“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:4-7

I had a senior moment memory flashback recently of going to a funeral for a woman whom I had taken Holy Communion to for months as she was a ‘shut-in’.  During her celebration service Pastor Luke Schnake compared her condition to that as being like a prisoner.  Shirley was confined to living in a wheelchair or in a bed; and yet this woman was so cheerful; why?  ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again; REJOICE!’  When I would walk out of the nursing home after spending time with her I often felt guilty for not sharing in that joy, abundant joy that she had in the presence of her Savior.  She was a lesson in joy for me, much like the children in the attached photo.  These children attend a Lutheran school in Ouanaminthe and they too rejoice in their Savior.  Their school has a dirt floor, it is dark, it is hot, their desk is nothing more than a few boards; they are fed a lunch each school day and they are happy knowing their Savior loves them.  We sang “Abide with me” at Shirley’s funeral which was written by Henry F. Lyte in1847 and it seems that this hymn is sung at every single Lutheran funeral that I have attended in the past 50 years, but it always seems to put life into a proper perspective; and I hope that it will be sung at mine too.

“Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.  When other helpers fail and comforts flee, help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.  Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away.  Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me.  I need Thy presence every passing hour; what but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?  Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?  Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.  I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless; Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.  Where is death’s sting?  Where, grave, thy victory?  I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.  Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes; shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.  Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”

Dear Heavenly Father, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Amen. 

May God be with you…Jay