Friday, October 06, 2006

Accepting the Change

Galatians 1:15, 16
But when God, who had set me apart {even} from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood...

From "My Utmost For His Highest":
"If Jesus Christ is to regenerate me, what is the problem He is upagainst? I have a heredity I had no say in; I am not holy, nor likely to be; and if all Jesus Christ can do is to tell me I must be holy, His teaching plants despair. But if Jesus Christ is a Regenerator, One Who can put into me His own heredity of holiness, then I begin to see what He is driving at when He says that I have to be holy. Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man the hereditary disposition that was in Himself, and all the standards He gives are based on that disposition: His teaching is for the life He puts in. The moral transaction on my part is agreement with God's verdict on sin in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

The New Testament teaching about regeneration is that when a man is struck by a sense of need, God will put the Holy Spirit into his spirit, and his personal spirit will be energized by the Spirit of the Son of God, "until Christ be formed in you." The moral miracle of Redemption is that God can put into me a new disposition whereby I can live a totally new life. When I reach the frontier of need and know my limitations, Jesus says - "Blessed are you." But I have to get there. God cannot put into me, a responsible moral being, the disposition that was in Jesus Christ unless I am conscious I need it.

Just as the disposition of sin entered into the human race by one man, so the Holy Spirit entered the human race by another Man; and Redemption means that I can be delivered from the heredity of sin and through Jesus Christ can receive an unsullied heredity, viz., the Holy Spirit."

On Tuesday, October 3, 2006 on a beautiful sunny day in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, my grandmother, Rita Gervais Murphy, was laid to rest. But oh so much more of me went with her, as God continues to make me into His servant.

My grandmother never really accepted me, or at least that is how she made me feel. One of the main reasons was that I was being raised Protestant and not Catholic as she was, and because she didn't understand the difference, nor seek to find answers, I may as well have been raised Jewish, or maybe even Atheist. She didn't understand that we worshipped the same God, believed in the same triune, but she never asked either. Instead, I was just, for the most part, ignored.

Growing up, I remember Christmases when she would call my dad to tell him all the great gifts she got the kids - fur coats and 10-speed bikes. My brother and I got nothing. I remember staying at her house, playing outside, and watching her run towards the car with my aunt and cousin and watching the car take off. I later found out they went for chinese food without me. I was left to eat cold cereal for dinner.

I could go on and on, but my point is not to drudge up the past, but to paint a picture for you as to where all the anger, sarcasm and cynicism came from that I wrote of in my previous post. I grew up not knowing my grandmother's unconditional love. I still worked for her attention and acknowledgment, but was time and time again turned down. The years filled me with all of this ugliness. I didn't like who I had become, and yet I felt powerless to do anything to change it. But as I wrote in my previous post, God took care of it. I find it no accident that on September 17, 2006 God took away all the negativity inside of me, and just eleven days later, He took the root of it away.

So there I was at my grandmother's viewing. I had gotten to a level of forgiveness where I wasn't angry with her anymore, but I wasn't going to gush tears over her passing. As I stood there, I listened to comments made by friends and family. "She was so spunky." People tell me I'm spunky all the time. My mom's not spunky. My dad's not spunky. I must have gotten that from her. "She loved her purple." Purple is my favorite color. "Oh, she could make you laugh!" How many times have I been told I should do Stand-up or go on SNL? And the night continued with me jotting mental notes of all that was good about this woman and all that I had received from this woman. And then it happened - my Aunt asked me if I would do the Eulogy.

In a moment, I will share the Eulogy that I wrote. But let me take this moment to tell you dear friends, if there is anything inside of you preventing you from experiencing all Christ has for you, please give it to God. Where that nagging in the back of your mind continues, search it and find out what God is trying to say. Then pray for Him to regenerate you. Don't try to do it yourself. Call on His holiness to make you Holy or else you'll be left in despair.

The priest who gave the sermon may not have known the impact of his words, but he actually took the time to say, "If any of you were hurt by Rita or bear any anger towards her for not acting Christ-like, remember that she was human and that we all fall short of the glory of God. Forgive her as Christ has forgiven you."

