Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wilderness Wanderings . . .

In the spring of 2005 I was asked by Louise Wallis and Kathy Hightower to be the speaker for the 2006 Women's Retreat.  The theme was to be "Through the Wilderness" and I was thought to be somewhat qualified to speak on the topic.  Preparation and the event itself remain one of the highpoints in my life!  The fact of the matter was/is/and will always be that GOD IS FAITHFUL!  Going into that weekend, I knew that there was the possibility that the ovarian cancer, in remission for three years, was once again present.  God used that retreat to prepare me for what was ahead. 

I walked away from that weekend overflowing with spiritual blessings and most grateful that God had put us in such a fulfilling ministry.  Little by little Tom and I were adjusting to his Parkinson's and planning changes in our living arrangements that would help our situation.  Just a few weeks after the retreat everything suddenly changed!!  The returnn of cancer was confirmed, I was given a prognosis no one wants to hear, the stress took a toll on Tom, we were advised to retire and move close to family.  It was not only wilderness, but exile, up close and personal.  The next few months presented more challenges.  As I appeared to be getting worse, Tom did too.  In the midst of all the problems, the saints of Fair Oaks nurtured and cared for us and got us moved to Jackson, TN.  We went there to die.  BUT GOD, in His mercy gave us life. 

My condition has improved.  I am no longer "incurable," but have a "chronic" illness that is being maintained by the grace of God and through medication.  Tom's condition steadily went downhill, but we were together, caring for one another and making the most of every day.  God gave us a cloud and a pillar of fire to guide our steps and manna from heaven to sustain us day to day.  Then, Tom died.  I wondered then and wonder now how I can possibly live without him, but I can and I do. 

I still wander in the wilderness--the wilderness of loneliness, of rejection, of uncertainty.  But, in this wilderness God is teaching  and healing.  I have time to devote to private Bible study and prayer.  I have time to read both for spiritual growth and for pleasure.  Last Sunday Tommy preached right to me in his sermon entitled, "Meet Him in the Wilderness."  The lectionary sequence spoke volumns to him.  We had been in Mark with Jesus busy, busy teaching and performing miracles and the logical next texts were the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water, but it skipped right over those "biggies" and went to Jesus trying to get away to wilderness to pray and spend time with his Father. 

When we meet God in the wilderness, life is not about doing, it is not about service and mission, it is not about what must be done, but what we must be.  In the wilderness we take time to be with God.  We can focus on our dependence on God.  We are informed by the wilderness experience of the Israelites, how David was refreshed and kept safe in the wilderness and how Jesus, himself, took advantage of being in the wilderness with God.  It is not inactivity for the sake of inactivity, it is being still and knowing God. 

I have been frustrated with what I should be doing and have been reminded that for the child of God, it is a matter of who we are and whose we are. When we are "settled into being," instead of wondering "what I should be doing," God directs our steps.  The wilderness is that place where we meet God and are led step by step to the land "flowing with milk and honey."

Thanks again to Louise and Kathy for starting this process.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, July 19, 2012

All Things Considered . . .

Blogger's new look is a pain!  Maybe if I visited more often, I wouldn't have such a hard time with it and again, maybe if the new look wasn't such a pain, I would visit more often!  It seems that many techinal "aids" designed to enhance or help the user do just the opposite.  I'm not sure it's worth the effort to post anymore.  I get little feedback, virtually no comments, so who reads? Who cares?  But, just in case one of you who have wondered where I am is reading today, here are a few thoughts.

Today is grandson Drew's tenth birthday.  He has requested a chocolate cake with white frosting, a simple request that takes me back to days when my children were still at home and a recipe I used then.  He also put sauteed snow peas and peppers on the menu, also easy enough to do.  The effort comes in going out in the rain to buy the peas.  We have purple peppers growing in pots outside the door and they will replace the usual red bell peppers I use.  The wonder is: where have these last ten years gone?  How did he grow so quickly?

School opening is just around the corner.  Liz has been at her new school all morning, meeting with teachers and setting up her room.  Jacob started band camp this week--two days of meeting with new freshmen members and then today the whole band came to start learning the fall show.  Rain has kept them inside.  Next week Sarah goes to the "Great Escape," a middle school church conference.  Too soon they will all be back in the routine, while Elisa waits at home to start preschool.  She'll be lonely. 

I have spent many of my hours this summer reading and knitting.  In June I began reading through the Bible again using the Message, I finished the John Calvin devotional book I had been using and started reading and rereading books in my library.  I went back to Nouwen's With Open Hands and Brother Lawrence's Practicing the Presence of God.  Both had provided nourishment and given me much on which to pray and meditate.  Presently, I'm reading a Eugene Peterson book on the ministry of the pastor.  Such reading raises several questions since I don't pastor a congregation.  Who are "my people?" What does God want of me?  I've always believed that the only retirees are in heaven, but . . . ? 

In addition to the reading mentioned above, I have kept my Kindle full and visited the Petal Library almost weekly.  I go, both for myself and to take the grandchildren.  Recently I read a book by Lucimarian Roberts, a lady I've long admired.  She and her late husband, Col. Larry Roberts were very active in our Presbytery and in their communities, she, as an educator and Col. Roberts as retired Air Force and former Tuskegee Airman.  (Their daughter, Robin, is one of the Good Morning America hosts.) Lucimarian told of her faith story in My Story, My Song.  Just after I finished the book I preached on the Gulf Coast in her church and had the opportunity to visit with her.  What an inspiring woman!  She would say, as did Corrie Ten Boom, when some commented on her amazing faith.  No, I have an amazing God.

After months of keeping my knitting needles packed away, I got them out and rejoined the Friday group.  My two knitting friends from Tennessee and I are going with the Petal knitters on a cruise in January.  I didn't get too excited about the idea, but when Liz suggested I call my friends, they jumped at the idea.  It will be fun and give me an opportunity to get to know the ladies here better. 

The oncologist reports that my health remains stable and I celebrate every time he reports.  It's certainly not something I take for granted.  Each day is a gift from God.  Often, as I knit I count blessings or thank God for people He has so graciously put in my life--two very special children, their spouses, eight super grandchilren, my aunt who remains an inspiration, cousins who are more like siblings, countless friends in many places.  I have come to realize in new ways how prayer keeps us connected to those we do not see and how it bonds us to one another.  The silence around me has truly be nourishing for my soul as I have felt God's presence in it.  I am never alone.

Pastor Margaret