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Nov 25 21

John shows up twice, in the middle of God’s planting season

by davesandel

Thursday, November 25, 2021                                   (today’s lectionary)

Thanksgiving Day

Dad died on Thanksgiving Day, 2002

John shows up twice, in the middle of God’s planting season

My parents built their house in 1976, and set it on the foundation of another house. My Sandel grandparents moved into that house in 1948. Bill and Dora Sandel lifted the house up on jacks and dug out a basement, a firm foundation with two special rooms, one for coal and one for canned goods to tide them over through winter into spring.

Ever since they finished their beautiful new home in 1976 Mom and Dad slept in the master bedroom at the south end, where Grandma’s kitchen once had been. They closed their curtains at night and opened them in the morning. Dad slept on the right and Mom slept on the left, just as they stood up for their wedding in 1949.

Some men rushed into the upper chamber of Daniel’s home and found him praying and pleading before his God.

By 2002, when he was eighty years old, Dad had been diagnosed with ALS and was in hospice-at-home. Sometime during the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day, he got up to use the bathroom and fell on his way back to bed. He had a stroke. Mom called her son John to come and help. John lived then, and still lives, in the house a mile away, where we three kids had all grown up. John came and helped Dad back into bed. He didn’t appear to be conscious, he was breathing, but a few hours later he died.

Now then, in 2021 on November 10, 18 years, 11 months and a couple of weeks later, Mom falls on her way back from the bathroom and pushes her lifeline button. From his home a mile away, John comes and helps her back into bed. Same bedroom, other side of the same bed. She’s fine. After awhile, John goes home. But not for long. He can’t sleep, comes back, sits in the family room and dozes off.

The king returned to his palace for the night and refused to eat. He dismissed the entertainers. Sleep was impossible for him, so he rose very early the next morning and hastened to the lion’s den.

Mom falls out of bed and pushes the lifeline button again. Before that night she had never fallen out of bed. John comes back into her room and sits with her on the floor, because she has become too limp, and too heavy, to move. Even as he’s with her, she pushes the lifeline button over and over. They sit there together, but Mom is losing consciousness. John tells Mom she can go to be with Jesus. In that last sweet moment, on the left side of the same bed in the same room Mom has slept in for forty-five years, she does just that. She passes … away.

Reverence and fear the living God, enduring forever, whose Kingdom shall not be destroyed, whose dominion will have no end. He is a deliverer and a savior, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth.

On this Thanksgiving Day the reverberations of those parallel moments in eternity make me reel with awe. Heaven’s bells ring and ring, the nine tailors now for Mom, and then for Dad, and always for us all, as Rev. Donne reminds. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

No man is an island. Every man is a piece of the continent … John has mixed feelings about his experiences. Pain and privilege. He will never forget those moments, first on Dad’s side of the bed, and then almost 20 years later, on Mom’s side. Lifting their weary, withered bodies up in his strong arms, holding them, feeling their breath on his cheek, wondering if they will open their eyes and see that he is there …

My spiritual director Deb wondered aloud on Tuesday: Did John catch a glimpse of what Mom and Dad were seeing in those last moments of their lives? Our Heavenly Father was sowing new seeds of his love all over the bodies of Mom and Dad as they died. Did some of those precious seeds fall on John? In his own heart, prepared with God’s careful love and affection when John was born, did a simple seed of love fall down, settle, and begin to grow?

They will see! The Son of Man will come in a cloud with power and glory, and as these signs begin to happen, stand erect. Raise your heads! Because your redemption is at hand.

John, who has suffered himself in so many ways, laughs and smiles with freedom born deep within. John has always been a man of lovingkindness. His soil was ready to receive a brand new seed. I think Deb was on to something. And I for one, on this 72nd Thanksgiving Day of my own life, am thankful.

 

(Daniel 6, Daniel 3, Luke 21)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 24 21

Margaret’s words on Monday night

by davesandel

Wednesday, November 24, 2021                               (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs

Margaret’s words on Monday night

Fire and heat, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

On the Monday evening after Mom’s visitation and funeral, to give us a way to share our words, our daughter Andi coordinated a zoom call with her siblings and cousins, and with Margaret and I, Mary Kay and Jim, John and Karen. She put together music and pictures, and our hour together was a sweet time for us to share more memories and thoughts about the precious person we all had just lost.

