I am not sure if I have mentioned this here before, but I suppose this is “confession” time.
Each week, when I write this column, I usually wait until the last possible moment to sit down at the keyboard. Of course, I say a short prayer beforehand to the Holy Spirit to help guide my words, but most often, I don’t plan ahead what I am going to write about. I like to give my work an air of spontaneity.
Some might say by doing this, I am “putting God to the test.” Others, like people who are also in some form or fashion, writers in this life, will understand that I am just doing what writers do.
And then calling on the heavenly realm to save my hide.
So this week, I decided to try something different.
This evening I went out on the back deck to unwind, to find that elusive point of inner stillness, that I so desperately desire. As I sat on the deck, looking over the backyard, I noticed as the day’s cares and concerns quietly slipped away into more contemplative thoughts. I spoke to the Spirit quietly from my heart, asking for some guidance on what to write, so this week’s column, at least, wouldn’t be ramshackled thrown together.
Right away I thought about the T-shirt I wore today. The one I picked up out of the laundry basket this morning without hesitation.
Many of you reading this column today will remember, or knew Chelsea Bromley Davis, a young woman, originally from Streator and a close friend of my family. Early this year, Chelsea tragically died in a motor vehicle accident on Interstate 80 on her way to work. At the time of her death, she was living in La Salle Peru, and was due to marry the love of her life in just a few short weeks.
I wrote a column shortly after her death about Chelsea’s impact on so many people. Not just locally, but around the world. I refer you to that column for more details, if you’d like to read it.
In the aftermath of Chelsea’s death, her friends had T-shirts made as a fundraiser in her name. On the front of the T-shirt are the words from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament, “Here I am, send me.” Having known Chelsea and her family for years, I can assure you these five words unequivocally summarize her servant spirit.
As I sat on the deck and thought about these words, I recalled deep in my heart how they have in fact, molded me as well, throughout my life.
When I was a junior high student at St. Stephen school in Streator, we were often called upon to sing at funeral Masses. One of the songs that was often selected by the family to be played was “Here I am, Lord,” written by Dan Schutte. Even prior to singing at the funeral Masses, this was always one of my favorite songs, and, after 35 years of growing in faith and trust in the Spirit’s guiding hand on my life, my favor toward it has only intensified. But I recall one time at a funeral, singing in the choir this song, and really feeling a personal connection to the words I sang.
I wish I could include them all here, because every single one of them from beginning to end is meaningful to me, but, due to space issues, I will just include the first verse and chorus:
I, the Lord of sea and sky
I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save
I who made the stars of night
I will make their darkness bright
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night
I will go, Lord
If You lead me
I will hold Your people in my heart
As a lector at St. Michael the Archangel parish for the last seven years, I feel particularly blessed, awed, and extremely humbled, when the passage from Isaiah chapter 6, on which this song is based, is one I get to read, from the very altar on which the Tabernacle that houses Christ’s Body and Blood is stored. In essence, I know in some way, I am standing in a liminal space, between Heaven and Earth as I read these words:
In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they hovered.
One cried out to the other:
“Holy, holy, holy
is the LORD of hosts!
All the earth is filled with his glory!”
At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar.
He touched my mouth with it. “See,” he said, “now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”
Every time I read these words, I find myself intentionally recommitting myself to that ascent I gave so long ago as I sang the words in St. Stephen’s choir loft, and recalling how they have been fulfilled in my life so far.
And, tonight, as I wear this t-shirt made in Chelsea’s memory, I think of her and how in her short life, she went wherever the Spirit sent her, with an open heart and a smile on her face.
I can only hope and pray that at the end of my life, there will be people I leave behind who can in some way say about me, what was so true for Chelsea in her life.
And, in this fragile time in human history, I also pray that more people will be moved by these words to offer their lives to the Spirit, to use them in whatever way the Spirit sees fit, to bring about the Love and Peace that can only come from on high.
“Here I am. Send me.”
SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at email@example.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.
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