The Body of Christ

As I sat in church this morning, reflecting on the cross, tears stung my eyes and my throat ached. The hubbub of families back in the pews after adventure-filled summers reminded me how important the church has been in my life for as long as I can remember. From my days when I couldn’t see over the pew when Mom was the organist and Dad, as always, was in charge of everything but the preaching, to my days in confirmation when Mom and Dad guided unruly 7th and 8th graders through Luther’s Catechism with other committed parents, to my days serving alongside Dad on council and the building committee –  the church, the congregation, the Body of Christ has always been foremost in our family life, even after Mom drew away.

 

Today it hit me hard. I will never look down the pew and see my Dad dressed in his Sunday attire again. I will never see him standing attentively and with authority at the back of the church in his standard ushering uniform of a green blazer, khaki dress pants, and Snoopy tie making sure the service ran smoothly –  so often at the expense of his own time with God. I will never see him walk forward with conviction and humility to receive the Bread of Life. Dad even celebrated his 80th birthday at a church meeting! Church is different now. My perspective of the cross has changed forever.

 

Mom has been gone for an impossible 18 months, and Dad an achingly short 5 months. At times it seems like just yesterday since I last looked into their eyes. Today as I watched families, young and old, gathering together as one in Christ, the emptiness inside me was almost more than I could bear – almost. Just as Jesus promised –  “whenever two or three are gathered in my name, I will be there” – and He was. Bearing me up, and showing me that this hubbub of family was my hubbub too Those families, that Body of Christ, is my family. Church will never be as I remember it, in the hey days of my family. The church to me now, will be as Christ envisioned it to be –  my family.

 

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for raising me in the Body of Christ, for giving me a family greater than blood. I love you and miss you so much.

Let your light so shine.

Missing You, Dad

It’s easy to honor you this Father’s Day, Dad. Every day that I am alive, I live because you believed in me along the way… even when you had every reason not to.  Not a day has gone by the last two months that I have not thought about you, wanted to ask you a question, and hear your voice. I am afraid that one day I will not remember what you sound like, but today I can still hear your “Well heLLOOO there” whenever I called. If only I hadn’t erased that last message you left on my phone when you were still able to call me but, I didn’t know ….

I think you would be rather proud of me of late. The last two months have been quite a whirl wind and I have stayed upright – even without a toothpick anchoring me! I presided over worship and I decided to put down some roots and buy a house – all by myself and all in the same week! You would definitely approve of the yard but might think the master bathroom is a little pretentious. I know you would say it was the size of your and Mom’s first house in Dillon! Frankly, it is beyond me what I will do with all that vanity! On the bright side, I will have plenty of yardwork to keep me busy and a view that will last forever. You always said a view was more important than the house… the house could be changed; the view couldn’t be. Well, I think you will approve – granted it is an endless view of mountains not prairies, but I think I can win you over. I wish I could share my happiness of home and heart with you.

4 years ago, I would never have dreamed of calling western Montana home.  4 years ago, at this time, you were telling me that life still had much in store for me after I turned down the job offer in Whitefish because I couldn’t find a place to live in that I could afford. Just a few weeks later, you were giving me your blessing to do what I needed to do to make it happen, as long as I didn’t lose sight of my independence and my values. I never dreamed my life would become what it has, but I think you had an inkling. I felt like you really believed in me and wanted this challenge for me.

Thank you for raising me to be strong in faith, humble in mind, and trusting at heart.

Thank you for teaching me that it is okay and sometimes better to be alone, but that people really do make life richer.

Thank you for loving me through the struggles of finding my wings and learning to fly. And thank you for letting me know that you are here with me from time to time. I love you, Dad and miss you so very much.

A Man of Integrity and Faith – I love you, Dad

The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.

– Proverbs 20:7

As I write this remembrance, I am marking two weeks since I last held my father’s living hand. I will always be my Daddy’s little girl and he will always be the greatest man I have ever loved and known. I am who I am because of his loving and guiding influence on my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t find myself thanking him for the lessons in life he taught me or recalling a valuable piece of wisdom he gave me as I try to make sense of the world. So many of the decisions I make today are made on the foundations of faith, character, and conscience he instilled in me.

His vibrant livelihood and body had grown weary of this world and his spirit had longed to be free riding the range, dancing with my mom, and acing every hole from the tee for some time. I know my dad was ready for the ultimate glory awaiting him in heaven that he so richly deserved, but I was not. He went so fast the morning of April 29th – just like him – always efficient, never wanting to lollygag. I still had so much to tell him and so much to learn from him. I am not sure how I will go on in this world knowing I will never hear him say, “I love you Erika, wish you were home,” or feel him hug me tight again. He was the only one who would listen to me play the piano and tell me: “That was nice!” and listen with tongue-in-cheek glee to the stories of my mountain-top adventures.

