Upon This Rock

1 Peter 3:15

Beloved, there is a hope
That I think might live
Beyond today, because
I can see it living
In you. So,

Beloved,
I want to ask if you
Can give an account,
Because I can still feel the warmth
Of the courtyard fire
And I remember,

Beloved, that hope is not
My only legacy.
So please tell me
Again about your faith,
Because I had seen him,
Known him, loved him,
Lived as one knowing
What it is to be

Beloved. Yet when
The Lord took on abuse
While doing what was good,
I feared that if
I identified with his flesh
And blood I might
Take on the same.

Beloved, you know
The truth, that it is his
Wounded flesh that we take on
As those covered
By his blood, and I know
That this is good,
But I can still feel denial’s sting,
So please,

Beloved, tell me again
About this hope
That is living in you.

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“This World Will Be Troy”

“I have been thinking about existence lately. In fact, I have been so full of admiration for existence that I have hardly been able to enjoy it properly . . . . I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again. I know this is all mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is a human beauty in it. And I can’t believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don’t imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try.”

― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (p. 56-7)

Baking Cinnamon Rolls Like Grandma

Sometimes, change comes even with those things that feel eternal. And change has come in my world; on September 7th my Grandma passed away, after a most incredible life of ninety-three years. Our family sunsets on the beach will never be the same. I once wrote that I “wanted to marvel at the fact that we have gotten to watch sunsets together at all.” And how marvelous it is has been.

I won’t get to watch any more sunsets with my Grandma, but there are certainly more sunsets in store for me. And whatever context that sun is setting in, I hope to live in the same way that my Grandma did.

My Grandma used to bake cinnamon rolls every Saturday morning. For years and years and years, long before I was around. Not pre-made, store-bought cinnamon rolls, but hand-kneaded and homemade. Every Saturday morning, just as she finished frosting them, friends and family would happen to be in the neighborhood. These cinnamon rolls have become something of a legend in my family. Everyone has been talking about them in the days since my Grandma’s passing. While the cinnamon rolls themselves are worth talking about, it’s really something else that has kept them the center of our conversation: my Grandma’s love. Mother Theresa said that we shouldn’t “look for big things, just do small things with great love.” My Grandma might not have done very many big things, but she lived just like she baked cinnamon rolls: always with the greatest of love.

When I was little I had a sweatshirt that said, “There’s no place like home. Except Grandma’s.” And this was really true. As the little brother and the youngest of the grandkids, I always seemed to end up at Grandma’s house while everyone else was out on some kind of adventure. I never complained about this, though, because Grandma’s was the greatest place to be. It was home in every sense. No place could be more comfortable, more welcoming, or have such an endless supply of cookies. Grandma endlessly offered all that she had—her time, her cookies, her love—to make others feel at home.

The day of my Grandma’s memorial service I was able to see her signature on the church’s 1958 charter. My Grandma was a part of the church from its beginnings (my grandparents helped to literally build the church) until she died. In short, she stuck around for a long time. While the church moved through numerous pastors, members came and left, and the building was remolded, expanded, and remodeled again and again, my Grandma stayed put. When she told her family fifty-six years ago they were going to join the new Lutheran church in town, Grandma was in it for the long haul. She didn’t leave when the seasons changed, but remained faithful to her community by sticking around.

I miss my Grandma terribly. I want to see her, to hug her, and to tell her all about school and other things, but I can’t. She’s gone. But until the time comes when I do get see her again, I’ll be busy: faithfully sticking around in my community, making a home for others, and baking cinnamon rolls for all.

Grandma, I miss you a lot, but I love you even more.

This Place

This place.  This is my favorite place.  It may be hard at first to see why, so I will try to help you see.

You see that beach?  It may be rough and rocky, ridden with barnacles; nothing fit for a postcard.  But this shore is a treasure hunt.  Where my brother and I would hunt for agates, crabs, and clams.  This shore is a racetrack, a five-star restaurant with a view, a sanctuary.  This is the home of corn-on-the-cob, grilled salmon, and my mom’s legendary bean dip.  This shore has played host to endless campfires, the wind ringing with the melodies of Denver, Lennon, Peter, Paul, and Mary.  So while to you this may seem to be just another cloudy shore, not worthy of a second glance, this beach, it is everything to me.

You see that cabin?  Yes, it is small, old, crowded, and cluttered.  It carries a musty smell that would never make the Yankee candle lineup, and the furniture matches as well as a Goodwill sale.  But to me, this cabin isn’t small; it’s filled and overflowing with memories of all who have passed through its torn screen door.  Crowded with a history of never-ending breakfasts and of game nights creeping into the early hours of the morning.  Cluttered with the love of a family who has faithfully gathered year after year to eat, drink, and rest in each other’s presence.  This is the cabin where my brother fell out of the top bunk, where we have rested after long work parties in the woods, where Mozart plays every morning, and evenings are always by moonlight or candlelight.  So yes, this place may smell a bit strange and seem unremarkable, but this cabin, this is everything to me.

You see those trees, that boathouse, that driveway?  To you there are merely things and places.  But to me, these are the things and places that have been steady and constant, breathing life into me year after year.  As the rest of the world has shifted and become unfamiliar, these trees, this boathouse, this driveway, this place; these have been everything to me.

You see that family?  They don’t seem like much.  A hodgepodge bunch of Norwegians who return year after year to eat the same food, to watch the same sunset, to breathe the same air.  But this family, these people are the ones who have always shown up.  To every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, every birthday, every graduation, to any holiday we can invent.  These are the people who have known me, challenged me, laughed with me, and loved me longer than anyone else I know.  So while these people may not look like much to you, this family is everything to me.

So while this place, this cluttered cabin on a cloudy shore, frequented by a strange bunch of Norway-lovers, while it may not mean anything to you, this place means everything to me.