Feast Blog 2009
As we look forward to the Feast of Tabernacles let’s remember the lessons of previous festival seasons, and prepare for our best Feast yet.
Today’s sermon about “Does God hear your Heartbeat,” spoke to my heart and brought to mind the struggle I have with feeling loved by God. In the months before my father died, I would go with my youngest son, JJ, who was 6 years old, and give Grandpa a big hug and a kiss before bed. This had been my nightly ritual from my earliest childhood. But, in his last months, my usually undemonstrative Dad , perhaps as a way of saying goodbye if that night were to be his last, said every evening, “Always remember I love you. ” It was something that has stuck with me and made me realize in times of stress and difficulty that if my human father could speak to my need and know how much I needed to hear those comforting words, then my heavenly Father knows that and much more. The Feast in Kelowna in 1998 was one of those times of great stress for our family.
Though the Feast has not always been a happy time, the lessons learned are always valuable. One of my husband, Jeff’s, favourite little sayings about this time of year comes from a comic in the Jerusalem Post a few years ago. We Anglos wish each other a “Happy year” but the Jews wish each other a “Good year” and the punch line is, “What is good for us does not always make us happy! I have to acknowledge the wisdom of this in my life.
My most “memorable” Feast was a non-feast in many ways. It had begun poorly a week earlier when our church disfellowshipped us and said we would not be welcome at our planned feast site. We were never really told why, but we could surmise that they did not appreciate my husband for writing about the need to establish an impartial way of effecting justice in the churches of God. So now our feast plans were up in the air, and we were dealing with major emotional turmoil. The pastor, who had oversight of the feast site, was a good friend of ours and he said, “Y’all come anyway.” But we were just looking for peace and we knew that our presence would be a real red flag in front of the bull. No, we needed another option. Mom had talked to some of her friends and they had encouraged us to come join them at another feast site in the vicinity, so once that was settled we could carry on with our travel plans as anticipated.
The trip to the feast was delightful with a short stay in Manning Park to drink in the wonders of God’s creation. We walked and talked and spun our dreams together, Mom, Jeff, the boys, and I. We arrived at our cottage on the lake with just enough time to say goodbyes to my brother and have a quick bowl of black bean soup before heading off to services.
The harvest moon was full, an enormous golden globe lighting our way south along the dark country road. I became aware of the approaching sound of sirens and prayed that whoever was in trouble would receive the needed help speedily. That evening baby JJ was agitated after the long day of driving, so I spent the service out in the lobby walking and rocking JJ and listening to the message over the speaker system. The phrase the minister kept coming back to after each tale of difficulty overcome was the admonition that, ‘this too shall pass.’ He was encouraging us to have faith under dire circumstances and to trust that there is always a way out, and God’s guiding hand through the trial’
Our trial began an hour after services as we kissed each other goodnight and tucked our sons into bed. JJ and I were just drifting off to sleep to the buzz of the shower as Jeff got ready for bed, when there was a loud thud. Disoriented I sat up straining to hear. As I got up to go downstairs and check things out to make sure the kids were safely in their bunks, Jeff came out of the bathroom and asked if I was alright.
We headed downstairs and found Mom at the bottom of the stairs unconscious. After a moment of trying to revive her I realized her heart was beating but she was not breathing, in fact she was beginning to turn blue. Jeff’s training kicked in and he gave her mouth-to-mouth for I don’t know how long, but until the paramedics arrived and could assess the situation and “bag” her. That night in the hospital we learned that she had broken both wrists and her spine at C1/2 and was not able to breathe on her own. She was in a coma and her life hung in the balance, totally depended on the respirator for every breath.
At this crossroads in life, God showed us a great outpouring of love from family, brethren we knew, and brethren who knew only of our heartache, yet who had great empathy for us. But there were also those who accused us of being the cause of the tragedy, saying it was God’s just punishment because we had questioned church authority. God was opening our eyes in a way perhaps nothing else could have, about those who serve him in love and truth and those who do not.
Mom was airlifted to Vancouver to receive better care in the hospital there, so after a tense emotional drive over the Coquihalla we spent the rest of the feast at the hospital with Dad and my brothers who had come together to support one another. I was desperately hoping and praying for a miracle, hoping “this too shall pass” and as quickly as possible. But it was Dad who having experienced more of life and death was able to grasp the situation fully, make the plans and show the patient endurance to care for Mom’s needs over the last 7 months of her life.
It was a month until Mom opened her eyes, and having no recollection of the day of her accident we told her what had happened. I know she must have grieved greatly, but she did it silently and rarely let her fears be known. As she told my brother. “Faith is for the hard times.” And Dad or one of us was there for her almost every minute of her waking day, returning to her the love and care she had showered on us all for over 40 years. So we had seven months to share and laugh and cry together before the last goodbye.
One of the hardest lessons of the feast is that “this too shall pass,” but that in the midst of severe trial God’s love for us does not wane. Our lives are merely tents, shelter for a short time, and then it is time to move to our permanent home. God in his love promises that he has prepared a place for us, and I know this was Mom’s hope. Since then Dad, Granny, and my youngest brother have all packed up their tents and their spirits have returned to the Father, awaiting the resurrection. When I read the scripture that assures me that those who mourn shall rejoice, I trust that this will be so, for God’s purpose is to eventually destroy our last enemy – death, and wipe away every tear.
Sometimes in the midst of grief it is very hard to feel God’s love. Yet in our need if we cry out to Him, He will hold us close and walk us through those dark valleys. Wishing you all a good feast, a very good year, and all the blessings that a loving Father can give.
Thinking of you, Carolanne, Jeff, and crew
God’s truth stands firm like a great rock, and nothing can shake it. Paul