I spent hours trying to capture his life in words for the eulogy I gave at his memorial service. In the end, I rewrote everything in an hour right before his service – this time letting my heart speak – awakened and renewed from a beautiful run in God’s glorious morning light. My hope in sharing this with you is that you too will come to know the most amazing gift you can give or receive is that of knowing the Lord and living a life in faith. For as each of our days come to an end, it is that relationship with God and knowing His peace that will carry you through.

***

Good Morning! Thank you for being here to help celebrate the life of a very special man, my father. The first thing I thought of when I woke up today was what a great day it is indeed – we are going to have a celebration of my Dad’s life!! And as Fred (my brother), so eloquently captured –  such a life it is to celebrate!

I was going to speak about the essence of my Dad’s life. I spent 12 hours over 2 days writing about the things that brought happiness to his life. But then I thought, you all knew Dad, you knew the essence of him – that’s why you are here! I may be studying to become a pastor but I certainly don’t want to stand here and preach to the choir! Instead, this morning I am speaking from a daughter’s faith-filled heart renewed by the promise of life in a new day.

In the last few days, so many who knew Dad, even only in passing, remarked how happy he always was. And as I poured through the photographs of his life, it was hard to find one photo where he didn’t have a robust smile on his face.

Of all the things that brought happiness to my Dad’s life – the people he shared it with, his family, his grand-dogs, his colleagues, his career, his past-times – the one constant source of happiness and strength and peace – and I firmly believe the most important source of happiness and life in his last days – was his faith!

I opened his obituary with Proverbs 20:7 – The godly walk with integrity – blessed are the children who follow them.

As I was going through his scrapbook last night, I found another verse – one that meant something to him as a 17-year-old in 1949 and one he obviously carried with him throughout his life – Proverbs 22:6, “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

I know I am blessed to follow in my Dad’s walk of faith. Dad raised us in faith, as beloved children of God, and he entrusted his life and ours to the Lord. He was a proud Lutheran but humble in his ways. He encouraged us in our faith growing up. I know it brought him great concern and sadness when I, for a wayward time in my 20’s, quit going to church.  And I know how much it meant to him to have all of us all sitting in the pew with him again here on Sunday mornings in recent years.

Dad never missed church. He was always raring to go on Sunday morning – much to my Mom’s demise. There were more than a few horn honks and terse words said as we sped to church- but Dad knew he needed church. He needed the grace and mercy, the forgiveness and love that our Lord freely gives. As great a man as he was – as kindly and gentlemanly as he was to everyone – Dad knew he was a broken man as we are all broken people – and he knew he needed the Lord.

Of course, the people of this church made him happy. I think that is why this and every church we have been a part of for that matter meant so much to him. The people found inside were so important to him. But oh, how he LOVED THIS CHURCH!  Keeping a congregation alive meant he was bringing the Lord deeper into his heart. And that is why he devoted so much of himself to this church. He never shied away from saying yes to the Lord when He called him to a ministry – be that building a church, leading a congregation, cleaning a bathroom, raising funds, teaching Sunday school, or serving as an usher. He served our Lord with a sense of honor, respect, and love. It meant so much to him to participate in the ground-breaking for the new “Building Of Faith for Generations” here just a few short weeks ago.

Dad had a deep and ever growing faith, one he nurtured through continued study, service, and sharing and I am so glad he shared his mighty faith in the Lord with me. I can only hope to be half the leader of others to knowing the peace of Christ as he was in his quiet evangelism. His steadfast faith is the greatest gift, aside from his love, that he could have ever shared with me.

I know that my Dad’s faith was a beacon and source of strength for him. A beacon for my life, my faith has sustained me too, through all the opportunities and challenges that have come my way.  Because of the gift my Dad gave me –  I have faced those opportunities and challenges with a sense of strength that I know comes only from the Lord’s presence in my life. Unlike my Dad, I can’t be as quiet about it as he was.

I leaned on my Dad an awful lot in life – he was my source of wisdom, of political intellect, of what is fair and what is right. He was my counselor on all matters of living – and he did so with the heart of Jesus. He was my encourager and biggest (but quietest) fan. He knew he had done his job well when he saw how deeply I was growing in my own faith.  In a moment of clarity, a week or so ago he came right out and asked me how my lay pastoral studies were going. When I told him it was the best thing that could be happening to me right now, he responded with a strong GOOD!

In the last few minutes I had with my Dad, we shared the words of the Lord’s Prayer, we spoke of how Dad let his light shine so that others could see the good works of God, and how I hoped and prayed that I may do that as well and as purely as he did.  We spoke about letting God’s perfect will be done.

Dad had found a peace that surpasses our understanding – and while at the time I was not willing to let him go without a fight – I was able to – as that same peace began to wrap around me.

I will have to lean on the Lord a whole lot more in the days to come.  But that is ok – He has my Dad there to help carry the load.

Being Neil Morck’s daughter was a pretty honorable position to be in and how I most often identified myself to others!  Now I know that not only am I Neil Morck’s daughter and a child of God, but a woman who lives for God. He prepared his children well for life – to forge ahead in our own identities accompanied all the way by our Lord Jesus Christ.

