Interruptions that Bless Our Lives

This has been a season of interruptions for me, events that disrupt the normal rhythm of my life, sometimes with joy, sometimes with sorrow. The last couple of days have been no exception.

With Jeff Pratt at the Mustard Seed Village

Monday I spent to Jeff Pratt  whom I know from my days on the mercy ship Anastasis. Jeff currently leads YWAM Axiom and Axiom Global Monastic Community. Like me, Jeff describes himself as a contemplative activist. He leads retreats and pilgrimages and challenges people to a more radical whole life discipleship that embraces both contemplation and activism towards the marginalized in our world.

Jeff and I shared stories, resources and ideas about contemplative living. We planned for possible collaborative efforts in the future. We drove up to the Mustard Seed Village site, shared coffee at Camano Coffee Roasters, and chicken masala and wonderful tomato basil salad back home at the Mustard Seed House.

Tuesday I headed out to Shelton, 1 1/2 hours south of Seattle, for the funeral of my best friend’s mother in law. It is just a month since my own mother died and as you can imagine this was a bitter sweet occasion for me. Being together with good friends, and sharing stories about Jane Mackey’s life brought back vivid memories of my own recent loss. Grieving together strengthened our friendships and our lives.

Rich and Cheryl Mackey with their sons Scott, Brett and Wade

It is so important to leave space for these types of “interruptions”. I am a strong believer in the need for disciplined daily, weekly and yearly rhythms but I also know that it is often these unexpected events that shape our lives and grow our faith the most. Both of these events enable me to see all of life with more contemplative eyes, encouraging me to really look and deeply listen to all that happens around me. They create a deep gratitude within me for the many blessings God brings into my life.

How do you make space for this type of “interruption”?

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Am I Fully Recognized For What I Am?

My mother at 20 and at 90

My mother at 20 and at 90

It is just over two weeks since my mother died and I am back in Seattle feeling somewhat normal and re-anchored. This is a time of reevaluation for me. One friend wisely commented

No matter our age, I think the passing of our mothers awakens a new life stage for us.

I think she is right. Some things will never be the same again. And in the midst of the ache in my heart, I find myself rethinking my own life and its priorities. I continue to read the book In Search of Sacred Places, which I was reading aloud to my mother in her last few days. It has some great insights for me at this stage. In talking about the Celtic saints who died at the hands of the viking raiders Daniel Taylor comments:

If they were to die, they hoped to do so fully recognized for what they were. (p129)

He goes on to ask the challenging question:

how willing am I to organize my own life and actions and relationships around those spiritual truths that I claim should define every life? How eager am I to be fully recognized? (p130)

For the Celtic saints, all of life was organized in light of spiritual realities. Daily life was an ordered rhythm of worship, work, and study – all as an offering to God.

I am not sure that I can say the same for my own life. We follow a God who was not afraid to suffer and die to draw us close. We adhere to a faith that found its home among the poor and the outcast. It was spread initially by persecution.  and rejection, yet we want none of that.

Early Christians were not afraid to be fully recognized, even if it meant their death. Yet for us faith is often a benign and comfortable value, “useful for food drives and homeless shelters, but ugly and even dangerous when it publicly asserts its claims as truth. ” (p129)

I want, in this season of my life to be fully recognized for my faith, not just for I what I say but for how I live out every aspect of my life. I want my purposes to become more aligned with God’s purposes. I want the rhythm of my life to more closely follow a Godly rhythm and I want my actions to more fully proclaim the values and culture of God’s eternal world.

Will you join me on this pilgrim path so that together we may all be fully recognized as the caring, compassionate, generous, life giving people that God intends us to be?

 

Tributes to My Mother

I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, prayer and tributes from so many of you towards my mother and my family. Thank you for sharing. It really helps. I thought I would share a few here.

Thanks Bonnie Harr for this poem written especially for me and my family.

Our days are in your hands

I was particularly touched by these words from Sundee Frazier.

I was reading a book called “Christian Meditation” by James Finley today and a quote jumped out at me and made me think of you and your mom: “As Saint Mechtilde heard God say to her, ‘Do not fear your death. For in that moment, I will breathe in my breath, and your soul will come to me like a needle to a magnet.’”

As your mom breathes in, she breathes in God, and as she breathes out, she breathes out into God. May your awareness of her breathing make you continue to be aware of your own and how you also are breathing in and out in oneness with God and with your mom.