Jesus assured his listeners, “Do not prepare your defense beforehand. I myself will give you a wisdom in speaking.

Margaret prepared this to read, and we would love to share it with you as well:

ANGIE

Always a lady

As I heard myself talking that night at visitation things became clearer.  Dave kept slipping up and calling it a reception.

Angie was raised in the depression era, seeing people die of hardships, the flu, etc. That leaves you frugal.  She and her sister, our Aunt Mary shared together their memories of meals like bread & butter sandwiches, with no protein. Wisdom says that rules kept you from dying.

BUT — as a friend asked me if she and I were being “proper” before the service began, my answer reflected both my long knowledge of the proper lady, Angie, who while barely out of her teens took control of teaching in a one room schoolhouse.

Yes! THAT LADY WOULD INSIST ON THE PROPER PROTOCOLS and that all the rules be followed!

Yet, that grace- filled ( check out how many of her grandkids have the name Grace) survivor that Angie became and that I now knew had insisted she be buried in her gorgeous flaming red colored pants suit.  She demanded red shoes too!  So think about it.  Only the person dressing her for her final curtain call in the casket would see her feet. I felt assured that she knew it was a party she was attending, and so that’s how I “behaved” myself.

By your perseverance you will secure your lives.

During those two visitation and funeral days I heard so many church friends and community people share so fondly and with such intensity about the impact Roland and Angie had on them and others they knew.  How their lives were filled with serving, teaching and, in my words, “just quietly holding up their end of the boat.”

A LIFETIME – 99 ½ years is a long time to fill, so if that is my lot too, I can only hope that when I put on my own red shoes to collect my eternal hugs, that the same can be said of me.

 (Daniel 5, Daniel 3, Revelation 2, Luke 21)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 23 21

A pilgrim’s progress: seeking to understand Mom’s communion verse

by davesandel

Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time,

November 23, 2021                                                                 (today’s lectionary)

A pilgrim’s progress: seeking to understand Mom’s communion verse

I awaken from my nap, “By the Seaside” crashes through my dream. Shocked, bursting off the couch, sure the world is ending, whoosh, the words that carried me through the day fall away like feathers off a dying bird. Then there is nothing, just the sound of silence.

Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections do not be terrified. Such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.

I don’t turn on CNN, I don’t turn on Fox News. I don’t look at my phone quite yet. I have miles to go, and promises to keep. The world turns, and disasters loom aside parades and celebrations, but in just a little while we’ll have supper, sit around a small table, eat our food, and stop asking questions.

There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, plagues from place to place. Awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.

Just now the sun is setting, and its red orange yellow purple beauty pours through our Urbana office window. Yes! I woke up in time for this awesome sight and mighty sign, which augers evening. In this precious moment I breathe once and then again. I am alive, and magic is afoot. There’s a Tuesday on the horizon, just waiting to be welcomed and appreciated. Today to live again, that’s the ticket.

See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, “I am he,” and “The time has come.” Do not follow them!

Pastor Clarence read Mom’s communion verse, Revelation 2:10, during his funeral sermon last week. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. Now, remembering morning conversation, listening in this sudden silence, I know a little of what Mom knows.

My strong stubborn self begins by being faithful to itself. I matter. But I shudder then, so soon after journey’s start, under blows and tears and doubt. Who am I anyway? What right have I? Through fog and hallucination, I might see a glimpse of God, and wonder what to do. Despair? Faith in myself eventually becomes inadequate and finally … OK, say it: Die.

Because beyond self-actualization lies obedience. Maslow’s hierarchy might not reach up high enough. Knowing a little of my thoughts, emotions and desires soon beckons me into a forbidding forest of unknowing.

He has blocked my way so I cannot pass, he shrouds my path in darkness. He tears me down on every side till I am gone, I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth.

Faithful unto death, and then? This awful obedience guides my steps through green pastures into emerald-hard, black jungle depths. Screams of monkeys and a distant throaty roar echo in the air. Who am I listening to? How do I know where my obedience leads? THIS is not the Garden of Eden. In short, I am afraid.

In time I realize there is something to be said about NOT knowing. My ears retune in the deeper silence. Alongside those words of Jesus to John, I hear Jesus assuring his friends, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

And I rest. For a moment. Paul soon disturbs the peaceful silence. My eardrums nearly burst. He shouts, right into my quiet place, “David! You were buried with Jesus into death so that you too may live a new life. Listen! You are united with Christ in death, and you will be united with him in resurrection. So then, David! Offer your whole self to God as one who has been brought from death to life. You now live ONLY under the law of grace.” (cf. Rev 2, Job 19, John 14, Romans 6)

OK, Paul, stop shouting! But … thank you for your clarifying comments. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. Starting to make sense.

The kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. The great stone that strikes the statue will become a great mountain and fill the whole earth. For the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up, and will break into pieces all these previous kingdoms and put an end to them. This kingdom shall stand forever.

My life is a journey of a thousand deaths, and I barely escape each time, and that’s enough.

Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, inscribed with an iron tool upon lead or engraved in rock forever: I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.  And after my own skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.

Daniel knew something Nebuchadnezzar did not. He knew THIS:

I myself will see him with my own eyes – I and not another.

Previously perhaps, we climbed a ladder into heaven to receive our crown of life. Then Jesus helped us see that it’s our Father that’s climbing … down! Into our midst, into our catastrophe, and he carries with him those several custom crowns for us to wear, as he invites us into the Kingdom of heaven, and we walk in. Right here, right now.

How my heart yearns within me!

(Daniel 2, Daniel 3, Revelation 2, Luke 21)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 22 21

Speaking out to myself, taking a few first steps

by davesandel

Monday, November 22, 2021                         (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr

Thirty-fourth and final week of Ordinary Time

Speaking out to myself, taking a few first steps

Daniel was resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or wine.

My friend who is 76 told me yesterday, “I still eat like a 16 year old!” His metabolism has served him well; his body hasn’t filled out like mine has. “I do too,” I said. Neither of us was sure what to say next.

Later I went to a Chinese buffet with other friends, and I ate bits of everything. I was drawn more to the salads and the kimchee than the wok-fried meats and rice. I didn’t lose any weight, but maybe I didn’t gain any either.

Please test your servants for ten days. Give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then see how we look in comparison with the other young men who eat from the royal table.

You know the story. The Daniel diet worked for them, and it works for us. But I live to eat, I do not eat to live. Still, that could change, if I decide to change it.

Mom’s doctor told her a few years ago to eat what she wanted. She had outlasted the dietary warnings. So she ate what she wanted. It didn’t seem to bother her, although as her lungs became weaker the rest of her didn’t want much food of any kind. But she had gummies by her chair, and she liked ice cream. She gave me lists of exotic things to bring her from Trader Joe’s, whenever I would make a trip.

I have not yet reached that point of no return. My doctor has told nothing of the kind. Change your diet and exercise, walk 20 or 30 minutes three times a week, and then you’ll lose some weight. Then you’ll live longer. Yada yada … OK, OK. Of course he’s right.

To Daniel and his friends, God gave knowledge and proficiency in all literature and science, and to Daniel himself the understanding of all visions and dreams.

Instead of exercising my body I exercise my mind. But my brain is part of my body, so this priority could be a mite short-sighted. Abraham Lincoln read books while he walked. Many of us listen to books while we walk. If I put one foot in front of another, I could certainly do that too. In both Urbana and Austin, I watch others do the same thing every day, down relatively safe paths through our small sections of city.

I fancy myself a risk-taker and an out-on-the-edge kind of person, at least in the way I think. With just a little mental tweak I could begin caring for my body, that temple of the Holy Spirit lent to me for this small time, the same way.

Jesus told his friends, “See that poor widow, she put two small coins in the offering box. But she put in more than those wealthy folks because she, from her poverty, gave all she had.”

Jesus admires and strengthens risk-takers, those who go all in. Working any diet or exercise program for myself? Never get there. Finding my way to doing it for Jesus? Whole other result. But these words I say to myself are not new. I know how shallow they set themselves into my life when it comes to giving, and when it comes to eating and exercising. Jesus, open up my eyes and close my mouth. Let my body express your joy in me. Let me breathe in the nourishment of heavenly movement, always toward you.

None was found equal to Daniel and his friends, and so they entered the king’s service.

 (Daniel 1, Daniel 3, Matthew 24, Luke 21)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 21 21

Working slowly back to the land of the living

by davesandel

Sunday, November 21, 2021                          (today’s lectionary)

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Working slowly back to the land of the living

As my visions of the night continued, I saw one like a Son of man coming on clouds of heaven.

Sleep. In the night dreams I lose track of Margaret and Andi in some coarse city, and I’m alone and so are they, and I don’t know what to do. When I wake all is quiet, and I join in, although not for long. I am listening to The Diary of a Country Priest. The narrator’s nearly hypnotic voice reminds me to breathe, and rest, and that there is never any hurry.

Still. I find myself sorting through my endless unnecessaries with more urgency than I usually feel. Mom died so quickly, shouldn’t I be getting ready myself? All this clutter around my bed, and in my closet, and in every corner of every house I inhabit … sometimes I get too anxious when I think how I want to get things straight. There’s a name for that, I’m sure, and a treatment, and a code from the DSM V to give the insurance company.

This mousetrail, this confusion of possessions follows impossibly right alongside relationships with so many people that I love, have loved, and will love. As Wendell Berry’s character Nathan Coulter told his wife, “I want to go right on living until I die.”  And the mousetrail also follows right along today’s “solemnity,” honoring Jesus Christ King of the Universe. “What have you done?” Pilate asked Jesus.

The one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations and languages serve him.

What have I done? Healed the sick, cured the lame, preached and prayed and now there is an alternative to the numbness of being a peasant in the Roman Empire. What have I done, Jesus says. Turned my Father’s world upside down and invited you, Pilate (and you, David), into our new Kingdom of heaven, where all of us are free to be God’s children, just the way he made us. What have I done? Loved my Father, and your Father too, and showed you how. This is not poetry, this is more real than the Roman legion.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.

What will I do? Look at the picture of Jesus and Pilate in the linked article. Jesus stands without resistance in the bonds of the jailer, in the silent, ugly grasp of the Hebrew haters, a shadow self, waiting. There is no hurry. Come, he says. Look through me and see who you are, and see your Father who loves you. You cannot imagine the strength of his love, but you can feel it. You can open your arms and your heart, and let it warm your soul.

I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.

My box of goodies for Salt and Light, our favorite thrift shop, piles up a little higher. The many people I love, including some of whom I’ll get to see this week, are going about their own business on this Sunday. Some of them are worshipping you, Jesus, some of them are enjoying your sabbath, listening for your steps on the stair and your knock on the door. They are walking over from the hearth, and letting you in. Me too, Jesus. The fire is warm, and the tea is hot. Please, come in, sit and eat with me.

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness. Behold, he is coming from amidst the clouds, and every eye will see him. Yes, to the one who is and who was and who is to come. Amen.

 

(Daniel 7, Psalm 93, Revelation 1, Mark 11, John 18)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Working slowly back to the land of the living

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Nov 20 21

Heavenly coronation service for Angelina Sandel, 6-30-1922 – 11-10-2021

by davesandel

Saturday, November 20, 2021                                    (today’s lectionary)

Heavenly coronation service for Angelina Sandel, 6-30-1922 till 11-10-2021

Mom’s casket was still open Friday morning at the church. Her hands were still folded, just like they had been the night before. She hadn’t moved a muscle all night. In the days before her death her nights were never so peaceful.

Five white chairs beside the casket sat empty, and although many people were coming into church for the funeral, I was alone in the room. Mom and I were alone together. I held her hand, cold. I brushed her hair off her forehead, cold. She had just the right lipstick on, the color she put on whenever we drove to town for dinner. “Does it look straight?” she would say.

She wore a winter suit, red with a belt, long sleeves, very attractive. She had on the same clothes that morning she had on the night before. I was getting a little carried away, imagining her there with me.

The needy shall not always be forgotten. I will rejoice in your salvation, O Lord.

I told Mom it was good to see her, that we were about to have her funeral, and they would be wheeling her into the sanctuary any minute now. But not yet, no one had come, and we were still alone. I prayed with her, what I pray in the morning, out loud so God will be sure to hear me, the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed by thy name …

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

They came then, but not to take her away. Pastor Clarence read from Revelation and prayed with a whole group of us, while the quiet masked men from the funeral home closed the casket. No one saw them do it, but it had been open, and now it was not. The music played, our Facebook Live camera rolled, the pallbearers walked beside the casket. Please rise. Please be seated.

Ed Dowling, friends for so long of all our family, sang “On Eagles’ Wings” from the congregation, and his voice soared above all the rest of us. He sang that song at his own dad’s funeral, too. Pastor Rogers showed us the hymnal where Mom marked her favorite songs, forty of them, bookmarks sticking out everywhere. Mary Kay, sitting near, touched the casket and wept. After the sermon we prayed, Our Father, who art in heaven.

That’s when I cried. Just a bit. Here we were praying that very same prayer with Mom again, all of us this time, and pretty loud. I think we were serious about that prayer.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Forever and ever Amen. Angels singing round the throne.

My enemies are turned back, overthrown and destroyed before you. I will rejoice in your salvation, O Lord.

The service was over. I scurried, stuff to do, my mind wasn’t ready to rest, got in the car, drove to the Mt. Pulaski cemetery, sat in the chairs in the tent beside the gravestone Mom and Dad put up years ago. Dad’s death year, 2002, was etched more darkly in the stone. Mom’s 2021 will be there soon.

In the morning just as the sun rose I opened the door at Mom’s house where we slept, and birds were singing, the leaves were gently falling, the air was clear. Can birds sing quietly? If they can, they did. They did not accompany us to the cemetery, though, as I had thought they might.

“And now we commit the body of our sister Angelina Sandel to the ground. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in the sure and certain hope …” I shook a little, standing sheltered from the cold wind, beside Margaret and Mary Kay’s husband Jim. The words took me by surprise. Their finality hurt. The sun fell back behind the clouds.

Pastor Rogers gave us all little sheets of paper, and we prayed the words Mom prayed herself every night, Luther’s prayer: I thank you heavenly Father that you have graciously kept me this day, and I pray that you would forgive me all my sins and graciously keep me this night. For into thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let thy holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. And be with my children, help them to do the right things. And be with my helpers. Amen.

Back at the church we ate the good funeral meal. Mom helped fix that food for others for years and years. We talked for hours. Mom’s grandkids came from California, Iowa, Colorado, Sweden, Texas … my cousins came from New Jersey and Springfield, my aunt from Peoria, so many friends.

They can no longer die, for they are angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.

Late that night, no more scurrying, back in Urbana exhausted, I fell into bed. I prayed then, those prayers that Mom prayed, that we prayed together, and closed my eyes.

 (1 Macabees 6, Psalm 9, 2 Tim 1, Luke 20)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 19 21

Mom’s funeral will be a joyous one, I think

by davesandel

Friday, November 19, 2021                            (today’s lectionary)

Mom’s funeral will be a joyous one, I think

On that day the altar was reconsecrated with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals. All the people adored and praised Heaven.

At Mom’s visitation last night we found ourselves happy. Happy to remember her life, happy to see each other, our friends and family, happy just to be alive and know that Mom is watching. I see her cute crafty smile, her sweet benevolent smile, her joyful quiet smile. I see those smiles peeking around every corner, at the funeral home, in her now empty (at least of her physicality) house, driving here and there.

I know the funeral will be more of the same, and so I am glad to share Clarence’s poem with you. Life is good, life goes on, nothing can hurt or harm us in the arms of God.

Good morning God,

remind me again of my goodness,

that I am enough,

that I am part of your beauty,

that I belong,

that I help make the universe complete.

 

Good morning God,

master lover,

mischief maker,

tease me out of my comfort zone,

to become vulnerable enough to

encounter your love in a new way,

to let go of my delusions of self-importance and control,

to grow in freedom,

to trust you again.

 

Good morning God,

to another glorious day,

where in your love

we shine again. – Clarence Heller

 (1 Maccabees 4, 1 Chronicles 29, John 10, Luke 19)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 18 21

Children who are truly loved know they are valuable

by davesandel

Thursday, November 18, 2021                                   (today’s lectionary)

 Children who are truly loved know they are valuable

The officers of the king in charge of enforcing the apostasy came to the city to organize the sacrifices. Many joined them, but Mattathias and his sons gathered in a group apart.

The Lutheran School of Theology held a conference, during the same week as the Democratic National Convention of 1968 in Chicago. Larry Kleiman my friend from Valpo, and I, decided with permission from our parents to attend the conference. It was Lutheran, it was safe.

Lutheran, yes, safe … no. After a Monday full of introductory talks, the conference director said, “There is too much happening on the streets of Chicago for us to be hidden away in here!” We all agreed, and so on Tuesday night, Larry and I spent the night in a small park near the Chicago Loop, surrounded by … demonstrators!

We were on the same wavelength with them. I had campaigned in the fall and spring for Senator Eugene McCarthy, running in the primary against LBJ (the chant went: Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?), who in his Texas-sized fears scaled up the Vietnam War and in the process ruined, for the time being, his stellar civil rights reputation.

President Johnson engineered passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, increased immigration quotas, reduced taxes, began the War on Poverty, Head Start, the Job Corps, the Food Stamp Act, Medicare and Medicaid, the National Endowment for the Arts, and PBS. He signed one of the largest federal gun control laws in history, as well as the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act.

If this day you only knew what makes for peace. Yet now it is hidden from your eyes.

But he was afraid of Communists, and that trumped everything else. So we were in the protest lines, Larry and I, and spent the week at Grant Park, tumbling over each other trying to avoid tear gas and billy clubs, and getting more and more self righteous.

I came home to Lincoln before heading back to Valparaiso, and wrote one, then two, letters to the editor of our daily paper, the Courier. Since I’d been a reporter for the Courier between high school and college, my friend the editor Ken Goodrich printed them. They were, however, somewhat unprintable and certainly unacceptable to the good folks of Lincoln. Lots of angry letters back.

Mom and Dad didn’t go back to Valpo. They went back to church, to Krogers, to buy Christmas clothes for all of us at Landauer’s. They went back to town, to their friends, to their community.

Mom didn’t flinch. She wrote her own letter. She fielded phone calls. She defended her son (that would be me). I felt more loved than I can even now imagine.

Call upon me in time of distress. I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.

Eight years later, toward the end of my “independent” years, I joined the Moonies. Their mostly false reputation for child-stealing frightened Mom. But I was 26, master of my own universe. We had heady conversations on the phone about theology and my uncertain future. Would I follow Rev. Moon to the end of the earth?

Turned out, no. After two years I called Mom from Barrytown, New York, from the Unification Church seminary pay phone.

Are you coming to my cousin’s wedding in Rhode Island?

No, we can’t, she said. Too much to do, you know, with harvest and all.

Oh, OK. I was thinking of coming home with you.

Ah. She heard me, she hesitated for less than two seconds.

Well, then. We’ll be there.

I never felt more loved.

A few days earlier I’d taken the down escalator in Grand Central Station in Manhattan to the trains, and a huge Kodak picture on the wall caught my eye. Family photo, everybody happy, everybody loved. That was me that day.

God the Lord has spoken. Perfect in beauty, God shines forth, from the rising of the sun to its setting.

I hitchhiked to Rhode Island, watched the sun rise after a gentle rain shower just before dawn, attended the wedding, went home with Mom and Dad, and a week later met Margaret.

Good times.

 (1 Maccabees 2, Psalm 50, Psalm 98, Luke 19)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 17 21

On the occasion of my 72nd birthday, thank you mama

by davesandel

Wednesday, November 17, 2021                               (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious

On the occasion of my 72nd birthday, thank you mama

I do not know how you came into existence in my womb; it was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which you are composed. It is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning. He brings about the origin of everything and in his mercy, gives you both breath and life.

Mom thought these things of all her kids, David, Mary and John. She and Dad named us after bible heroes, and taught us from the bottom up that Jesus is Lord and the King is coming and He makes beautiful things, out of dust. Out of us.

Days go by, months, and I forget these lessons for awhile, then they return to mind. Sometimes I need a little kick to get started remembering. What did Ishmael say at the beginning of Moby Dick?

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

My source of solace is not the sea, it’s often just this writing, just these words appearing on the screen as if by magic, simple twisting of my fingers on the keys and there they are! When I was in eighth grade I asked Dad to borrow his typing textbook and learned, for forever always after, to type. Mom was always a little jealous, she could only type carefully and slow. But now she is no longer in need of earthly solace, it’s me that longs for heaven. She’s already there.

