In early November, Mtr. Laura Hughes, my wife Maureen, and I spent several days at The Diocese of West Missouri’s Annual Convention. The convention, for the most part, was very enjoyable with the exception of the last three hours which I have told people was absolutely mind-numbingly excruciating.
However, it was to all of us, I believe, a worthwhile expense of our time to attend, and finally, after 11 years I am getting a handle on understanding the process of how the Episcopal Church operates on a diocesan level. Having said this, I am not writing about the convention, but the emotional experience I had while attending. Three times I experienced tears rolling down my cheeks and a great twisting of my heart and soul.
I haven’t fully worked out the impact of these emotions or even the why, but they did happen, and I feel they occurred because of the profound presence of the Holy Spirit.
I was deeply moved by reading the November 3rd edition of the USA Today Newspaper. There was an article, by George Schroeder, about a six-year-old boy, Will Kohl, who had undergone a heart transplant. Will was diagnosed, before he was born, with a significant heart abnormality: ‘hypoplastic left heart syndrome’ in which the left ventricle is severely underdeveloped. He had been at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children Hospital for 295 days (as of Nov 3) and 44 days since he had his new heart. Will has undergone several treatments that were stop-gap measures designed to get him to a point in his life where he could receive a new heart. At 3 ½ years old, Will was placed on a waiting list for a new heart. Since that time, he had to be placed on a Berlin Heart (artificial heart) and suffer the disappointment of finding a heart, but discovering later that it was unsuitable. Ultimately, the hospital located for him a suitable heart.
This is just one heart-wrenching story about the dozens of children at the Stead Children’s hospital. What makes this story a little different is not Will’s or the other children very serious conditions, but what happens on Saturdays during the Iowa football season. You see, the hospital is built next to the Iowa Kinnick Football Stadium. On the 12th floor of the hospital, there is a huge window overlooking the stadium. It is where patients gather with their parents on game day. As the families look-on, the huge crowd of 68,000 suddenly turns toward the hospital (including the visiting team), and looking-up begin to wave at all the kids and their parents. This Saturday happens to be a night game, and as the kids are looking down from their 12th-floor perch, they see thousands of cameras and cell phones flashing. The kids with their parents enthusiastically return the wave. The gratitude expressed by the kid’s and their parents through their broad smiles will move you to tears and remind you that love can be found in the middle of a sporting event. Kudos to the University of Iowa!
On Saturday I watched a presentation showing how the Episcopal Church is working with the Council of Churches of the Ozarks. We were shown a video, prepared by the Council of Churches, explaining how they reach out to the community to assist those in need. One of the stories in the video was about a young woman who was holding tightly on to her “wiggling” child, as she conveyed her thanks for the assistance she received. As she looked at the camera, I heard her voice cracking with emotion as she sincerely articulated her deep appreciation. We live in a world filled with cynicism, but at this very moment, I saw pure gratitude. There was no sign of entitlement in her voice, nor was there anyone whispering that she should not have gotten pregnant if she could not afford a baby. There was heartfelt gratitude and thankfulness that someone showed her love and thought she was worthy of being helped.
Finally, during Friday evening’s Ordination and Reception Mass we sang (and I say that very loosely for me) two of my favorite Hymns: “Holy Ground” and ”I, the Lord of sea and sky.” Now in itself, that would be nothing extraordinary, but for some mystical reason my soul was stirred by the words in “I, the Lord of sea and sky.” In all three verses, the Refrain is repeated following the three questions, as follows:
1st verse, Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send;
2nd verse, I will speak my word to them. Whom shall I send?;
3rd verse, I will give my life to them. Whom shall I send?
The Refrain after each is: “Here I am Lord. Is it I, Lord?”
To any of you who know me reasonably well, you will know one of my questions to myself and others I speak with, is about recognizing when Jesus is whispering to us, specifically about what we are called to do. It has been a question I asked myself countless times during my life and to be honest, I have never, ever been satisfied with my self-answers. However, maybe the answer to my lifelong question is always to be open to God’s call and his request for me to use my gifts for him. Maybe some of that answer for you and me lies in the totality of the Refrain; “Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord? I have, if you lead me, I will hold your people in my heart.” Consider what St. Francis is attributed to have said,
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
So my question for you to consider when you hear that quiet whisper is, “Is it I, Lord who you have called?”