied and prayed and studied again. And the day came … The first Tuesday of Febuary . . .it came like Spring . . .it came like a groundhog not scared of any shadow.
Standing before a handful in the park. I began to tell how Jesus said in Mark 1:15 The time is fulfilled the kingdom of heaven is at hand : Repent and believe The Gospel. I showed the 10 commandments, I spoke of how we all fall short, I spoke of God’s mercy saving us by the death of Jesus. I then spoke of the resurrection of Jesus proving we are now set free from sin. Each commandment Jesus has set us free to live obedience, not in slavery but as dear children. And I spoke of how the devil makes us forget this by condemning us or telling us there is no joy in obedience. I spoke much. I spoke too much. Everyone’s face was weary. It felt like winter was coming back.
Three children helped me by holding the 10 commandments poster upright as I taught. I thought perhaps they might be weary tooo. So ,in my soul ,I prayed. ” lord what do you want me to do ? How do you want your kingdom to come now?” I looked at the children awake alive . But all others looked weary .Suddenly I felt as if a hand came upon my shoulder to gently sit me down . Heavy but tender it came until I could not help but to sit on the bench.
I looked at the children and said ” can you tell me what Our Father wants us to know today. ?”
Suddenly a young girl named Isabella spoke. ” well I think I can.” she handed me the poster.
“He wants us to know to listen to God our Father talking to us. If we hear something some one says or we think about something that doesn’t obey these ,”…she pointed to the commandments” then it’s NOT God’s voice , It IS THE DEVIL! ” she emphasized with a stomp of the foot. “It’s not too hard . . . .there are only two voices . . . .and one loves you and the other wants bad for you. God can’t get anything done UNLESS WE listen to His voice! ”
Every face suddenly came alive . Some clapped , some raised hands , some said Amen , all heard the Big Precepts of God unfold like a new bloom before them.
“That is Wonderful” I said. Then, I asked my little teacher ,”so then how do you hear His voice?. ”
“well” she stopped for a moment while every ones face looked expectantly at her.
Putting her hands to her chin she slowly said “Well, I guess you gotta be like a child to be able to do that. ”
Suddenly I remembered, tucked in all the verses on the Kingdom was Jesus saying to me, to us, “AMEN AMEN I SAY TO YOU UNLESS you TURN AND BECOME LIKE CHILDREN YOU WILL NEVER ENTER THE KINGDOM of heaven” Matthew 18:3 ESV
Yes , little sister, with all our efforts and programs and resolutions and restrictions and all the ways of man to better himself , we are no closer to the kingdom than when we were first saved. It all begins with knowing and loving and trusting Our Father then acting as His children. To repent as a child is simply to come near Our Father and say “I am sorry, I was not listening, I want to obey”
And now little sister and all my brothers and sisters in the park, the kingdom of heaven … the revival of all of Our Fathers desire for us begins when we sit down under His Hand and know we are His children. . . . then we will hear and he will heal our land.
“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”Ecclesiastes 3:11
Geno got to see his brother today.
Geno got to see Dennis today. Kinda strange how Our Father gets us all together over time. Geno left out of this town without as much of a good bye on his birthday. And today , bout a month later, his brother Dennis did the same thing.
They both just “high tailed” it out of here without a word.They both went to a city whose designer and builder is God.
I don’t know why Dennis went chasing so fast after Geno. All I could think was that he got all frustrated . He got frustrated , like the rest of us, with saying “good bye”.
We’ve all been trying to say bye to Geno since he left last month. We have tried every day and even late into the night. Folks in his town even made a billboard at Chicken Delight saying “We miss you Geno”. I reckon that they put it there just in case Geno wanted to grab a wing before going or just in case Geno was looking back that might see his name all big on a billboard.
We all tried lots of other ways to say good bye to Geno. Some with flowers, some with paintings, some with food, some with photos, some with words, some with tears. But we all knew Geno was far away . And we all knew that …only our Love made perfect, in Jesus , could really reach and touch Geno. He was just that far away. He was just that close to Jesus.
