Friday, September 14, 2012

The Big Red Chair

Before she died, Mom declared that Dad's big red chair should stay with the house. It is a nice chair, and I'm sure other relatives would have liked it, but Mom was adamant. I'm not especially fond of the chair and don't usually sit in it, but okay. Other people in my family do enjoy having a nice recliner and it is probably the nicest piece of furniture we've ever owned.

Still, every time I happen to sit down in it, I think, "I really don't like this chair." It tips into recline so easily that you can't really just sit unless you perch on the very edge. It smells mildewy. It reminds me of my parents' decline. But now I find I need to officially apologize to the red chair for every ugly thing I've ever said or thought about it, and apologize to Mom for not being as grateful as I should have been for her gift of the red chair. Because over the last week, the red chair and I have come to a new understanding.

Last week I got short of breath and my chest hurt. I went to my doctor, found out my heart and lungs were okay, and came home with a diagnosis of pleurisy and some steroids to reduce the inflammation. My chest hurt too much to lie down in bed, so I slept in the red chair for the day and half of the night. The pain went away, but my energy never returned and I spent even more time in the red chair.

This week the pain returned, even worse, so that I couldn't wait for my doctor's appointment. Dave took me into the emergency clinic, where we found again that my heart was okay, but there was pleural effusion, fluid in between the lining of the lungs and the chest cavity. Ew. And ouch. After a bag of IV fluids, Dave took me home with more antibiotics and a bottle of vicodin.

Back to the red chair, where I have spent the past three days and nights. I still can't sleep in bed for any length of time, and the smallest exertion sends me back to the chair. Dave and the kids have once again stepped in to pick up the slack. Friends and family have brought meals. A small group from church brought food and circled around to read scripture and pray over me. All as I sit in the red chair. The kids observed, "You're like Grandma and Grandpa!" Oh boy. Pretty much, but I don't think we need to call hospice just yet.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Word #4

[The last of Dave's sermon at Mom's service.]

Embrace God’s GRACE and Hang ON!

Mom experienced God’s grace. Her father died when she was two. She was raised by a mother who loved her and raised her with great attributes. She was able to travel, learned to work, graduated from college and held important jobs on her own. That’s a lot of grace, Depression era!

Mom exhibited grace through her wonderful smile and could exhibit a gentle grace that was charming to others. One time over lunch, we were at Saltgrass. We were sharing a meal which was NOT my idea; it was the idea of the Depression-era baby in our group. We split a steak equally. However, she got six asparagus stalks and I got three. My favorite vegetable!

Ann showed her charming grace by asking the waiter for the recipe for the Shiner Bock bread. The waiter kind of put her off and ignored her. The manager came by and she asked him. He crawfished a bit and said that they could not give out the recipe. She asked if he could give her the ingredients. He said, “Sure.” He came back with his handwritten list of ingredients. She began to ask questions about how they mixed what and when. Within five minutes she had the exact amounts of each ingredient and how they treated it. She drew him out. Gwen used to refer to it as “Mama Mojo.”

Mom continually experienced God’s grace. She recognized how much God had forgiven her by His grace. Ann recognized how God had carried her marriage along despite some of her gaffs and goofs. She wrote this in a note,

“After 62 years of marriage, I love to reflect on God’s pursuit of His own and that no human love will satisfy the soul. He keeps us seeking Him. He would not have invited us to seek Him if it wasn't the desire of his heart. His grace has blessed me beyond measure.” She closed it with the “Jesus’ Prayer”: “Be merciful unto me, a sinner.”

Ann recognized God’s all-sufficient grace at work in her life. God says that His power is perfected in our weakness, that His grace is sufficient.

As Ann’s body began to fail in the final weeks, she experienced God’s grace through an image He gave her of her home-going. I read the following from the blog which Gwen journaled along the way…

I do think it is significant though that in Mom's last weeks here, she thought a lot about the eagle scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King. As she got closer to the end, she couldn't remember details like Tolkien's name or the name of the book/movie. I overheard her trying to tell an old friend who had stopped by with homegrown tomatoes and love. She couldn't come up with the words she wanted so Mom said, "You know, it's written by that mathematician and the story is a myth, but it goes along with the Bible." [Isaiah 40:31 with eagles soaring which I read earlier.]

She explained to me that she was thinking of after Frodo and Samwise had disposed of the ring, and had run outside on Mt. Doom, and the mountain was erupting into rivers of lava, leaving the hobbits exhausted and stranded on an island of rock. Then the eagles came and carried them to safety, just like they had rescued Gandalf before.

Of course, Mom was dreaming of the end of her own hard journey, when she too would soar like eagles. And God is faithful and kept His promises to Mom. She did finally fly away. But this passage reminds me that God is faithful to me too. He doesn't lose track of me. He doesn't come and go. He lasts. He gives fresh strength. Thank God.

Grace Wins! Ann received her freedom from this world on Saturday night, June 30.

By God’s grace, Ann entered into the presence of our Lord. The apostle Paul wrote, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

How is it possible that human beings, who are estranged from God, can be present with the Lord Jesus upon death? 

The Bible says that we are born estranged from God because of sin. We are a rebellious lot. Like Ann said, “Egos die hard.” Most of us resemble that remark. The reward for being stiff-necked is independence from God now and for all eternity. 
God desires differently for us. He loves people. Jesus died a sacrificial death on the cross so that all who believe in Him might live. He died in your place for your sin. He offers life—abundant now and eternally in His presence—to all who commit their lives to Him.

I challenge you to accept God’s offer of life today. Receive Jesus into your life. Acknowledge your inadequacy and need of a Savior. Invite Jesus into your life. You can do this in the silence of your heart. He will forgive your sins and enter your life to lead you.

I challenge you to receive God’s wisdom in your relationships. Be teachable! Own your sin. Keep your vows with humility. Embrace God’s grace and hang on! He will work. May you go in His peace.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Word #3

[More of Dave's sermon from Mom's service.]

Keep your vows with humility.

Tim Keller says, “Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love.”
What is love? 
Love is a sacrificial commitment to the good of another.

Our culture taints love with a consumer approach. We date. We put on our best face. We marry. We declare a love that will absolutely last unless one of us changes. That’s consumer love. Consumer love says, “I will love you until you gain weight, lose your job, get sick or lose your hair. At that point, I will find someone more suitable to my likes and dislikes. Or I will be bitter and make your life a living hell.”

However, wedding vows find greatest resonance in the concept of the biblical covenant. The Covenant love of a wedding vow is a mutually binding promise of future love. We need that kind of security. Both parties say, “I love you come what may.”

Covenant love is driven by the deep, inner quality of faithfulness. God’s great desire for marriages is that they are not necessarily happy or successful, but faithful. Faithful to a sacrificial commitment for the good of the other come what may. When that happens it is not us keeping the vow, but the vow keeping us.

Why is faithfulness in vows so important? Inherent to being human are these conditions:
If we are loved but not known, we find it superficial. You think I’m great because of my clothing, looks, job or money? That is shallow!
However, our greatest fear is to be known and not loved. That hurts. Reason we wear so many masks and hide behind ego and pride.
BUT: To be fully known and truly loved is the BEST. It is a lot like being loved by God. Such a love gives all of us hope—whether single or married. That is why God requires faithfulness in our relationships.

Ann realized the beauty of a covenant love. She recognized the need for humility. She readily admitted that “Egos die hard.”

Mike Mason says, “A vow is, per se, a confession of inadequacy and an automatic calling upon the only adequacy there is, which is the mercy and power of God. To keep a vow, therefore, means not to keep from breaking it, but rather to devote the rest of one’s life to discovering what the vow means, and to be willing go change and to grow accordingly” (p. 106).
It takes humility to change and grow accordingly. It takes an openness to the changes in our spouse and to God changing us.

Ann says: Keep your vows with humility. God will make you adequate with grace, mercy and strength. In these ways, it is the vow that then keeps us.

[One more to follow...]

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Word #2

[From Dave's message at Mom's service.]

Ann's second word of wisdom is: “Own your Sin. Repent.”

There is no greater way to grease the bearings of a relationship than to take responsibility for your own mistakes, foolishness, meanness and sin.

Ann spent a great deal of time ruminating, meditating and thinking about God’s truth. She measured it out to see how it fit her life. She would try it on. She would obey. She also knew how short the gap was between obedience to God’s way and asserting her way.

I would say that Mom struggled with God—in a good way. Some people fight God. And lose. Ann struggled with God. She was fond of saying, “Ego dies hard.” She also wanted to ruminate on something until she had it figured out. Here is how God taught her in regard to her marriage. Butterflies struggle or they do not live. Ann was the same way in her transformation.

One day at Pie in the Sky over lunch, we were talking about our reading in the One Year Bible. Mom read through the Bible over the course of a year these last couple of years. She said, “I don’t think it is fair that Moses could not enter the Promised Land. Why didn’t God let him?” I replied that Moses had disobeyed God and that was God’s decision. Moses would lead the people. Moses would see the Promised Land and then he would die and be buried.

I told her that Moses did what Adam did in the Garden. He participated in the hypocrisy of blame. Adam sinned. When God asked, “Why?” Adam pointed to Eve and said, “The woman that YOU gave me, caused me to sin.” Double blame. In our reading that day, Moses (Dt 3) blamed the Israelites for causing him to be angry and disobey God. He did not own his own sin.

Those principles from Scriptures stayed with Ann. She often talked about it. She was saying, “If you sin, own it. Repent. Accept God’s grace. Grow through it.” 

I believe it influenced her thought. When reading John Eldridge’s, “Waking of the Dead” in fall of 2010, she noticed a poem by one of her favorite authors, George MacDonald. This became her life poem from his “Diary of an Old Soul.” This poem is like a morning prayer in which the speaker seeks God’s grace to sustain her through the day without giving in to temptation. MacDonald wrote:

With every morn my life afresh must break
The crust of self, gathered about me fresh;
That thy wind-spirit may rush in and shake
The darkness out of me, and rend the mesh
The spider-devils spin out of the flesh —
Eager to net the soul before it wake,
That it may slumberous lie, and listen to the snake.
~ George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul

Ann felt like too many marriages exist on the absurdity of blame. She saw in her own life how she blamed her own poor attitude or behavior on Bill when, in reality, she was at fault. How could Bill make things right for her perceived injustices blamed on him? He could not. That is the absurdity of blame.

I think it is incredible how Ann continued to grow and learn and recognize God’s truth for her life from Scripture. Her second Whispered Word to us is: “Own your sin. Repent!”

[...more to follow.]

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Word #1

[From Dave's sermon at Mom's service.]

Word of Wisdom #1: Be teachable: learn from Jesus.

Teachable means “apt to learn” according to Webster’s dictionary. That was Mom.
Mom loved to read
Mom loved to study God’s Word: LBS: meaty questions, not fluff; year ago, finish BSF!
Mom loved to listen to teaching of God’s Word, several sermons a week
Mom stayed current on the issues relevant to our culture and our country
Mom was teachable. In my perception, I count it as her greatest virtue. I met her when she was 66. I’ve seen a great deal of spiritual growth in her in the years since then. In fact, by listening to her, I would say that she has experienced greater spiritual transformation into the character of Jesus Christ in the last 20 years than her first 70 years. That gives all of us inspiration and hope for our later years!

Let me share with you what Mom considered her greatest lesson. It will provide better understanding to why she favored a message on marriage.

In 2002, Mom fell and broke her leg—her femur—up near her hip. I walked into the hospital and read five verses from Isaiah chapter 40 to her. They are verses of great comfort and promise. They are also a bit humorous to someone who just broke her leg/hip (we didn’t know). They refer to Jacob. Jacob was one who wrestled with God. God touched him on the hip and gave him a limp. Here it is:

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, "God has lost track of me. He doesn't care what happens to me"? Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening? God doesn't come and go. God lasts. He's Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. 

For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind.

 Isaiah 40:28-31, The Message

We prayed that Mom would get strength back and run and walk again. After all, she was 81!

Mom was incredulous that I would read that passage. She thought God had told me to read it. She considered herself a slow learner and figured He wanted to drive it home. While I always prayed over what passage to read with Mom or any patient, I could not admit to hearing God’s voice. Just wanted to tweak her a bit. Here is what happened in her words…

Love your neighbor; your husband is your neighbor.

Ann loved her neighbors down the street and across the world. But home was a struggle. They’re family, not neighbors! She figured she could get around that one. Until God got her attention.

Loving her husband was an issue occasionally for Ann. Her authenticity in this issue was amazing. She assumed that she was every bit the wife she needed to be. She figured that she was living like Jesus wanted her to live within her marriage. She was not always happy, but she was still married. Jesus worked on her attitude. Ann recounted for me how she was connecting the dots in God’s slow, patient work on her as “Jacob.”

Almost two decades before, she had taken a class on “Forgiveness” at Calvary Bible College that caused her to think about some of her attitudes in life, but especially toward her husband. In 1992, she heard a message talking about nurturing your spouse, discipling one another to Jesus as iron sharpens iron. According to Ann, this was one more step. Then she heard a good friend of mine named Mike give a Sunday evening message on forgiveness and marriage. She was connecting the dots, but not making a great deal of change until God gave her a limp.

Ann’s attitudes toward Peycke began to change. She began to find freedom in loving her husband as God designed. She gained even greater insight to God’s work when she read in The Mystery of Marriage this statement by Mike Mason:

“For most people, in fact, marriage is the single most wholehearted step we will take toward fulfillment of Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.”

Ann’s first whispered word of wisdom today is,
“Be Teachable. Learn from Jesus.”

[...more to follow.]

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pastor and Commander

P. Dave, Pastor Daddy, P. Daddy, Bruhtha Dave, David.

It doesn't matter what you call him; he's the bomb, and he's mine. My mom loved my husband. LOVED him. Seriously. And Dave loved her too. After Dad died, Dave would take Mom out for lunch. They would eat good food and talk about life. Sometimes they would talk about Mom's desires concerning her memorial service. And Mom gave Dave a hard assignment: She wanted her service to be about marriage. Really? A funeral service about marriage? Yup. She even had Dave purchase copies of her newly-found favorite book on marriage to be given out at her service. Really? Party favors? Parting gifts? Yup. No standard discourse on Psalm 23 for my mom.

Dave wanted to honor Mom's wishes, and he wanted to honor Mom's life. I think he did both with his beautifully crafted words. I think they are an interesting combination of comforting and challenging. Here's the first part:

Anna’s Message

We have heard delightful stories of Anna’s life. Each one of you could add to these stories with your own. We have heard from those who loved Ann most deeply—her family. And she loved you. She gave focused attention to expressing her love to you over the last 18 months. She expressed her love to each child. She expressed her love to each grandchild. You were loved by Anna Adaline.

We have also heard the comforting words of Scripture, promises from God to His people of faith. Joel [my nephew] read to us of God’s love from Romans 8:37-39. David [my nephew] read to us from John 14:6. We cling to God’s promises because they generate hope. They bolster our confident expectation of what God is doing and will do. We serve a living God who keeps His word. We have hope because we can take Him at His Word.

We need hope. When you look at Ann’s family, you see mature and maturing individuals. You see people dependent on their Lord. You see people who love and respect one another. And you see human beings. Humans who will grieve in the coming days, weeks and months.

It seems as if the dark cloud of grief has been around since the medical profession pronounced its death sentence over two years ago. Urgency of six months gave way to wondering. Wondering gave way to more playing. Playing gave way to watching. Eventually, Anne’s body prepared to go home to Jesus. We are dumbfounded as to what to do next. What will life be like without Mom? Dad left two years ago. Now, Mom is gone.

God has given us the grief process to help us when attachments of the heart are dissolved. Mom won’t be here for us to share our thoughts and pictures and stories of children and grandchildren. We are new to this process. So there will be confusion, shock, guilt over things we’ve said; guilt over things we’ve left unsaid; anger at Mom, anger at God, anger at cancer, maybe even anger at each other. These things are normal. Emotions come and go as memories ebb and flow. We will have each other. More importantly, we will have our Lord. You do not walk alone as you deal with “Goodbye.” Jesus reminds us that He walks with us, never leaves us and offers us rest if we will trust Him with the burden. As Joel read, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

So we come to the message. If you have been to Celebrations I have led, you know that I typically personalize a passage to the individual’s life whom we are honoring. Today is a bit different.

I start off today by saying, “I hope that as you listen today, you will evaluate your own marriage or your own relationships.” Now that’s quite different for a Memorial Service! But I am serious! I am serious because Anna Peycke was serious! She requested a message on marriage based on Proverbs 27:17. She was so serious that she bought her favorite book on marriage (The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason) to give to you for coming today. We hope that we have enough to give one per family. When you leave today, you are invited to take one book per family, not family member, for as long as they last.