She also didn’t get swim lessons when she was a kid, but she made sure we did. I shivered in my skinnies on the Lincoln Lakes dock several years in a row, but at last I became a licensed, registered, official Junior LifeSaver. And now, like the typing, when I get in the water I feel like a dolphin, all things work together for the good, and I feel at rest in this world. Can we swim sometime this week, on Thursday at the visitation, on Friday at the funeral? I suppose not.

Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months, nursed you for three years, brought you up, educated and supported you to your present age. I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God made them out of nothing, and in that same way, he made you.

Mom had three children who spent time with her as she grew older, and older, and older. John was her on-the-ground, every-day friend. Mary Kay was her medical friend. I was her entertainer friend, although we all played that role at times. We talked about books and watched movies on TCM, we went out to eat and to see the autumn leaves turning every which color in October and November. We stopped at Funks Grove to see those leaves, we tried their maple syrup and bought some. We found a candy factory hidden in the countryside ten miles away and the owner gave us a tour, not to mention a few samples of their famous chocolate.

Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. When I awake, I shall be content in your presence.

This is my birthday. Mom loved to celebrate birthdays. She loved to recollect the day and moment when we were born. She had a lot of them herself, but the best ones for her were ours. She believed in all of us, and never let us forget it. This has always been our most precious gift.

To everyone who has, more will be given. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

I remember Scott Peck’s unforgettable words in The Road Less Traveled:

Children who are truly loved (spent time with) unconsciously know themselves to be valued. This knowledge is worth more than gold, because those children can then feel valuable, in the deepest parts of themselves.

This is the gift God gives all of us. Mom for her kids was God with skin on. We are grateful to you, Mom.

 (2 Maccabees 7, Psalm 17, John 15, Luke 19)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 16 21

All day singing around the throne

by davesandel

Tuesday, November 16, 2021                        (today’s lectionary)

All day singing around the throne

When I lie down in sleep, I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.

It happened again this morning. I woke again. The gratitude I feel depends, of course, on how much I take this for granted. It’s happened time after time for 72 years (tomorrow).

The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him. This is how he died, a model of courage and virtue for the whole nation.

That was Eleazar talking “under the blows.” He was no longer taking anything for granted. When Margaret was sick unto death this summer, she felt that way and said so. When Mom died a week ago tomorrow, her spirit soared like Eleazar’s. Joy in the soul, joy in the morning. Mom died around 9 a.m. Now, in another new morning, the sun shines, the air is crisp and collected, and I wake again, for the Lord sustains me. What happens next, Lord?

You O Lord are my shield, my glory, and you lift up my head. When I call out you answer me from your holy mountain.

We are traveling today, back to Illinois, back to our home in Urbana, back to Lincoln on Thursday. Our friends and family, we set ourselves the task of laying Mom to rest, but what? She’s already there. It’s us who need to rest. When I call out, you answer me. When I awake, you sustain me. Believe this deep down in your soul – David, Mary Kay, John, all of you. We love you, Mom. Show us your face, Lord. We believe in you. Let our words have wings, and give us wings ourselves, so we can fly and fly away, off the wires of our grief, doubt and sometime despair, into the deep blue November sky. We look up, and the earth is new every morning. Including this one. In your mercy, Lord.

Today salvation has come to this house. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.

Jesus doesn’t miss a beat. He saw Zacchaeus up there in that tree, that descendant of Abraham watching him walk below him. “Zacchaeus, you come down! For I’m going to your house today.” The disciples grumbled. Just a little change of plans, guys. We’ll be fine. Yesterday a funeral, today a feast. All the folks around the throne, singing.

There’s no hurry, as the Lord impels us to open our mouths and lift our voices. We have more than enough. Our hope is built on nothing less. We’ll join up and sing with Eleazar and Zacchaeus, and all those grumpy disciples and their wives, such a chorus that builds upon itself as Jesus wields the orchestral baton, and the birds of heaven, flying by, stop and join us. Oh, the sounds of heaven.

(2 Maccabees 6, Psalm 3, 1 John 4, Luke 19)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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