Geno was a long way gone. Lots of songs are written bout folks leaving without good bye’s. Country and folk and blues all cry from the heart of the one left behind. But, when folks leave for good, when they are “a long way gone” it’s a whole different song.
When we have folks we love leave for good ,our sad hearts try to sing a song that just doesn’t fit in any category. It doesn’t even feel like a song. It feels like a cry from the dirt of the ground. It is off key and wordless. It is cold like silence with a groan.
It wasn’t ever like that with Geno. It was never cold silence. And though Geno wouldn’t talk much and often would just grunt , “ha ha”,” hee hee”, “humph”, “yes mam”, “uh huh,”;Geno never ever groaned.
Geno never groaned cause Geno always had a song. And ,cause he always had a song, when the preacher would call “Geno , I need you to play a song on Sunday”, Geno was ready.
Geno was ready since the day he turned face to face with Jesus. He called this place with Jesus “a place of joy”. He was always ready with new strings tightened and his guitar tuned to show off this place of joy”.
“ If God calls you to the altar to give everything to Him and you give it to Him , you are Free, free to do anything He asks. . and what he asks brings joy” was what Geno last said to me three days before he left town.
Geno was joyfully free. And He would pick a set of songs Our Father would give him to tell us all how free we can be. Geno was free to play many songs. And, If church were a bar , we could have requested any song and he would play it . He would play it ,not asking for a single coin for his case.
But , in the church, the pick was Geno’s . So with each set of songs for church, Geno would pick a song called “10000 reasons”. And instead of coins in his case, Geno had 10000 reasons of joy in his soul.
Bless the Lord Oh My Soul10000 reasons
10000 reasons is a song based on psalm 103 where King David remembers all the blessings of Our Fathers goodness. The son after Our Fathers heart, David, serenades Our Father with “all the benefits “ of being a child of God. And ,like a big boy child, Geno would stand with guitar strapped around his shoulder, dressed in a white shirt, radiant with a joy unspeakable and play his guitar before his Father. Soon, with a verse or two, we all felt the same joy. Singing “Bless the Lord oh my soul , oh my soul and worshipHis holy name”.
Then eyes of folks hearts opened as they saw the Bigness of God. And seeing made their souls fat with Praise.! For as large as the Father , as vast as His creation are the 10000 thankyous waiting to bless Him. Every soul heard the commanding BLESS The LORD oh my SOUl when their eyes saw His goodness!
Geno seemed to sing from a deep place where He saw the Goodness and Mercy of our Father. I don’t know if he was on key or off key but he was in tuned to Our Father. And even if we couldn’t name it everyone one of us knew … really knew that we too had a reason to sing.
“YOUR RICH IN LOVE AND YOURE SLOW TO ANGER
YOUR NAME IS GREAT AND YOUR HEART IS KIND
FOR ALL YOUR GOODNESS I WILL KEEP ON SINGING
10000 REASONS FOR MY HEART TO FIND” we joined Geno. All one voice. One voice full of joy . Those were the days before Geno and Dennis left without a goodbye.
Sing Like never Before
I play “10000 reasons”10000reasons real loud in my car on my way to church as I go through the town Geno left. As the car moves east, I remember Geno. I remember times when Geno would sing 10,000 reasons and I would want to start singing with him as soon as he began to strum . Aching to start singing, I would tighten my lips waiting for others to sing.
“why don’t ya go ahead and sing mam?” Geno would ask.
He was really asking me “why don’t ya live free”. And his wife ,Rita might have said it that way.
“Well , I cant sing very well. . . Im really off key” I told Geno.
“That’s okay God makes it all beautiful” Geno said with a warm chuckle. Geno always warmly chuckled after a sentence where he said “beautiful”
And I would say “Beautiful” back to Geno.
I would say it slowly “ Beautiful . . Geno tell me again about your older brother” I would request.
Geno would then tell me about his older brother “John John”. John John was a brother that did not “know “the way most folks “know,”or think the way most folks think or act as most folks act. So folks called John John special names .But he himself chose never to call anyone such a name. Instead he chose to call everyone “beautiful” .”John John “left town” a long time before Geno and Dennis left town. And , unlike his brothers , John John probably said “goodbye Beautiful” to everyone when he left. He was “beautiful” like that , Geno and Dennis would say.
I think John John waited a long time for today. He waited a long time to see his brothers. But to him , like Our Father, it was like barely waiting a day. I bet today he holds his two brothers hands feeling like not a day had been between them at all. It probably feels as if they never needed a goodbye.
But “John John” didn’t know a lot of what he missed down here with us. For example , he never heard Geno sing 10000 reasons. . It will be a whole new song for him in that ” city of God”. And even though Geno and Dennis sang this song , it will be a new song for them too !. It will be a song ,perfected in Love , and it will be in perfect key.
And , maybe just maybe, if we turn to Jesus ,and worship Him today , it may be the “good bye” none of us got to hear or say to Geno and Dennis before they went away. Just maybe , if we listen with the ears of our heart , we may hear echos from heaven as …
. . . . as they sing to us. . . .
“ON THAT DAY WHEN OUR STRENGTH WAS FAILING
THE END DREW NEAR AND OUR TIME HAD COME
No time was lost because …STILL OUR SOULS SING PRAISE UNENDING
1000 YEARS AND THEN FOREVER MORE!!!
And we might not think we need a “Good bye ” after all. ..
This post is for Mary , Rita and Carol ….dear sisters left behind with souls that also sing now and forever more. !
1. “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”Hebrews 11:10
2.“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:” 1Peter 1:8 KJV
HERE … having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which is contrary to us. He has NOW taken out of the way (EVERY SIN) having nailed it to the CROSS..so far be it from me to boast except in the CROSS of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Colossians 2:15 Galatians 6:14
I praise magnify and adore the LORD with other brothers and sisters in a small storefront building . The building sits in a small Florida town . It faces south to a railroad track and west to a park. The park surrounds a small pond . In the park ,a statute of Ray Charles sits immovable like a royal guard . Day and night brother Ray is poised playing a piano . Ready to strike notes we never ever hear . His head is tilted slightly upward as a reminder that something blind ,weak, and insignificant became insightful and strong right here in Greenville Florida.
“That’s not really Ray Charles ” we teach the young ones . “it’s just a thing to remind us about him” we say.
But ,Ray Charles is not the only great story from Greenville. There are volumes of stories flowing from this town about God and Jesus and all the Holy Ghost’s battles in this town. If there were a statue for every story in Greenville from every spiritual battle and every valiant warrior, we could rebuild ,yet again ,the legacy of Rome. But now how many of The Lord’s sit stoically still with hands poised ready ? How many spiritual statues await with eager longing?(1)
The Cross Invisible
The stories rumble from the ground with every passing train. Out and over and in the building where I worship there are dramas . Many twisting and turning tales of faith filled fights that became healings of bodies and minds and spirits. They are valiant stories. Stories of folks pulling out the Sword to cauterize addictions. They are gentle stories . Stories of full grown folks becoming children again in the arms of “Abba” “Daddy” their God and Father . (2) There are volumes of stories on the shelves of time in a spiritual space .
A story about a wooden cross first began for me ,in my living room, where a remnant of my church family first met. . We were meeting 50 miles away from Greenville . We came from many places together in a place that had no name. But, God gives everything a name. So ,one day , He gave a name for our meeting to a young man .(3) The young man was so excited to have the name that he wrote it inside a big Bible dictionary. He wrote ” to the church of the Tuesday nights” It was easy for us to live up to that name. We met Tuesday after Tuesday night. And, when we invited folks to come, they always remembered what night to come by our name.
In the “church of the Tuesday nights” , Brother Chris preached and teached behind a flowery green end-table topped with a cross and his bible. We bent our kness on a green rug and we believed with Jesus for everything God promised. That was a story from long ago.
Pepsi stains and watermarks speckle both table and cross now . They stand tucked away in a small room silently speaking a story better than my writing could ever tell. They gather dust like ashes while I drive to Greenville on Sunday morning.
