Greetings friends. Soon, we will celebrate All Saints Day in the life of the church. For me, it is one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar. We celebrate those persons in the life of the church who have passed beyond death and now enjoy the transformation of God's reign. We claim for each of these beloved persons lost to us the resurrection promise in Jesus Christ.
As we ring a handbell and call their name in prayer in our Sunday services on November 6th, I join you in remembering and giving thanks. The threshold of faith we experience can be palpable. My emotions will be thinly sliced this year as I remember my mother Anabel who passed in January. Indeed, the space we share that day will be rich with the goodness of God's mercy and grace.
With this note, I attach two photos. One photo is the west elevation of the Manchaca UMC church building. Can you remember all the persons who have come and gone in the life of this congregation? As the congregation changed, so did the campus. Its growth is a physical reminder of the rich life of discipleship enjoyed in this place. The other photo is a common stock photo of a bunch of votive style candles. We use them to light worship spaces and remember souls who now cheer us on from the heavenly realm of saints.
I invite you to use these photos or any other sacred photograph you may choose during your time of prayer in the coming days. Gaze into the memory of that threshold moment held so dear when we remember our beloved members. Give thanks to God. And offer yourself again to Christ and the ministry and mission of the Church - the body of Christ. We join the saints of our lives in claiming this moment as a vital moment in the life of our church and community.
Know this, you are loved by God! Hear this, you are beloved in the family of Christ. Read this, a blessing for all "In the Death of the Beloved" by John O'Donohue, printed in "A Book of Blessings: To Bless the Space Between Us,"
Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts
where no storm or night or pain can reach you.
Your love was like dawn
brightening over our lives,
Awakening beneath the dark
a further adventure of color.
The sound of your voice found for us a new music that brightened everything.
We look toward each other no longer
from the old distance of our names;
now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
as close to us as we are to ourselves.
Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
we know our soul's gaze is upon your face,
smiling back at us from within everything
to which we bring our best refinement.
May you continue to inspire us:
to enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
until we see your beautiful face again
in that land where there is no more separation,
where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.
The photo is borrowed and is typical of a process known in backpacking-hiking circles as a "shakedown." A person lays out for view of others everything that is to be taken along on the journey. Then the critique begins. "You really don't need that, do you?" "I see you are doubling up on certain items; that's extra weight." And the process as designed helps a hiker not carry anything extra on the journey. It's a process that depends on the view of others. It's a process that works.
This shakedown process first worked for me as a 14 year old Scout joining a troop of other young lads from Austin on an adventure to the Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico. I remember going through the process with my tent-mate, and then my junior leader, and then my Scoutmaster. Each step along the way something "fell out" of my most needed backpack possessions. And then we arrived at Philmont and the opening ceremony and adjustment days in base camp. Our ranger, another more experienced Scout, came alongside each of us and made his own critique. The good news is that he didn't slash much more from my "stuff." But he did recommend a few modifications.
I am preparing again to be outside, hiking and or camping in the majesty of God's creation. Because the morning temperatures here in my part of Texas have dipped into the low to mid 50's, I can imagine myself with a three-day pack exploring, walking, meditating, praying, and all the things I do in relationship with the Triune God while alone on a hiking journey.
It has been awhile since I got my camping-hiking gear out. I did this morning. Laura witnessed the activity all the while saying, "Just come back in one piece. We have work to do here." I laughed and I listened. So over the next few weeks, I will be in shakedown mode with a goal of several overnight outings nearby to test my gear. Then, when able, I will load my pack and my travel bag and set out. Several places beckon. The Pecos Wilderness. Big Bend. Southwestern Colorado. The deal is this: those points of interest will have to wait until the current season I live as care-giver is completed. It's a season I cherish. And at the same time, I long for the trail.
For now, I am in shakedown mode. A period of examination and readiness. Waiting. Wondering. Longing.
Along the Way
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend