If God Swore

Until then, I’d never experienced our church from the pulpit view. I’d done a reading once, down a tier at the presenters’ lectern. I once made a nervous mission announcement from there, as well.

I don’t know how many seconds passed before I began to speak.

There may have been no delay, at all.

Maybe my mind was moving faster than time. Or, maybe time truly suspended giving me a moment to catch up.

Being caught in that living still frame isn’t something I’ve ever been able to escape. Nor the feeling of being yanked back to the conscious present based solely on the physiological need to breathe.

This is what I saw: our church – our house of worship – filled. Surpassing Christmas, surpassing Easter. Standing room only, was truly that.

People lined the outer walls, the back walls, stood in the lobby, 2-3 deep in respectful rows, sat shoulder to shoulder. Hands clasped, eyes turned, a hush-filled quiet uncomfortably questioning what was about to happen.

So unexpected. So. Many. People.

I don’t know what I thought I’d see from up there, but that wasn’t it.

Someday, I want to paint the way I felt: far-away shadow figures, vague- shaped contours; impressionistic forms. It’s not that they don’t deserve to be individualized. It’s rather that they were one cohesive group, for the first time, for the last time, forever.

I’ve run the scene so many times; replayed when I need to feel stronger. I remember I did that and remind myself if I got through then, I can get through now.

I have an issue listening for God or to Him. I’ve gone way too long in some situations and found myself happily or unhappily God-smacked.

Like upside the head, like, “Hey, dammit (if God swore), pay attention!”

Like a physical push, showing me out of a situation that has long since run it’s course.

It’s easy to glance back and see the dozens of times the message almost got through to me. Last week, one actually did.

GOD: Dwelling. Places.

ME: (stubbornly) How. Many. Heavens?

Suddenly, I saw it so clearly. I knew.

In that sea of souls, right there in our Father’s house of worship, there were many dwelling places.

Down here, we call them hearts. Each person there, took him all the way Home in theirs.

Quote for the Week:

ketchup was his friend

So little of the sharing has stayed with me.

Specific stories, short strings of words. Things I heard from behind me, close and far; one at my knee.

“He was my Uncle and I loved him.”

“The closest thing to a brother I will ever have.”

A short story told by a woman Jeff trained as a delivery driver, driving toward Detroit. “One thing has always stayed with me,” she shared. “I was nervous and needed to get over a lane and couldn’t. Jeff was calm and patient. He told me to use my signal. Then, he gave me this advice.”

“Always signal your intentions,” Jeff said. “On the road and in life…’ ”

I’m sure there were more, but lastly, a drily humorous heartfelt summation both true and appreciated by all. “Ketchup was his friend.”

In the few moments’ gap, while volunteer speakers I was still dwelling on “dwelling places” when it happened. So fast I don’t know that anyone else caught it or could have caught it. An ever so slight chin bob, a direct look. Within the same second, I mirrored. That is how it came to be that I would, in fact, be reading my eulogistic … tribute (I guess).

I slid from the pew, stepped up with the help of our minister’s hand. He spoke softly, slightly offering the microphone.  “Do you want to stand here?” he asked, then immediately continued, “… or…”.  

The following “… would you …” was accompanied by the float of an upturned palm. It was the sort of go-ahead gesture offered at a held open door, only it was offering me something more. Significantly, the pulpit. Pastor Dave must have had quite the confidence that I would command myself. So, must have I, only I don’t believe mine came from me.

I’m not at all a public speaker. I say as little as possible whenever possible. So, I wasn’t considerately thinking, showing confidence, displaying emotional control or anything that could be ascribed to … anything.

I didn’t stop to consider. I don’t recall even the barest hesitation. I just continued on to where I would be.  

I liken it to arriving at home, shifting the car into ‘park’ and not recalling if you actually stopped to pay the necessary exit toll. You must have, though, because there you are in the driveway. No flashing lights to be found.

Since then, I’ve self-rationalized. Only because it seemed everyone’s interpretation of the step-up was getting out of hand.

I’ve believed for years that I made a choice based on the perceived comfort of the podium; separating myself from the situation, hiding my girth and assuring I had something to hold onto if I couldn’t remember not to lock my knees.

That belief was shattered, last week.

Quote for the Week:

The Funeral Service and Stuff I Found

From the New Testament, Jeff’s father chose selected verses from John 14.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.”

“Believe in God, believe also in me.”

“In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.”

Dwelling places; the phrase slammed me. For some reason; a jolt. It’s one I’ve never understood. A point of confusion really: how many Heavens are there? I heard other familiar bible bits drift in from a long way off. In between each, echoed “dwelling places.”  

My recollection of the dedicated meditation time was that I did not. Instead, irrationally irked, I internally re-played Roger’s specific “dwelling places” passage request, and wished the meditative time would end.

As a mark to the end, the Ministries announced that we would be moving into remembrances and microphones would be available if anyone chose to share their special memories of Jeff. I know they both clergy spoke, in turn. I cannot tell you what either said.

I can tell you that when pulled my own paragraphs from Jeff’s ‘funeral file’ last night, I was shocked to see I possess some semi-detailed notes. This isn’t the first time I’ve culled papers from the chest. It’s a bit unnerving not to remember ever having seen them before just because of the volume.

There are five pages. Three pages and one extra line of pink college rule, which, at first glance, I believed were in my mother’s handwriting. I compared it to the one-page neon yellow printer stock on which she wrote her thoughts. I can’t definitively say one way or the other. The brilliant paper Mom used however, no doubt was taken from our Michigan Hot Sauce Club stash for monthly newsletters and mail adverts.

There’s a list of the same color that seems to have be compiled by Jeff’s sister. I’m unsure if it is a role-call, an invite list or rows of still-to-be-notified. On the other side, are notes in my handwriting. Names, phone numbers, time of day or night, some doodle work, plus the note ‘figure out the store.’ That last one wasn’t in my pen.

Quote for the Week:

Pink College Rule Pages (1-4), Group Eulogy Contributions

Peace I Give to You

Funeral lessons were drawn from both Testaments.

From the Old Testament, Psalm 121:1-2

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills

From whence comes my help?

My help comes from the Lord…”

 

A Song of Ascent, which continues to be quite the personal message, considering Jeff’s emphatic announcement that my baptism one year before his death was more important to him than our wedding day.

When he said, “Now, I know you’ll be alright,” he meant my place in our Father’s house would be secured.

Not premonitious; just a declaration of peacefulness. Jeff reveled in the calm that my soul was safely held and would be accounted for in heaven. The greatest of gifts.

It’s taken me a few years to appreciate this is the eternal promise that kept me going strong through the first few years.

It’s taken me a few more years to admit I have loosened my grip, lost my hold: effectively muted the joy. Despite that, here I am.  With barely any effort on my part, still going forward.

The thing is, I’m ready to revise, now. Just about everything. I want to begin again. Embrace what needs renewal.

2008, down 118 pounds. 2020, I’ve gained 12 back, slowly.

It’s easy to break it into bites that please my palate. That’s only a pound a year!

Except I am now further out away from what should have continued. You see, I wasn’t done. 30 more to go is now 42.

It’s also easy to declare this is what I want. The hard part is action; required.

Then, there’s trying to do too much. Or too much to do, so, not trying.

I know what I must do. I always know what I must do.

There’s really only one way through. But, to take that path….

First things first: reclaim the calm.

Quote for the Week: 2020 09 01 peace i give you jakorte

Music We Keep

There’s a lot to be said about the music we keep in our hearts.

There’s a reason we love the music we love.

It speaks to us on an intimate level, no matter cadence or rhythm or volume.

Jeff kept quite a few in his. Many of enthusiasm.

Funeral planning, I chose hymns he’d always comment on. “Oh, good!” Jeff’d exclaim when the church bulletin listed one of his favorites. He’d sometimes sigh, “Oh.” Thoughtfully noting hymns of importance. Those his mother Sally and grandmother Nannee loved.

“Oh, How I Love Jesus”

There is a name I love to hear

I love to sing its worth

It sounds like music in my ear

The sweetest name on earth

“Jesus Loves Me”

Jesus loves me!

This I know,

For the Bible tells me so.

I don’t think I chose this one. I’ve sung it before, and the pretty melody randomly pops-in to remind me from time to time.

“Hymn of Promise”

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;

There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.

I talk to time about my love; my greatest listener.

When music talks to me, I listen for the beats and counts; steady rhythms to regulate my heart, with words that understand.

Quote for the Week: 2020 08 25 what an amazing thing a song is jakorte