Tag Archive | cloud of love

Shhh. I’m Trying to Quiet My Mind.

Candle orange w Be-Still-and-Know-That-I-am-GodIt’s hard to be quiet in today’s culture of constant stimulation. Worse yet, we take pride in being really busy, and we brag about our ability to multi-task.

So how can we possibly shut out the noise and concentrate on just one thing for ten minutes, or half an hour, or even an hour? How can we “Be still, and know that I am God!” as we are directed in the Psalms. (Psalm 46:10 New Revised Standard Version)

I’ve thought about that quite a bit over the past several years. I guess what prompted that subject to jump into the swirl of thoughts fighting for attention in my mind six years ago was the fact that I was starting up a spiritual retreat center at our farmhouse – what would become Whispering Winds Retreat Haven. That prospect made we wonder what I could do to help create an atmosphere at the farm where people could be still, be relatively free from distractions, and be able to focus on spiritual things.

3 candles and angelOver the last few years I’ve personalized some of those ideas to help me be focused early every morning before I start my normal daily routines and begin to deal with everything else that will jump into my day. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I start my day by reading from the Bible and a mix of inspiring books and pamphlets. Sometimes it’s hard to take time to do that, especially if I know I have a particularly busy day ahead of me, or an early appointment that I need to get ready for. Regardless of how short a time I may have for this devotional time, even if it needs to be just 5 – 10 minutes instead of the usual 30 – 40, I start by lighting one or more candles. That gives me something for my eyes to rest on when I look up from my reading. I usually light three different candles – one representing the Father, another the Son, and the third the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I have a fourth candle that represents me. It’s much better for me to see flickering candles on the small table in front of me than to notice the stack of papers waiting for me on my desk across the room.

Once the candles are lit, I start my quiet time by reading or mentally singing what I refer to as my call to worship. For a long time I kept a card in my Bible with the following words written by Sarah Young in her book Jesus Calling. It’s written as though Jesus is saying these words directly to me:

Jesus CallingSit quietly in my presence while I bless you.
Make your mind like a still pool of water,
ready to receive whatever thoughts I drop into it.

Rest in my sufficiency,
as you consider the challenges this day presents.
Do not wear yourself out by worrying about
whether you can cope with the pressures.
Keep looking to Me and communicating with Me,
as we walk through this day together.

Take time to rest by the wayside, for I am not in a hurry.
A leisurely pace accomplishes more than hurried striving.
When you rush, you forget who you are and Whose you are.
Remember that you are royalty in My kingdom.

That inspires me to be quiet and listen to what God is talking to me about.

More recently I’ve started mentally singing my own words to the praise song, “Holy Ground.”

This is Holy Ground
I’m sitting on Holy Ground.
The Lord is present
and all around is Holy.
This is Holy Time.
I’m praying in Holy Time.
The Lord is speaking
and every moment is Holy.

Floey Candles 3I’m usually sitting in the easy chair in my office. Floey is curled up on the love seat. And the candles are glowing on the coffee table. A crystal angel is bowing next to the candles. I really feel like I am in a holy place. My mind is quiet, and I’m ready to read, think, and pray. Sometimes I jot down ideas that come to me for a future blog post. Very few distractions break into this holy space.

On a related note (pun intended), I’ve also thought about what I can do as a church organist to help worshipers set aside their distractions to be totally focused on being still and knowing God during their time in church. The purpose of the prelude is to do just that – to help people quiet their minds, to be still and focus on knowing God. That’s why I try so hard to find a prelude that relates to the Scripture for the day.

Another thing that helps me get in the right frame of mind for worship is often referred to as the introit or call to worship. In the church where I grew up, the choir always sang the introit at the beginning of the service. That doesn’t happen at the churches where I play now, and I miss it. One of my favorite introits is Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this Place. Whenever I hear that, I remember that I am in a holy place. That God is present.

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place
I can feel his mighty power and his grace.
I can hear the brush of angels’ wings, I see glory on each face;
surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
[Lanny Wolfe]

At any time of the day, when my mind is spinning, and I’m thrashing about from one urgent task to the next, I sometimes remember I’m not alone. God’s here with me, too. I need to stop for a moment and take a deep breath. Maybe that’s the Holy Spirit calming me down. I think it helps that I’ve started my day being still. That helps me remember to ponder how my life fits into God’s world.

Most mornings Floey joins me for devotions. She knows this is a time to curl up on the couch, watch the candles, and be still.

Most mornings Floey joins me for devotions. She knows this is a time to curl up on the couch, watch the candles, and be still. I think God speaks to her, too.

Angels Among Us

Abbey kissing Marian bwThe past three weeks have been quite strenuous for all of us at Country Comforts Assisted Living. One of our residents was living through his last days in this life. Abbey is always a really big comfort to our residents as well as to their friends and family during this time of life transition, but it takes its toll on her too. I talked with her about that this morning.

“Good morning, Abbey. How are you feeling today?”

“Good morning, Mom. I think I’m a little better, but I’m still not feeling very chipper. My stomach still feels funny and I don’t have lots of energy. I think I want to keep my walks pretty short today.”

“That’s too bad. We’ll keep you on rice and hamburger for another day, too. You’ve been feeling bad for almost a week now. What do you think is wrong?”

“Oh, I know what’s wrong, and it will just take me some time to recover.  I really miss Robert. [I’ve changed his name to protect his privacy.] I know he lived with us less than three weeks, but he was such a nice man. His first morning here he shared his bacon with me – a bite for him and a bite for me, back and forth until we ate it all up. He shared it equally with me. I don’t know any human that’s been that generous. And he petted me so gently. When his eyes looked at me, I could tell that he was a man filled with love.”

“Yeah. I agree, Abbey. Robert really was a nice man. He had lots of friends who came to visit him. A lot of people really liked him.”

“That’s for sure. His daughter came to see him a couple times every day, and she always greeted me at the door with some good petting. And her husband always had treats for me in his pocket. Robert had one really special friend who sat beside him for hours, just being with him.”

“You know, Abbey. We’re really lucky. We’ve said before that our house is filled with a cloud of love when someone is coming to the end of their life. The house is filled with the love of friends and relatives. It’s so peaceful.”

Abbey Profile 2“But that’s not all, Mom. I know you didn’t see them, but angels were here during Robert’s last couple days, too. Robert talked about the two men and two women he saw in the corner. I saw them, too. They were angels who had come to comfort Robert and to show him the way home to God. Many of the people who come here for end-of-life care see angels before they pass on to the next life. I know you can’t see them, but I do, and the person who’s getting ready to be born into their new life sees them, too.”

“You know, Abbey, the Bible actually talks about that. In Psalm 91:11-12 it says, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” (NRSV) God sends his angels to watch out for us. I know we often have angels in our house when a guest draws near to the end of their life. I can’t see them, but our guests often tell us about the angels they see in their room.”

“Actually, I hate to say it, Mom, but I think that’s what upsets my stomach. I’m so excited by these heavenly guests that my body doesn’t know how to react. And when the angels leave, taking our guest with them, it takes me a few days to recover from the amazement of what I’ve seen and felt. I also miss our guest.”

“I think that might explain why you always seem to get sick just as one of our residents gets ready to move on to their next life.”

“I’ll get over it. I’m so thankful for how much God has blessed us by letting all these special people and their angels live with us, even if it’s just for a short time.”

“You’re right, Abbey. We’re so fortunate to have all these people share their lives with us. God has really blessed us.”

Family Portrait - Marian, Abbey, Mim

Family Portrait – Marian, Abbey, Mim

A Special Cloud – Part 2

And now for the rest of the story…

Last week I wrote about Ruth, the latest addition to our assisted living family. Ruth moved into our condo (Country Comforts Assisted Living) less than two weeks ago. She was already receiving hospice services, and as soon as she settled into our home, she relaxed into the process of dying. Early yesterday morning she was born into her new life. Ruth’s son, her two daughters and their spouses, and some of her grandchildren gathered together at our place in the morning to share some time together, savoring being part of the cloud of love that has been hovering over our home that I blogged about last week.

Over the past ten days, members of Ruth’s family have become close friends of Mim and me. Sharing the experience of caring for a loved one as she passes on to her next life brings us together with a truly special bond. I’m thankful for all the new friends we’ve gained through Country Comforts Assisted Living. Both Mim and I really value the continuing friendships that have been formed.

“Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.” Marilyn Huebel, a friend of mine who dates back to college days, also writes a blog every Monday. This morning, she started her blog by reciting the line above from an old camp song. In her blog she reflects on the different kinds of friends we have in our lives. Marilyn uses the image of an onion with all its layers to describe the types of friends we have – different circles of friends at different layers of closeness. (Here’s a link to her blog: http://monday-muser.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-colors-of-onions.html.)  I think an onion serves as a very good analogy for friendship. But since I’m not much of an onion eater personally, I’ll stick with the image of a cloud of love that surrounds me, a big, white, fluffy cloud filled with the positive energy formed by God and all my friends.

Between Country Comforts Assisted Living and Whispering Winds Retreat Haven, Mim and I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet many people, some of whom have become very close friends, and others who have become good acquaintances. I’m thankful for all the friends, old and new, gold and silver, that have come into my life – school friends, church friends, work friends, neighborhood friends, and, of course, family members. All of these friends contribute to the “cloud of love” that surrounds each of us.

A Special Cloud

A cloud of love

 

There’s been a cloud hovering over our house for the last few days. A special cloud. A cloud filled with love.

Ruth, our newest resident moved into Country Comforts Assisted Living (our condo) on Friday. She’s 94 and is receiving hospice care. When her family moved her into her room, Ruth was too weak to walk, but she was very happy to be here with us and to have her family helping her get settled for her last stage on this earth. Over the last three days, Ruth has relaxed and is slipping into the transition to her next life. At times she is able to talk with her family members, and at times she is just resting. Her two daughters and her son, her grandchildren and great grandchildren are filling the house with their love. The positive energy created by all the love shared in this family is filling the house with peacefulness – “a cloud of love.”

On Saturday, I played the organ for a funeral in our church. It was a small gathering for family only, about 30 people. I didn’t know the person who died or his family personally, but some family members described the man as someone who had some very good traits and some very bad traits. He was a successful salesman and a volunteer athletic coach for young people in the neighborhood. He had lots of friends and was always the life of the party. But he was also an alcoholic and was abusive to his family. His children, now adults with their own children, were afraid of him. His grandchildren loved him. Despite the abuse, his wife and children loved him, too. There was a cloud of love hovering over this family, as well.

The funeral began traditionally with an opening hymn, “Be Thou My Vision,” and scripture readings. The pastor started his homily by reciting this poem:

Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd;
There’s one of us that’s humble, one that’s proud;
There’s one that’s brokenhearted for his sins
And one who, unrepentant, sits and grins;
There’s one who loves his neighbor as himself
And one who cares for naught but fame and wealth.
From such corroding care I would be free
If once I could determine which is me.
     [“My Name Is Legion” by Edward Sanford Martin]

We sang another hymn – “Just As I am,” an interesting complement to the poem.  The closing hymn was “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.” The funeral ended non-traditionally. The family was going to go on a boat ride to spend the day together, enjoying the love they experienced as a family. Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love! The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. The cloud of love continues to surround this family.

The poem the pastor recited captured my attention, so I asked him for a copy of it.

Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd …
If once I could determine which is me.

Which is me? I guess we all ask ourselves that question at times. Take my dog, Abbey, for instance. To all the elderly men and women who have lived with us for assisted living care, Abbey becomes their best friend. She is kind and loving and always willing to shower them with kisses – in exchange for some petting, or possibly a few left-overs slipped off their dinner plate. But to Ashley, the golden retriever next door, Abbey is a ferocious, territorial bully. I wonder if Abbey ever wonders about which of her manifestations is the real her.

We’re all complex people presenting many different faces to many different people. Maybe our name is “Legion” as the poem suggests.

Over the last few days I have been reminded that regardless who we are, God has blessed us all with a “cloud of love.” The energy in the cloud may originate with family, or friends, or even strangers. God’s love surrounds us. Perhaps whatever clouds we see today can be reminders of that love.