My Dad saw the world through eyes that have seen just about everything this broken and beautiful world has to offer, yet he always had a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. The Lord gave him a very good life and he was very happy.

Yes, the godly do indeed walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them. I happen to know that the godly walk in happiness too, and as my Dad’s favorite daughter, I am eternally blessed and happy to walk in his footsteps. Now I know why he was always so horn honking eager to get to church on Sunday mornings.

The Greatest Man I Have Ever Loved – A Toothpick Chewin’ Cowboy

There’s a toothpick chewin’ cowboy picking up his beautiful bride for a drive around heaven tonight. Oh Dad, I will always be Daddy’s little girl and you will always be the greatest man I have ever loved and known. I am who I am because of you. Not a day goes by that I don’t find myself thanking you for the lessons in life you taught me or recalling a valuable piece of wisdom you gave me as I try to make sense of the world. So many of the decisions I make today are made on the foundations of faith, character, and conscience you instilled in me.

Dad you saw the world through eyes that had seen just about everything this broken and beautiful world has to offer. You never walked away from a challenge but would rather do your part to make every situation better even if it meant more work or hardship. I will do my best to carry on your example.

This year, unlike any other, tested you. And yet you persevered. Not that there weren’t days you wanted to give up, to be with my Mom again, to rest. But you didn’t. You lived fully and had so much to live for. For that, I am eternally grateful, and ever so proud. I will forever cherish the time I was given with my you, even just the quiet moments spent in each other’s company. I could never have enough hugs from you. I could listen to your stories of your childhood and your life before I knew you forever. Goodness knows you had plenty of tales to tell.

I will treasure beyond measure our last real father-daughter conversation at Thanksgiving. It was just you and me sitting in the quiet of the living room. I remember hearing the ticking of the 100+ year old clock that hung in grandpa’s barn and survived fire and marveling at how it had chimed through so many days of our lives every hour on the hour because you took the time to wind and set it every Sunday morning just like your father had. I listened as you told me about your childhood in Plentywood; what it was like that first year after your father passed away (you were only 6) and the years that followed before your mother met and married your stepfather. The warmth you felt as neighbors welcomed your mother, your brother and you into their home for a Thanksgiving dinner unlike any you had ever had before. Your recollection was vivid, your memories as sharp as the biting cold that gripped Plentywood in the dead of winter.

You told me of how much you and Mom loved Fred Morck and I, and of how much you missed her. That you sometimes found yourself waiting for her to come downstairs in the morning. You told me you wished I was home, that I wasn’t so far away, and that surely, I could find a good job in Billings. You assured me then I could even get a puppy! You told me how proud you were of me and Fred. That we had done better than you had expected us to (you have such a way with words.)

Sure, you had your “moments” when parenting me was far from pleasurable, and I remember plenty of spankings delivered to set me straight, but in my eyes, you will always be the handsome toothpick-chewing cowboy turned executive trying to get me to ride a wild burro, the “brass-banger”/ badger-caller in the wilds of Wyoming, the connoisseur of buttered Rye Krisps as we watched Hee Haw and the Lawrence Welk Show every Saturday night, the church council president extraordinaire ( I take after the best!), and the greatest Dad this girl could ask for.

I know your body was weary of this world and your spirit has longed to be free riding the range and dancing with Mom and acing every hole from the tee for some time. I know you were ready for the ultimate glory awaiting you in heaven that you so richly deserve, but I was not. You went so fast (just like you – always efficient, never wanting to lollygag) I still have so much to tell you and so much to learn from you. I am not sure how I will go on in this world knowing I will never hear you say, “I love you Erika, wish you were home,” or feel you hug me tight again. You are the only one who would listen to me play the piano and tell me “That was nice!” Who will listen with glee to the stories of my mountain-top adventures?

This afternoon as I walked out to Tucker’s rock and sat awhile looking over the horizon I wondered just how I will go on…. And then perhaps you let me know, because the sun came out from behind the clouds and warmed my soul, and of all things on the way back home, a van pulled up and parked on my path. The owner had decorated it with these five words, the title of my Blog: Let your light so shine! Coincidence? Serendipity? I think not!

Dad, I promise to let my light so shine, so that God is glorified, and your fine example of an honorable life well- lived is carried on.

I love you, Dad. More than words can ever say, and even more than that- forever and ever.

Preparing

Tomorrow, I will be taking what I know will be a very long drive home. Prayers are needed for my family and especially for my Dad. Thank you for lifting us up as you have through this journey. It is up to God now – like it always has been. Even though my faith is my foundation, it has been very hard for me to not try to control God – to make my ways His way. This ending, this sending – this story was not supposed to come to a close like this.

The amazing thing about faith is when I finally gave our Lord Jesus my will and fully trusted my Dad to my Him, a certain peace came over me. My heart quit pounding, my ears quit rushing, and while my tears didn’t stop flowing, my eyes could see clearly again.

His grace is amazing.  


“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31