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He Brought Joy to My Soul

Last week I sent the following prayer request to my church and some friends:

There are nine days before the anniversary of Mikael's death (November 10, the day before Remembrance Day) and Tom and I are having a very hard time, each in different ways.  Would you please pray for us?  For myself, I am needing more and more sleep as the date draws nearer.  I over-react to things, can't concentrate or think clearly and my memory is completely unreliable.  Too easily I snap at Tom.  Because we're grieving so differently, we're not being terribly good support for each other.  I can see why parents who lose a child often end up with broken marriages.

Please pray that this time of pain and tension will draw us closer to each other and to God.  Pray that we continue to have hope that we will get past this time.  Please pray in whatever way God seems to lead you.  We'd be most grateful.

God answers prayer in ways that sometimes boggle the mind.

Last week, around the same time, I discovered the Oslo Gospel Choir.  Aside from the fact that pretty much anything Norwegian delights me, the group's singing is beyond outstanding and so I've spent the week finding as many of their songs as possible on YouTube and playing them--over and over again.  One in particular stands out: Joy to My Soul:
With all of me I wanna praise him
He has been so mighty, mighty good to me

He brought joy to my soul
That's why I'm praising
The song is fast-paced, lively and so full of joy that I can't stop listening.  When I'm not listening, the words keep singing through my mind, "He brought joy to my soul.  He brought joy to my soul.  He brought joy to my soul." It began to change me.  By Wednesday I was feeling happy, cheery, at peace and rest.

When I woke on Thursday I had a compelling desire to spend time in my prayer room.  Tucked away in the basement it's a place I've had trouble going to in the last year but it's also a place I love to be once I'm there.  Being there felt like the embrace of an Old Friend.  I spent the afternoon with another old friend of mine sitting by a sunny window as we spent three hours catching up with each other's lives.  It was good.  When I came home, I saw I had time for a walk so off I went.  Ten minutes after I returned I got to spend a couple hours with my pastor.  The day had been full of joy, affirmation, love, sunlight and God's presence.

It's been a long time since I've walked regularly.  I few years ago I was walking an hour or more every day and loved it but knee problems changed that and up till now, going outside to walk seemed like the last thing I wanted to do; but when I got up on Friday, the first thing I did was head out for another walk.  I'm not walking far and I'm walking very, very slowly but there's something satisfying and healing about doing it.  When I got home I went down to my prayer room again.  More joy!  The rest of the day was full of soaking in God's presence through the music of the Oslo Gospel Choir.  Saturday was a repeat of Friday.  Three or four good days in a row.  Wow!

Church today was the crown of good days.  I usually sit for most of the singing because of my knee but today I couldn't.  I had to get up.  Dare I say it?  I had to dance.  Lots of people dance in worship while we're singing at church but I'm not a dancer.  I would like to be.  The graceful movements of those trained classically are full of a beauty I'll never be able to emulate. The boldness of those who dance in styles reminiscent of aboriginal dancing with drumming and bell-laden shawl give me joy at their exuberance but I can't see myself doing the same.  Waving flags, large "scarves," ribbons and such is something I could do, maybe, some day, perhaps; and today I was pulled toward finding some prop to help me break my self-imposed barrier against dancing or even moving much in church.

Ha!  Physically moving myself in the direction of the props was all I could manage but perhaps that's all God wanted from me because in that new position in the back left corner of the sanctuary I was surrounded by, immersed and bathed in and filled with blessing and love.  My church sings for over an hour--an incredible hour of worship--and for nearly that whole time there was one or more people standing with me, praying, putting their hands on me.  I wasn't crying--I was too full of joy--but another felt the pain that should have been mine and fell to her knees wailing for my grief.  When the pastor called people to come around me to pray, I heard others crying my pain.  Still others prayed and one woman I don't even know had a picture for me.  Tom and I are on opposite ends of a rope, pulling in opposite directions and there is much tension but in the midst of that tension and pulling away, the knot in the middle, our marriage, is becoming tighter.  What a word of hope!

68 hours from now will mark the time we found our son lifeless on the couch--lying in the same awkward position I had observed when, the night before, I covered him with his favourite blanket not wanting to disturb the sleep he was finally getting after days of none, not knowing that this sleep was drug-induced unconsciousness that in a few hours would be death.  68 hours from now marks a year since our lives were irrevocably changed, a son gone forever, an unmendable hole gouged in our hearts.  68 hours from now marks a year of grief, pain and brokenness but it's not hopelessness; it's not despair; it's not an unending darkness. Yes, they have come and will come again.  It's one day at a time.

But for today and the several days before, God "has brought joy to my soul.  With all of me I want to praise him.  He has been so mighty, mighty good to me.  He brought joy to my soul; that's why I'm praising."

Listen to the song and see if you can keep from being joyful in the presence of God!


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In My Prayer Room

Oh God
You surround me with your love,
with memories
of who you are
of what you've done
of promises you've made
of who I want to be
of who I am because of you.

You give me hope and joy,
peace and gratitude.
You convict me
and teach me
encourage me
and remind me
of what it means to follow you.

You listen to my prayers
and grant my requests
in your time.
You give me insight
and knowledge
and words to write
to share your presence
your goodness
your love
your admonition
with others.

You expand my love
to pray for friend and foe
near and far
family and stranger
people as pins on maps
clustered and scattered
who know you and reject you
for those in need
and those too full to need.

You draw me close
and then release me
to bring you close to others
to serve
and love
and give
all I have received.

You fill my heart with joy
that warms
and glows
and bursts
into laughter,
and even dance.

You wrap me in your arms
and tell me
"You are mine"
with intensity that burns
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Eulogy for Mikael

It's 3:13 a.m. as I write this, just hours before Mikael's funeral. I've slept 2 1/2 hours already but when I woke I couldn't get back to sleep. I am so full of joy I have no room for grief. I lay in bed two hours ago, feeling this joy well up into near excitement, undergirded with a peace and contentment that to most people would make no sense. I'm not sure it makes sense to me but I know it's real. God has been so good. He has poured out his blessings on us this week and I feel like we are the most blessed family in the world right now.
I can't imagine life without Mikael. I'm still in shock, running on adrenaline and the drive to give Mikael the best farewell ever and not wanting to miss a moment of the flood of family and friends who have been pouring into our home with cards, flowers, meals, goodies, more meals and goodies, love, prayers and memories. I've been sitting in an armchair where I have a straight line of sight to the front entrance, a…