When we moved to the building in Greenville, we did not have a table or a cross. It was all new because Pastor and his family were bringing something new to Greenville. He had a podium for his bible and a new name for his meeting. We didn’t have a cross and we weren’t called a church. We were named “Renewed Life Outreach Center”.
I thought a lot about why it might be named “center” and not “church”. I was old thinking when I was younger. And in those days I always would give questions to heaven where answers either come down or where the question would be held hostage. It was before I learned to TRUST.
This particular question was kept hostage with no earthly answer. But when I prayed I had to call it something. So, with Jesus I called it “His church”. (4) But when I was around folks, I would forget the name so often that I would call it silly names like “skeeter hawk revival” . And sometimes ,when I wrote a check, I would write “Renewed Life Outreach CHURCH”.
But God , in His mercy, would not let me hurt my head thinking about why we weren’t called church too long .He held the question in His heavenly grip and slowly released an answer to me.
He began speaking first, in Corinth where Paul first had “church”. He took me there where I saw how the apostle Paul set up a place to meet right in a center of the town of Corinth . It was an open storefront and just like my “church” , it was first used as a market .
No one in Corinth that I met could tell me what Paul called his church . At least they could not tell me what it was called before Paul wrote to us “the church of God in Corinth”.(5) Maybe he called it a “meeting place” they said.
From reading his letters to these Corinthian folks it surely was some kind of a meeting place! It was a meeting place for the dead in sin to be made alive in Christ. It was a meeting place of deliverance from the sevenfold troubles of pride , gluttony, lust, greed, sloth, wrath and envy that caused divisions among folks in this first congregation.(6) It was such a meeting place for exchanging “the old” for “the new” that it could have easily been named “Renewed Life Outreach Center” . And Paul , the preacher, might have easily stood at the doorway of the enterance advertising ” cash in those rags for robes, renew your life here”
And, like Renewed Life outreach center, he probably didn’t have a cross in his building either. He seemed to talk about the cross as a message and not an object. He wrote words about it’s invisible effect but never as an object to wear or draw .(6)
In fact, folks around Corinth told me that they did not have any crosses in town for a long time. Things of life ,like fishes and peacocks ,spoke the effect of the cross from one believer to another. https://churchpop.com/2015/08/14/8-ancient-christian-symbols-and-their-hidden-meanings/ Rumors , rubble and written books all say that the cross was an object of shame in the early church. It did not speak of freedom but ,instead ,was a symbol of the death of slaves. (7)
Folks made signs with their hands of the cross 200 years before they drew them .It really wasn’t until the 4th century that a cross was first brought visible as a display of faith. Constantine abolished crucifixion as was practiced in Rome and brought forth the Cross as a display of this victory. They say that brother Constantine might have had the right spirit about the work of Jesus’s particular cross. He knew the Spirit spoke that Jesus physical cross was used victorious over the devil and death.
But the Devil took Constantines thinking away from the Spirit of the cross and had many people killed who didn’t see the cross in the way Constatine did. The Beauty of the cross mixed again with Bloody sinners in the Crusades and became a message of death and slavery.
All the rest of His Story about the cross is a tug of war between the true message freedom and the Devil’s message of slavery.(8)
The Cross Visible
It wasn’t four hundred years but, just four years that Renewed Life Out reach church was without a cross. It did not seem like four years. It just felt like we were as Paul’s Corinth church. And it wasn’t for lack of believing in the cross. The whole mission of RLOC was “birthed out of the desire to see Gods people walking in and possessing all that was purchased for them by Jesus’s death ON THE CROSS”http://www.facebook.com/RenewedLifeOutreachCenter . Similarly ,a sign outside our building was wooden with a painting of a purple cross and our name.
“Where’s your cross” a visitor asked.
I held the cross on my neck. “No I mean a real live cross. You should have one” she insisted.
“We just don’t have a cross” I told the visitor who asked
“we believe in the Jesus’s work on the cross”. I said , reciting something I heard a pastor once say.