And there it was like a big "Duh!" above my head.

My grandmother was not God, but because she was my grandmother I expected her to be god-like all the time. How often do we expect God's level of love and commitment in our human relationships and when we are let down, never understand why or what went wrong? I have to tell you this, especially you RevTab members out there: there I was saying "That's Right, That's Right" out loud in a Catholic church. Too funny! But suddenly the forgiveness for my grandmother was there - all the pain of the past was released. I stood up to the pulpit and delivered this Eulogy. Praise God for the transformation He has just brought me through. I pray you will seek and accept the changes He brings about when they come to you.

She wore orchid, her favorite color.
And when she pursed her lips,
You knew it would be followed by a line in French,
Maybe understandable,
Maybe not,
But enough to make you pay attention -
An internal giggle always followed the words “Tete de pinoche!”

She was Rita - Full of spunk, full of fervor,
And I laugh to myself when I realize
Why I purse my lips,
Why I love any shade of purple,
Why I speak in puns,
Why I call my children “bebe.”
I laugh when I realize -Though the years and the miles separated us,
She made her mark.

Rita made her mark in this world.
She made her mark on you, dear friends,
She made her mark on us, her family.
And each of us - through genetics -
And each of you - through chance meeting,
Or tried and true friendship,
Now carry a bit of Rita in this world -
And because of this,
Rita will live on.

She will live on in the beauty of her great-grandchildren,
She will live on every time we are served,
or serve,
hors d’oevres.

She will live on in my love of coffee,
Potato pancakes,
And each stitch of knit or crochet.
Yes, our Rita will live on.

She will live on in each blot
Of the Bingo blotter,
Her laughter will reign
In each of our ears.

And whether we called her Sister,
or friend,
We will live our lives knowing,
We will search our hearts knowing,
We will examine our souls, KNOWING,
We are who we are today -
Perhaps, we are better people today -
We know happiness the way we do today -
Because Rita lived - and oh she still lives -

Most of you may not recognize me. I was the grand-daughter who moved away twenty-two years ago, this past June. But I would like to think that because our visits together were too few and too far between, it made me soak in every second of the time I spent with my grandmother, my Memere - the remarkable Rita Ida Gervais Murphy.

Over the years, I have been a somewhat quiet observer in my grandmother’s presence. I have watched how she cared for my Gampa. I have watched how she showed love to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I have seen her children continue to honor her daily, and I have learned through her stories of her interactions with friends - as numerous as the stars - of the joy with which she lived and brought to the loves of all who were blessed to meet her.

My husband and I run a Theatre Company in a rural town in Pennsylvania, and although the ends don’t always meet, we live by the philosophy that when you die, there is very little that tells of your life on your grave marker except a birth date and a death date. But the most important detail on any grave marker is the “dash” between those two dates. My husband and I constantly remind each other and those around us that life is about “living the dash.”

My grandmother, Rita, lived the dash. She touched lives, mended hearts, created laughter, lifted people up and stayed faithful to her God and Creator Jesus Christ. She will not leave us sorrowful. Sure, we will miss her. Sure, our lives will never be the same without her. But I ask that you join with me in a spirit of celebration of her life as she has not only won the battle - hard fought - and found Victory in the arms of Jesus - but that she has lived that dash and left an eternal legacy of joy and laughter and spunky-spiritedness behind.

That spirit is found in all of us - Uncle Johnny, Auntie Donna, my father Rick, my mother, Gwen; Auntie Moe, Uncle Jimmy; Jay, Carrie, Nicki, Erin, my brother Kyle, and the latest joys of her life: Ryan, Lyndsie, PJ, Jason, Ellen, Lauren, Julia, Zoe, Brayten, and Jackson.
Thank you, Rita - Sister, Ma, Memere, friend, for leaving your imprint on all of our lives. We will learn to celebrate you everyday. Yes, Rita will live on.

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