A kingdom moment: at the rail with my grandson

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and School, Dallas, TX

(This post is about one of those occasional moments when, as I seek his kingdom, I experience a kingdom moment!)

When you’re a pastor, you don’t get to sit in the pew very often. My call means I am up front, in the chancel and in the pulpit, thinking about dozens of things other than worship. Like the sermon. Or the attendance. Or the temperature of the room. The faces I don’t recognize. Or those arriving late. Or those who aren’t there.

But when I recently visited my son and his family in Dallas, I got to worship at his church and I didn’t have to worry about any of those things. I sat in the pew with my wife, my granddaughter and grandson, and my son’s in-laws. Nothing to remember, nothing to worry about. Just an hour immersed in the means of grace.

After the offerings, my grandson made his way over to my side and my wife, said, “He wants to go to communion with you.” Now that is very cool. When the usher nodded to us, his small hand took mine and we made our way forward to the communion rail.

It was definitely a kingdom moment. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” Though his two-year-old mind wasn’t able to fully comprehend what was happening, I wondered what was going through his mind as we knelt together at the communion rail. What are they eating and drinking? Why can’t I have some? This is a special place. And that’s my dad up there!

In that moment, I wasn’t much different than him. I’m a child of God, too. I might understand more of what’s going on, but it’s still a mystery to me how my risen and ascended Lord can be physically here for me in some bread and wine. All I can do is take his word for it, and indulge in this moment of grace. This is a special place. And that’s my son, the pastor, giving his dad the sacrament and his son a blessing.

Times have changed. I never got to go to the rail until I had been confirmed as a teenager. My mom and dad usually communed separately, one staying behind to keep an eye on my brother and sister and I, not trusting us to sit there alone. They were wise.

The older I get and the more kneel at the altar, the more I understand what a powerful moment this is. In fact, I just want to stay there, like Peter and James and John on the mount of Transfiguration. But it all over in a moment, and we are back in our seats, resuming our wiggling, snacking, coloring, and whatever. But here I am, five days later, and that moment still sticks in my mind, brings a smile to my face and can never be taken from me.

If the little ones at the rail bring a smile to my face, can you imagine God’s smile?

Grandpa Golcher

three guysThis is one of the few pictures I have of my dad, grandfather (my mom’s dad) and myself.  I think I am about three years old here. How many pictures will my grandchildren have with their grandfathers? Hundreds and hundreds.

Grandpa Julius Golcher is somewhat of an enigma. When a friend who knew his way around genealogy attempted to do a family tree on my mom’s side, he could go no further back than Julius’ parents in Costa Rica. Which is interesting, because we were always told he was from Argentina.

As you can see from the picture, he wore one of those old wired hearing aids. He worked as a machinist in Philadelphia, but was placed in the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry at some point, suffering from a form of Parkinson’s disease attributed to the Spanish influenza epidemic of the early 20th century.

I do remember that he primarily spoke Spanish, which means that there must be a compelling story of how he met his wife Mary Fox, my mom’s mom. She immigrated from England and worked as a nanny in Philadelphia, which is interesting because we were always told she was a governess, but census records tell a different story. Ancestry on her side only goes back as far as a lighthouse somewhere along the North Sea. (There are too many “Mary Foxes” from that time frame to know which branch of the tree to follow.) She came to America with two sisters, Peg and Elsie. I knew her much better, and will write about her in a future post.

Somehow that unlikely couple got together and had three daughters, but I’m not sure there is anyone left who knows that story. They raised their family in a row home on Rosalie Street in the Olney section of northeast Philadelphia.

Me with grandpa golcher

Here we are in NE Phila when I was 15 months old.

That’s all I’ve got on Grandpa Golcher. But I am pretty sure that my brother and sister and I all got our thick heads of hair from him.

 

More reflections on being a grandfather (part 2)

10400646_10153411674873460_5093416171899200828_nEight months ago, I jotted down a few thoughts about being a grandfather. It’s time to share some more reflections.

Eden is 1-1/2 years old; Elijah is about 8-1/2 months.I got to see Eden between Christmas and New Years while she and her parents visited, and I see Elijah several times a week since he lives nearby. Eden is running around, Elijah’s learned how to crawl (kind of). She’s grown quite a head of hair; he’s only sporting some peach fuzz.

The best part of a visit with them is when they see me, recognize me, and break into a big smile. That moment makes the rest of the day, no matter how good or bad, seem unimportant. When Elijah sees me at church, he either gives me the “Grandpa, what are you doing here?” look, or a quick, silly, “Ha!”

The second-best part is making them laugh. And I know just how to do it. Having ticklish whiskers helps, but I also know what silly sounds will get the belly laughs going, the wonderful sound of unrestrained squeals and giggles.

And how about little naked people scooting around the house before bath time? That never gets old and always makes me laugh!

Those are some more of my favorite grandfather things.

Reflections on being a grandfather (so far)

I’ve got two grandchildren now. My first, Eden, was born last summer. Number two, Elijah, is just a few weeks old. A week or so ago, these cousins met for the first time and this seems like a good time to reflect upon my experience of being a grandfather.

First, there’s little that compares with holding newborn life. Small, helpless, trusting, miraculous are just a few adjectives that come to mind. Tears and laughter erupt in their presence. They grow so fast you find yourself watching each minute to see how they’ve changed. The memories of my own children’s births are vivid once again.

As I take them in my arms, I remember exactly what to do. Immediately I cuddle, rock and sway. A diaper change is followed by a quick swaddle before lifting them up on my shoulder. Without thinking I’m singing songs, imitating their sounds, and giving them a tour of the world.

Suddenly, my children have become husbands and wives, and dads and moms. They still call me Dad and my wife Mom, but we call them “Dad” and “Mom,” too. But no one is confused.

Life is so simple when all you have to worry about is eating, sleeping and getting your diaper changed. All you have to do is cry a little, and someone – or everyone – comes to attend to your needs.