I mentioned Proverbs 27:17. Solomon wrote these words in that particular proverb…
“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Here in Texas, we are familiar with Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book,” subtitled, “Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf” (published when he was 88). He was noted as the greatest instructor regarding the mental side of the game of golf.

Today, Ann is going to be our iron to sharpen us with her Whispered Words of Wisdom. Wisdom is TRUTH APPLIED, not factual knowledge, not information, but skillful living. For the follower of Jesus, it is skilled godly living. Ann offers to us four comments today based on my conversations with her. I will call them, “Anna’s Whispered Words of Wisdom.”

[...more to follow.]

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mom's Service

After the not-quite-graveside, we went directly to the church, where more friends served us breakfast. People began to arrive for Mom's service. And I'm afraid at this point what followed is mostly a blur except for a few crystalline moments.

One of those moments is my friend Mollie. Mollie and I have been friends since junior high. She is one of those rare friends whose heart remains connected even when separated by time and distance. She now lives a few hours away and has a couple of all-consuming jobs, but Mollie came for Mom's service. She came for me. I think that is what made her presence so comforting to me that day. I looked over partway through Mom's service and saw Mollie sitting by herself, parallel to me in the next section of seats. As soon as I could, I scuttled over to grab her hand and bring her back to sit with me. (One of the great things about having a pastor for a husband is that I can entrust the service to him, knowing he will do a beautiful job. One of the suck-y things about entrusting the service to my husband is not having him sit with me during my mom's memorial. Just in case it seemed weird for me to gather people up to sit with me. It still might be weird, but there you have it.)

And I pretty much kept Mollie glued to my side for the rest of the time until she had to go home. Our church hosted an amazing potluck lunch for everyone after the service. Mollie stayed and sat with me and visited. Looking back, I probably did not greet everyone I should have. I certainly was not mindful of fulfilling the role of pastor's wife or good daughter. Maybe I was too exclusive or reclusive or something. I truly was thankful for all the friends and family who came to pay respects to my mom. But Mollie was definitely my comfort person, and I can't imagine I'd have made it as well without her.

Another clear moment in my memory is my Nate. Oh, my heart. My tender-hearted, big 15yo boy wanted to read his essay about his grandma. At her service. Out loud. He revised with his educational therapist, Ms. Catherine, and practiced. We bought a suit and shirt and ties at Goodwill. (We bought shoes too, but he opted to wear his Vans.) His only fear: breaking down and not being able to finish. So that morning, Nate sat on the podium, then stood and began to read. And cry.

I'm sorry to say Nate has inherited my inability to multitask while crying. For us, if it is time to cry, all other activity must cease. He could not pull it back together enough to form words, so his dad, my dear David, stood and put his arm around his boy and read the rest of Nate's essay about his grandma. Then Nate sat back down in his chair on the podium and pretty much cried for the rest of the service. I wanted to go and hug him and take his hand to come sit with me, but I didn't know how much he would appreciate that gesture from his mother. I asked him later, days or weeks later, how he felt about the whole experience. His only regret was that he had not been able to finish the reading. My boy. Love him.


The day before Mom's memorial service, the relatives arrived. It rained. (Also, the day before Mom's service, the cultured marble guys came to install the new shower. Which is significant only because they used a product that smelled to me like bondo and filled the whole house with a pungent chemical smell. Which handily concealed the mildew smell from the other shower leaking. )

We met up at church and were served a delicious, comforting dinner by dear friends. So lovely to have friends who are willing to be the hands and feet of Christ. It was good to be together, and having the dinner at church also allowed the musicians to practice, and for Dave to give a run-through of the service. More friends had offered lodging for my extended family, so everyone had a place to stay. (Again, the Body serving us with love.) It rained.

The morning of Mom's service, there was an optional viewing for family at the funeral home. (Optional because Mom had not wanted a viewing, but some family members did.) We had hoped to follow that with a graveside service for family, but it was still raining. Not raining like in the movies where everybody stands around with their black umbrellas, but big rain that made the world sodden and muddy and impossible to navigate. So we improvised and did the little graveside service in the funeral home chapel.

It was fine, but somehow unsatisfactory and unsettling to me. I meant to leave my Mom at her new place next to Dad; instead we had to drive away through the pouring rain and leave her there in the funeral home. I don't know why, but thinking about it still makes me teary.