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Tuesday Tidings January 22, 2024

Dearest Members of Bethlehem,


“You do not know about tomorrow.  What is your life like?”

-James 4:14


The phone rang, I answered. 


Kari, hesitantly, “Dan…” then me, “Yeah.” 


Kari, less of a pause, “Honey…”. Me, impatiently, “What is it?” 


The reply, “Your dad called.”  Me, nothing, just waiting. 


Kari again, “Nunny had a stroke.”  Just four words, but just enough to change everything.


Many of you have heard me reference my “Nunny” in sermons and Bible studies.  She is 97 years old.  She lives on her own.  Nunny uses a walker, but, as she says, “just in case.”  She cruises the grocery store, cooks her meals, cleans her charming apartment, and just this last December 31st, Nunny stayed out well past midnight - much to my parent’s chagrin - partying with her friends.  When questioned about it, she simply said, “I wanted to watch the ball drop.”


That’s important information to have, because Nunny is full of fire, always has been.  And, you see, that’s the challenge.  When someone you love has been around that long and never had a significant health concern, you are lulled into a kind of relational complacency.  You run the risk of knowing better, but acting as if, this is the way that it always will be.  And all the while the fourth chapter of James informs us, “You do not know about tomorrow.”


What do I know?  Nunny was a Lutheran Christian, and that was important.  Lutheranism was foundational, an elemental part of her childhood that offered a spiritual trajectory she is ultimately unwilling to deviate from.  On the way to school, I breezed through the kitchen of Saint Paul’s Lutheran in Vandergrift, to filch a couple sugar cookies and a carton of milk.  Nunny was there, baking, cooking, packing the meals that would be delivered that day.


But it wasn’t just the weekdays.  In Nunny’s mind, there simply was no good reason to miss church.  And even in my most wayward years, she found creative ways to get me into the pews.  For instance, she would call me and simply say, “Danny, you drive me to church and then I’ll take you to lunch.”  I’ll just be honest, while I have faced a great deal in my life, I did not have the courage to suggest she drive herself.  Truth is, I loved LBW setting 3 anyway, and intoning the psalms in that resonant sanctuary, and the eucharist, and her.


She is a supporter, an encourager, so utterly full of grit that the strength flows from her and washes over those around her.  By some spiritual process of osmosis, you gain character and gumption simply from being in her presence. 


She made sure I had the extras necessary to be successful in college.  She underwrote the extended travel in South America that ultimately changed the direction of my life.  She trudged to Montana to visit me while I served on a reservation there.  To this day, Nunny listens to every single sermon I preach; though I really wish she wouldn’t, as she can be an absolutely brutal critic.     


Nunny is stable now, her speech is slowly returning, and the therapists continue to marvel at her toughness.  I ask for your prayers, and your forgiveness, as this may be much more than you wanted to hear about a single member of my family. 


The day after her stroke, I visited Nunny in the hospital.  There were tests, a visit from the doctor; the medical updates and next steps were carefully considered.  Then the meal came, that took some time.  Eventually, it was time to go. 


Kari said a prayer.  Just before I left Nunny grabbed both of my hands firmly, to get my attention.  Once she was sure she had my attention, she let go of my hands and quickly reached for her clipboard and pen.  She scrawled, “brng commn.”  Priorities.  I understood.   


James is right of course, I do not know what tomorrow will bring.  But, if I make it to tomorrow, by the grace of God, I know I will “brng commn.”             


Question for reflection: What are the words, heard or read, that have changed your life along the way?

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Dan


Gracious Lord, you impact our lives in so many ways; you lead, inspire, and console.  Our hearts and minds are enriched by your wisdom.  Our days are shaped by the work you call us to… so much of our lives are touched by your goodness, so give us plenty of opportunity to thank and praise you.  All this we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

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