She looked at me , then looked again around the room as if for a lost best friend. She then hurried out the back door facing the railroad and never came back. She eventually found her friend . She found her friend in a place where a cross hung from a ceiling in a big church with colored windows.
Even though I was settled that we didn’t need a cross, I would sneak to chapels with colored windows late at night to pray alone and see a cross . And always, In RLOC, i might see the cross on the video screen from the back door on cloudy Sunday mornings .
As the four years passed, I would see more and more crosses everywhere. I would see crosses on necks , in pictures on walls, on tattooed arms, ankles and chests, as screens on computers, hovering over churches, in the hands of the dying.
Every day I saw them more and more peeking through bushes, as clouds in the sky, as breaking beams of sun, in cracks on side walks, on lattice windows and doors, even in prison gates. One day, on Good Friday, I made a cardboard cross and took it to the park where Ray Charles sits ever so still . I wanted everyone to see the cross .
Crosses were every where in those years. And on top of that , Pastor was preaching like Paul every Sunday ,for all four years, the message of the cross.https://soundcloud.com/vunglaub/sets/the-kingdom-of-his, a playlist on #SoundCloud. The cross was a tool to see our Savior and not a trinket to throw on a night stand or hang on a wall.
He had us look at every angle and side of the cross that could be seen. We looked so much at crosses our eyes felt splinters. Even some felt nails in their hearts and crowns on their heads. Everyone felt the work of the cross in their own individual way .
But not many talked together about it. We just talked of hunting and knitting, eating and fasting, working and retiring, if we talked at all. And we were a lot like that church in Corinth. Each one walking his own way.
The Cross Indivisible
But then, in the 4th year, on April 2nd , something began to change. It was Sunday during the first worship song . Some were singing aloud , some were singing silently, some did not sing. Some had eyes open. Some had eyes shut.
Open or shut, our eyes were chosing to see other people or problems or pain instead of the power of God. But, we centered our stance toward a podium or a screen expectant of something greater than ourselves .
As the first song played, our eyes were everywhere. There was not central place to set our eyes. There was no object that we all could converge on . Some were upward expectant at ceilings (9) , some downcast at the floor (10) . Some looking at the podium, some the screen. Some with eyes in the back of their head staring at the man or woman across the room.
Eyes were all over. Inward and outward. Eyes making judgement about what they saw. But , that Sunday , when Houston and Roland wheeled the cross through the back door, all eyes turned to them and turned to the cross.
It came through the very door that my friend had walked out. It came during a pause of our wandering eyes and worship . It came right when I was wondering if we were a church or a center. It came when sinners were looking for Jesus and the saints were saying “jesus” while secretly sinning
The cross came when I, a sinner against a Holy God, was looking for Jesus and when, I, a saint, had been given everything of Jesus to keep me from sinning. It came tall wooden and varnished, with a small base, on wheels. And we all turned and looked with surprise when Pastor said “we have a cross”
“So Houston I gotta meet with you to find out about that cross” I said to Houston later that Sunday. “okay ” he said.
“I bet you got a story about that Cross ” I said in great anticipation.
“I guess “he said drying off from his baptism.
When the time came , I shot round after round of questions at Houston” “So what made you make that cross. . . oh it was you and Roland making that cross . . what were yall doing that you thought of it making a cross . . oh an altar at the base of that cross. . . oh too big you say . . . then wheels for that cross. . . so you loaded that cross in the truck . . . what made you even think of all this . . what made you make this cross Houston?” I paused to breathe
Houston stared at me in silence perhaps wondering if I would let him answer. I stared back trying to hold back more questions.
“Well, Miss Vanessa,” Houston began pausing to make sure I would listen. “Well, I saw we didn’t have a cross. and thought to my self don’t every church need a cross.?”(11)
“Yep” he said
“Okay Houston. That’s it “I said and walked away. I walked away wanting only to remember the April day the cross first stood center in the church. The answer to every question.
