Voice of the Vestry: Listen with your heart…and act

By Mary Merrill

Vestry member Barb JohnsonWhen I gaze at the faces of Grace, I see children of God. Many of those children have blessed my life in loving and meaningful ways. Let me share a few of those blessings. When my husband and I moved to Traverse City in 1995, we were welcomed into the Grace family with a lovely dinner in the home of a compassionate Christian couple whose friendship we treasure still today. After we arrived home from China with our precious daughter, a dear Grace friend and her dear daughter gave us a beautiful church baby shower. (Since that day, countless members of our loving village of Grace have helped shape our Elsa’s life as a young Christian in so many positive ways.) When I was in the hospital following surgery and radiation treatment, Father Ed arrived at my room with a check from a face of Grace to help us with medical costs. To this day, I do not know who that angel was. During my recovery at home, faces of Grace arrived as needed to help with my sweet new baby. When I lost my job: clergy, spiritual support staff, and friends at Grace counseled and comforted me. For these blessings and many more, my heart is truly grateful.

So, what does it mean to be Christian in a rapidly changing world filled with a multitude of distraction and busyness? One must keep what is essential in focus. For me, it is often a matter of consistently reinforcing what I know to be true. I know that God loves me, that He made me, and that His timeline for my life is perfect…even when I can’t see it. I also know that He wants me to be a disciple of His Son, reaching out to others. This is the gift the disciples of Grace have demonstrated for me.

It can be challenging to see oneself as a disciple, perhaps even harder to feel “qualified” to teach discipleship. But, God doesn’t check our qualifications. He checks our hearts. Life as a disciple of Christ involves a never-ending journey in love, forgiveness, prayer, welcome, worship, service and study. We are called to love one another, to follow Jesus, to go out of our way to support others in a varied spectrum of ways. It means starting where you are. (Where else can you start?) It means intentionally, prayerfully moving forward in your discipleship asking God what He would have you do. We must then listen with our hearts and act. This important spiritual work can be difficult at times, but the intrinsic rewards are unmatched.

Who have been the disciples in your life…touching your heart, helping to form you as a child of God and disciple of Christ? For whom are you showing the way and leaving a legacy of love?

I would like to close by honoring the first disciples in my life: members of my family. My dear Aunt Bardy went home to be with her Father this past spring. (As a toddler, my mother could not say, “Barbara” properly. She called her baby sister “Bardy” and it stuck.) This past autumn Aunt Bardy’s house, located in a depressed area of Saginaw, had to be sold. I have been grieving that loss. I composed a poem the last day I was in her house. I thought I’d share it with you. You may have similar memories of the first disciples in your life. Thanks, be to God!

This Old House on Stone Street

Here I pause…
Sitting on the stairs
Inside my dear Aunt Bardy’s house.
The house that was her mother’s,
And her mother’s before her.

Memories envelop me.
Precious corners of my heart
Fill my soul with gratitude.
So many “dear hearts”
Walked up and down these stairs
For more than a century.

Modest rooms above and below,
Connected by these stairs,
Sheltered joys and sorrows
And held a family together.
Music from the old upright piano
Drifted through these rooms,
Loving embraces lingered here.
I can almost smell the scrumptious
Home-baked pies and cookies!
I remember joyfully playing upstairs,
Looking down on God’s green Earth
From the lower-than-usual window,
Being careful not to fall out!

Family stories and prayers,
Laughter and tears…
Warm welcomes and fond farewells.
There was an unscripted sentiment:
“Gifts of the heart given freely here,
Come and be loved as you are.”

This place feels sacred to me,
And always has.
For God has abided in the hearts
Of all who lived here,
And all who visited.

God provided comfort and protection
In this simple, humble dwelling.
It’s just a house-
Some lumber, plaster and paint.
But, LOVE has always been at home here…
A rich legacy of love.
Thanks, be to God!





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