Monthly Archives: February 2017

Repentance and Reconciliation

Sermon from February 19, 2017. The Text is 2 Corinthians 7:1-16.

 

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The Best Valentine’s Day Ever

For the past eighteen years I have not celebrated Valentine’s Day. Instead I recognized February 13th as “Bravest Day.”

After twenty-two years of marriage to a compulsive, selfish man who lived in denial, my wife said that enough was enough. Since I refused to get help, she would, but she wasn’t going to live with the toxic person I’d become.

That confrontation shattered the tenuous hold I maintained on the “everything’s okay” façade of my life. Standing amid those shattered fragments, I knew I had nothing left. I faced the hollow person I was. And I knew I could no longer live this way.

I sought help, real help this time. In opening up the putrid wounds of my soul, healing began. I found support to deal with my compulsions. No longer hopeless, change ensued.

Simultaneously my wife also experienced help, hope, and healing. There followed three years of painful self-examination, false starts, and slowly rebuilt trust. After three years our separation ended. I moved home.

During this period, as our marriage teeter between hope and despair, I began my personal remembrance day by giving my wife bulb flowers – a symbol that as the flowers died but bloomed again the following spring so too I hoped our marriage would follow suit.

I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate love with the day’s declarations of eternal love knowing how insensitive I had been for all those years. Even substituting Bravest Day only partially remediated the sting of regret.

Usually on January first a growing malaise started culminating in Bravest Day and then it dissipated. I see now this was lingering shame over my past treatment of my spouse. She had clearly demonstrated her forgiveness and love. Deep down I still held on to my regrets and felt unworthy of forgiveness.

Until this year. I had psyched myself out to defuse the malaise. No longer would this time of year blindside me. But no malaise came. Pleasure married surprise and I paid as little attention as possible to its lack. Perhaps by not pondering my situation I could prevent that proverbial “other shoe” from dropping.

On February 13th I planned on purchasing another pot of hyacinths when my wonderful wife said, “You don’t need to get me anything for Bravest Day this year.” She remarked that she appreciated my continual expressions of love and appreciation.

As I drove to work my eyes filled with tears. In recent years I have learned that when my response is out of proportion to the cause, I should take note and discover what in me facilitated this reaction.

Throughout the day an increasing tide of emotion bathed me. By the time I reach the store I understood. It was not so much that I didn’t need to celebrate Bravest Day. I felt freed from the vestiges of shame, liberated to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I bought a pot of azaleas decorated with a small heart on a stick and a Valentine’s card, the first in nineteen years. It was perfect:

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My tears, they come as I write this, are tears of gratitude for the healing on our lives. Gratitude for the prayer I started using six years ago. Unite my heart to fear Your name. God has answered and for that I am eternally grateful.

And so Valentine’s Day is back.

I hope I celebrate love’s day at least eighteen more years.

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Open to God’s Grace

Sermon from February 12, 2017. The Text is 2 Corinthians 6:1-18.

 

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Hope and Action

Sermon from February 5, 2017. The text is 2 Corinthians 5:1-21.

 

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Two Whole Hours

 

I had one objective that Sunday afternoon – travel two towns over and see my granddaughter. She’d only arrived two weeks earlier and already I contorted myself around her little finger.

Once inside my son had me sit on the sofa and promptly handed me the sleeping cherub. I’d given my son enough notice he had his plans. While his wife slept and I sat as still as I could be – unwilling to wake the sleeper in my arms – he tackled household paperwork.

I looked at my granddaughter. Utterly content was I in observation. A tiny life. Child of my child. I didn’t ponder that mystery of life. I enjoyed life.

Occasionally she’d move. A yawn. A stretch. A deep breath. Every move a wonder. And then …

Her tiny fingers found my finger and she – could she sense my love? – clasped on. I whispered to my son, “Look at this.” He picturized the moment. Cherished record.

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No longer do I recall who stirred first; me, my child, or my child’s child. But away went that vaporous moment removed to memory and picture.

“Can’t believe, she slept two hours for you.” My son sounded delighted.

Two hours? I held her for two hours? As I departed I thought, I don’t remember holding any of my children like this for two hours. What had just happened?

The experience intrigued me. Since this wasn’t the first time I’d held a baby (not even the first time holding my granddaughter), what brought about the contentment to sit and look so long?

As I considered this, my love for and delight in my granddaughter welled to overflowing. How was it possible to love such a tiny person so deeply this quickly?

I remembered the oft-repeated grandparent-ism: if I knew grandchildren were this much fun, I’d have had them first. That’s a more positive way of saying, “Grandkids are God’s reward for not killing our children.” The longer I considered this I felt this answer was incomplete.

A few days later I said it. “Son, enjoy her while she’s little. She’ll only be a baby once.” Walla, the elusive companion to that “-ism.” The reason I could hold my granddaughter I knew experientially how quickly children grow up. How else could this boy, who interrupted an outing to the beach with his arrival in what seems like just a little while ago, now be the father of my grandchild?