Thanks Micha Jazz for this wonderful poem.

Death! where is thy Sting?

Where is thy sting, O Death!
Grave! where thy victory?
The clod may sleep in dust beneath,
The spirit will be free!

Both Man and Time have power
O’er suffering, dying men;
But Death arrives, and in that hour
The soul is freed again.

‘Tis comforting to think,
When sufferings tire us most,
In the rough stream the bark will sink,
And suff’ring’s power is lost.

Then, Death! where is thy sting?
And where thy victory, Grave?
O’er your dark bourn the soul will spring
To Him who loves to save.

John Bowring

Heavens Gates Have Opened Wide

Mum with her "kids"

Mum with her “kids” at her 90th birthday June 10th.

My Mum died this morning at 8:30 am Sydney time. She passed quietly and peacefully into eternity. Over the weekend we had the opportunity to say goodbye to her as a family, a beautiful end to our earthly relationship with our beloved mother.

It has been a privilege to sit with her, read to her and share love with her over these last 10 days of her life. God has been so gracious. Thank you for your prayers and supportiveness. These are the words that revolved in my mind as I held her hand for the last time

Heaven’s gates have opened wide,

Do you see the Saviour calling,

Welcoming her with arms outstretched.

No more crying, no more tears,

Smiling now, forever smiling,

In a world that conquers death.

Do you hear the trumpets sounding,

Rejoicing in the victory shout.

Death’s dark embrace has given way before God’s eternal light.

Today I want to Go Home

sm-Tom-Sine

Today I just want to go home. I am missing Tom, I am missing our dog Bonnie and I am missing our “normal” life back in Seattle. I know I am in the right place but it is so hard sitting here watching my mother’s life slowly, oh so slowly, ebb away.

Yesterday I changed my airline tickets home, delaying my return for another 10 days. It might need to be delayed again. None of us know how long this dying will take and it is agony for all of us.

I am reminded of the words of the Psalmist:

Psalm 13

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

1 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

3 Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
6 I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.

When death hovers over a loved one like this the cry of all our hearts is – “how long”? but in the midst I still know that God’s love will never fail and I cling to that. I pray each morning and evening for God’s peace to rest on my mother and for God’s love to engulf her. I know your prayers are with me.

Tears, Tears, Tears

Cockatoos on roof

The wait continues and my emotions go up and down.Today the chaplain visited. She told us we have good coping mechanisms. Though I don’t always feel it I know that it is true, and you are all helping.  Prayer, long morning walks listening to the kookaburras and photographing the cockatoos on the roof, sharing the story on my blog and the writing of poetry all help.  And now I find myself grieving for the things I could/should be doing – like preparing for the Celtic retreat next week and getting ready to go on vacation with Tom. Life does go on but it feels the fabric has been ripped.

Tears, tears, tears,

So many tears.

I shed them for my mother

And her suffering.

I shed them for myself

And the turmoil of my pain.

I shed them for my friend

Fresh diagnosed with cancer.

Tears that drain me dry,

Tears that shout this is not right,

Death does not conquer all,

Christ’s sacrifice is not in vain.

God has the final victory,

Death’s slow embrace,

Will give way to God’s eternal light.

Not Embarrassed to Share About Death

Scott Simon with his mother – via Today news

In the last couple of days several people have sent me links to NPR host Scott Simon’s tweet feed about the death of his mother. Like me he has not been embarrassed to share openly the pain, the tears and the heartache of these final days. I read and cried through this poignant article of how his mother became the collective mother to 1.2 million people who followed Scott on twitter, finding great comfort in what he shared. Many of his followers I suspect remembered their own moments of loss and grief as they read what he wrote. Some I am sure will be better able to cope with death in the future as a result.

I too have been amazed by the comfort others find in my journey. It makes me realize how important it is to share these types of events. We are all vulnerable people, so afraid of death, embarrassed to share how deeply it scars us, afraid to admit the ache it leaves inside us. We go to great lengths to hide from it and to hide it from the world. Yet it is one of the few certainties of life.

Thank you for continuing to share this journey with me. I still have no idea how long my mother’s final journey will take. I would like it to be quick, I don’t want to see her suffer, but I also realize it is in God’s hands. Thank you for your prayers and support and comments – they are much appreciated.