The altar that Houston had only imagined drew many that day. The cross loudly preached the answer to every question that longed for truth. It preached a surrender of more than was possible. It preached like tounges of the Holy Ghost in my soul saying “By The Spirit of the Cross all things are possible”. It bellowed and whispered, it wooed and wept and it awakened and warned. It was not a piece of wood at all , it became the center point in the church. It spoke the message of Jesus’s death for my sins and renewed life in my freedom from sin. And it spoke with The Spirit . The visible spoke of the INVISIBLE.(12)
The upward plank still speaks each Sunday , every Sunday, of how much we need our savior. And the reaching planks , where His arms bore the nails, speak of how much we need His Love for one another. What joy set before Him compelled His outstretched arms of Love for this church? How generous His Spirit for every dead church to become a LIVE and WELL church beneath These arms!
Suddenly , centered in the shadow of this cross, made by our own brothers, we touch heaven and we rightly touch one another with heaven and change the face of those on earth. (13) Here we are clothed by Jesus that we may rightly wear the “Renewed Life Outreach ” shirt because our hearts are “Centered” on Him. Here is His Cross. And Beneath it He finds HIS JOY , His Bride.(14)
“Where’s Jesus ? He’s not on the cross” the little child asked , yesterday , on Pentacost Sunday.
“oh He’s here ” I said as I pointed to the church worshipping.” He’s off the cross He’s alive in them”
And yes, Houston,” every church needs a cross. “And every cross needs a church. Thank you dear brothers Roland and Houston for your obedience to the cross. … an obedience that gave THIS CHURCH A CENTER and the center is THE CROSS.
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
Colossians 1:19-20 ESV
Foot of the Cross Notes
Romans 8 :22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together like in pains of childbirth for the revealing of the sons of God.
Romans 8:15 . . having received the Spirit of adoption as sons and daughter we cry “Abba Father”
Psalm 147:4 He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by name
Ephesians 5:27 So that he might present the Church (HIS BRIDE) to Himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
I Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth , to those sanctified IN JESUS CHRIST call to be SAINTS TOGETHER with all those who in every place call upon the NAME of OUR LORD Jesus Christ both their LORD and ours.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the MESSAGE of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The letters to the Corinthians are loving instructions to a congregation who was born again as new creatures able to live free of what the ancients called “the seven deadly sins” that the enemy uses to kill God’s children.
My brother named John Calvin long ago among others incited hostility against the physical image of the cross. He stated that it was” impossible to visually depict God who is invisible and transcendent therefore it is idolotry” This teaching resulted in the destruction of many crosses and art inspired by the Holy Spirit to draw sons and daughters to a deeper love for the invisible three in one reality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Brother Calvin and I are no longer friends on this matter. I have seen again and again the cross is an visible though perishable reality of an invisible imperishable reality. And that reality is the GOSPEL.
Mark 2:4Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. Some look to the ceiling desperately seeking a miracle
Matthew 15:27 “yes it is Lord” she said “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” Some look to the floor for but a crumb as a sign of a miracle
Exodus 36:1 “Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person in whom the LORD has put ability and understanding to know how to do all the work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work according to all that the LORD HAS COMMANDED
Colossians 1:15 Jesus is the (ONLY) image of the invisible GOd the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth visible and invisible . . . all things were created through Him and for HIm!
The caption on the back of the “Renewed Life Outreach Center” T-shirt reads “Touching Heaven changing Earth” . It speaks of our upward reach like the upward beam of the cross to Heaven and our outward reach in heavenly blessings as the outward beam of the cross to one another and the community.
Finally Hebrew 12:2,12 we LOOK TO JESUS THE AUTHOR AN FINISHER OF OUR FAITH, WHO FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM ENDURED THE CROSS DESPISING THE SHAME AND HAS SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD. . . . THEREFORE STRENGTHEN THE HANDS WHICH HANG DOWN AND FEEBLE KNEES AND MAKE STRAIGHT PATH FOR YOUR FEET SO THAT WHAT IS LAME MAY NOT BE DISLOCATED ED BUT RATHER HEALED.