Wednesday, June 27, 2012

God's grandeur

With praise for English priest/poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It flames out...." or bursts forth in sweet dark fruit: June blackberries.

Before church today, Penny and I visited a nearby blackberry patch, its whereabouts our secret, and picked a big bowl of fruit. Let me clarify. She picked the berries; I mostly ate them.

Ahh, God is good. Imagine Hopkins's poem, "The Grandeur of God," if only the poet had enjoyed a handful of ripe blueberries.

Or perhaps he did early one Sunday morning and, moved by their sweetness and simple beauty, penned his delicious poem.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Grady Sanford's life: revved up and roaring ahead, even now

Yesterday, I said goodbye to my friend Grady Sanford.

Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, his former church, was crowded with family, friends, colleagues--people from many different communities whose lives had intersected with and been enriched by his life.

In the Prayer Book Burial Office, we celebrated Grady's life in this world and his life in the world to come.

As a Christian, I believe he lives eternally in the Communion of Saints, for as the apostle Paul writes in Romans, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, not even death.

So, my goodbye to Grady is only goodbye for now.

Grady died too young. He was just 61 years of age when pancreatic cancer took him.

But he lived his too-few years--abundantly lived them--by his motto: "Seek the joy of being alive."

He retired some ten years ago, and he and his wife Carol moved from Springfield to California, where she entered seminary and began preparing for the priesthood.

Grady shared in and supported Carol's journey through seminary, to ordination, and finally to Kansas City, MO, where the two of them made a good life together.

He served in several ministries at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, volunteered at an animal shelter, drove a bus (an early ambition fulfilled), worked at the boys' camp of his youth in Minnesota, and did much more.

And Grady rode his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Perhaps he had read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, for he certainly lived the spirit of Robert Pirsig's  classic on motorcyles, philosophy, and life.

Although I read the book in 1976, I still remember Pirsig's writing that he prefers riding his motorcycle to riding in an automobile. On his motorcycle, he feels the wind and rain on his face, but not when he's sealed off from the elements--and from life--by car windows.

How many of us put something between us and living? Not Grady.

When he lived and studied at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, he used to ride his motorcycle around the Berkley Hills. He rode the way he lived his life--revved up and roaring ahead.

When my wife Penny and I first learned of Grady's illness, we prayed fervently for a miracle. His many friends surely did likewise.

Did God ignore our prayers? No. Despite Grady's decline and death, I still believe God answered our prayers, working a small--or great--miracle in his life.

Grady left hospital and went home, where he got to spend time with Carol, other family members, and friends;  he got to reminisce and to laugh; he got to sit outside and feel the sun on his face; he got to say goodbye.

Would that Grady's time with us had been several decades longer, but thanks be to God, we had the time we did with him.

I'll always remember Grady for the gentle, humble, compassionate, and funny person he was.

I'll remember him for his faith in Christ and witness to him.

I'll remember him for the way he lived--daily seeking the joy of being alive, experiencing it, and sharing that joy with others.

May we all live in that same spirit--revved up and roaring ahead--all our days here.

Goodbye for now, dear Grady.