So, now, I cherish time with my grandchildren. None of the five are two weeks old any longer. They now span the ages of two to eight. They change so quickly. Me not so quickly. But change is relentless. How I desire to share life with my grandchildren.

Isn’t that what God desires for me also? He knows how fleeting my life is. The Bible describes this in terms of wild flowers, grass, and wisps of mist. Nothing very enduring.

Instead of a God who demands my time to prove my devotion to him, could it be that God wants to enjoy me and our time together? For much of my life I’ve responded to God out of a sense of duty. To be a good Christian meant I had to read the Bible, pray, memorize verses, go to church, and witness to others.

How could I have missed the reality of the love connection? What ever the reason I began in my grandfatherhood to see the relational power of love. What pleases me as much as spending time with my grandchildren is how much they look forward to being with me.

My three local grandchildren know whose turn it is for the “Grandpa date”. (At the time I’m writing this it is my grandson’s turn.) On the day it’s their turn the coat and shoes are on – the two-year old doesn’t like wearing shoes – as they stand vigil at the window.

The last time I felt that way about meeting with God was a month ago as I drove to a workshop entitled: Art and Prayer. Maybe it was because I interrupted my routine and took the time, but that’s a partial explanation. On a deeper level I feel I am responding to God in a similar way my granddaughter responded to me when I held her at two weeks old.

And I am changing, growing in my sensitivity toward God.

I look forward to more times with God, resting, enjoying, being, maybe even for…

… two whole hours.

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Grandpa David! Grandpa David!

The other day my two pre-school age grandchildren interrupted my wife’s reading the book, I Will Always Love You (by Caroline Pedler). As she read the lines: “I’m ready for surprises when Grandpa comes to stay. Even though he’s older, he remembers how to play.” Squeals of “Grandpa David, Grandpa David” erupted at the mention of the Grandpa. When my wife recounted this incident she said, “They know who their Grandfather is.”

My joy mingled with satisfaction. To realize my grands delight in me is a wonderful fringe benefit of having raised their father. I doubt that their delight equals my delight in them. I am deeply humbled and grateful to know my grandchildren.

You see, I never knew my grandfathers.

I have seen pictures of me with Grandpa Leroy, but I was three when he died. Since we lived far from Maine I didn’t see him often and so no memories. Grandpa Dean died when my father was three or four. I doubt my father had many recollections of Grandpa either.

Grandpa George, (well he is my wife’s grandfather, whom I adopted, or maybe he adopted me) welcomed me into the family. I remember the time he and Grandma Bessie spent teaching me to play the card game, Rook. How Grandpa George enjoyed egging me on to bid higher and laugh when I crashed and burned. How he gave with no strings attached. Alas, three years after I met him he left us.

That was about the time I met my next two grandfathers. Not mine but they became grandfathers the same time I became a father. I saw both Tom, my father-in-law, and David, my father, exhibit confidence mixed with gentleness around my children.

Tom, ever a story teller, regaled his grandchildren with stories of his numerous near death experience. Ever active, he still had time for his ever-increasing brood of grandchildren. My son, named after both his grandfathers, almost idolized his Grandpa Tom. My son was in Colorado for a week-long seminar when Grandpa Tom suffered cardiac arrest and died. One of the most difficult things I have ever done was to look in my son’s eyes when we picked him up at the airport and tell him the news.

My father was a scholar with an earned doctorate. (Unlike my father-in-law most of whose learning came from practical life experience.) I’d always regarded Dad as a reserved man, but when his grandchildren arrived he transmuted into an indulgent softy. And I wistfully watched him toss the football with my son and hold my daughters close. I didn’t remember receiving those blessings as a child so occasional wondered who this man was and what he had done to my father.

Dad also modeled a wisdom in grandparenting. One Christmas morning my son whined and made things miserable with his complaint: “I didn’t get any presents.” With all the ‘Dad-logic’ I could muster I replied (hoping he’d be quiet), “look at all your loot.”

Meanwhile Grandpa poked under the tree and tossed a package to my son. My boy squealed with delight and ripped wrapping off the football. Grandpa wisdom knew present = toy.

I wish I still had that wisdom available today. A year and a half ago my son honored his grandfather when he stood with me, ready to read Grandpa’s eulogy if I couldn’t finish.

Barely noticed, God’s hand turned the pages my life. Eight years ago, when less than an hour old, I first held my grandchild. Never having had a grandfather I now was one. What marvelous leaf grandparenting has become as I now write on the hearts of my grandchildren.

In golf they talk of a mulligan – a chance to do it over. My grandchildren are like my mulligan, not that I was a failure with my children, but that I can build on the experience of parenting as well as my observations of the grandparents in my life and so be more relaxed relating to my grandkids.

I suspect my son wonders who I am and what have I done with his father. You see my grandparenting philosophy is: “If there is any possible reason to say yes, say ‘YES!’”

Occasionally my son mumbles something about spoiling his kids or some such thing. But I can’t hear him. Someone else is usually shouting –

“Grandpa David! Grandpa David!”

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