On Grave Digging…

Jewish Men Digging Grave

I must confess that I have not thought of digging graves for a very long time. In fact, it has been over a decade that I have actually thought about the process of digging a grave.

This morning on a Facebook post from a cousin, there it was, a statement wondering why TV murders always dig rectangular shaped graves to bury their victims. Well, that simple question set my mind to thinking about the actual, physical digging of a grave.

My mind revisited thoughts and images that it hadn’t remembered in several eons. (I am a product of the last century. That may explain part of it.) My mind, simple as it is, brought back scenes and remembrances of graves and those people that dug those graves from years past. It seems that grave digging is no longer a “relationship” kind of event as it was in the rural area in which I grew up. Let me explain, if I can.

When I was a young boy in the rural, Edge community of Campbell County, Virginia, it was common for ordinary people to dig the graves of friends, family members, church members and other people in the community. (It was not only in Campbell County, but in every community.) I can remember my father, Preston Coates and Mr. Melvin Glass, Mr. Russell Dudley, Mr. Sam Farris, the Holland brothers, Mr. Harry Hale, Mr.Joe McIver, Mr. Tom Bomar, my brother-in-law, Phillip Elder, and even my brother, Preston Coates, Jr., as well as others, who would meet at a cemetery to physically dig the grave of a person. (Parenthetically, I realize now that I did not ever participate in the digging of a grave. I wish I had!) These people would do this as an offering of help to the family of the deceased. There would be no payment required. It was done out of respect and love for the individual and the family.

I can remember the group of men had a kind of order to their process. One man would have a couple of picks, another a shovel or two and then one would have finishing shovels (square end shovels as opposed to pointed shovels), one would bring an axe to cut roots and the occasional tree limb, another would have tarps to put the dirt on, still others would just be there to help and encourage. Somehow, when they arrived at the gravesite, the implements that where needed would arrive with the individuals. It was an interesting event. I can hear my dad saying that Mr. Glass was a very good finisher of the grave. (I have no idea why these thoughts suddenly flood my mind, but they do.)

I think you can see that when I called this a “relationship” event, it really was. It was a social event for these men as well as for the family of the deceased. It was a time of cooperation between funeral director, family and friends. It was just the way it was done. I hate to call it a “social event,” but it was, in the good sense of the word “social.”

Occasionally, the funeral home would arrange for a mechanical, backhoe, kind of grave digging. But that was always an added expense, so for the rural area, it was a done by groups of men and women, who saw this as a ministry, if you will, to the family involved.

I could see in these groups of men and families a generational passing-down of a skill and a way of life. Sons would accompany their fathers and even grandfathers to the gravesite and would learn the way of their ancestors. It was an important family dynamic in those days. It taught a certain humbleness and certain respect for life and for each other.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, except to say that I miss the ritual, but more so, I think we as a generation have missed more than just knowing how to physically dig a hole in the ground called a grave. I’m not advocating we go back to the times of men gathering around a gravesite and throw dirt onto a tarp. That’s not what I’m advocating.

If there is anything that comes from my remembrances this morning, it is that we need to pass long the remembrances, if not the actual events, of our past and not let them die with us. I cannot pass along the actual events to my children and to others, but I can pass along my remembrances and emotions that the events brought to me. What they, or you, do with them, is up to them and you. But I feel an obligation to help preserve some of the past for future generations. Not that a significant amount of people will read this, but who knows, some might.

So, “On Grave Digging”, thoughts have been running through my mind today. They chose to “sit a spell’ and pull me over to the side of the road and have me remember. Maybe they will do the same for you.

 

As always…The Path Continues…

Prayer…

photo: Aubrey Wiley

photo: Aubrey Wiley

(an acrostic prayer)

Precious Lord and Savior, Father of us all, we worship You today in the wonder and awe of Your presence.

Remove the guilt of our sin, O Father, for we ask for forgiveness as we earnestly pray today.

Accept us, O God, as a father who accepts his children as they come to him for guidance and comfort.

Yearning to be with You and to know Your grace, we come in prayer to seek cleansing as only You can cleanse, dear God.

Envelope us in Your loving arms, O God! We long to be hugged by Your Spirit and feel Your grace dripping all around us.

Rescind the reticence of our hearts to seek You and replace it with a willing, pliable heart that bends and reshapes in Your will, O God.

We pray in the name of the one who hears and answers prayers, even Jesus Christ, Your son. Amen!

The Path Continues…

Assurance…

Lindsey Parnell Tree

   (photo: Lindsey Parnell)

(an acrostic prayer)

Almighty, powerful and loving Lord, we come to worship You; to praise You; and to adore You, Father.

Sacred is Your presence, Father. May we be assured of Your presence as Your Spirit interprets Your word to us, O God.

Safe in Your Arms, Father, we love to worship with Your children and to know You are our assurance through Jesus, Your Son.

Under Your wings of mercy, grace and forgiveness, we come to nest in Your love, O Lord.

Remove the fear that this world brings to us daily, Father. May we live in Your perfect love that casts out all fear.

Assure us, once again, Father of the grace that we need to walk the path that You have for each of us.

Narrow our focus from this world’s wide roads to the smaller roads of Your will, O God.

Center us, O Lord, in the midst of Your will for us. Help us to know the peace that living in Your will brings.

Elevate Your kingdom, Father, as You make us to be who You want us to be, so that Your kingdom will come, and come quickly!

         In the name of Your Son, our assurance of salvation and life, we pray. Amen!

The Path Continues…

Presence…

Smith Mountain Lake Sunrise-Lanny Dejarnette

(photo-Lanny Dejarnette)

(an acrostic prayer)

Precious Lord, Heavenly Father, we come to worship in the spirit of Your holiness this hour.

Remove the guilt of our sins, O God, as we confess our sins to You even now. Accept our pleas and intercessions, dear Father.

Enter into our souls, Father, to guide, to prepare and to cleanse us as we wait on You. Thank You for Your presence here with us.

Shower us, once again, with Your mercy and grace that we might live in Your presence daily, O God.

Empty us of ourselves, our own presence, and fill us with Your Holy Spirit that we may be useful in Your kingdom’s work today.

Never alone are the least of Your children, Father. May we feel and know Your loving presence in order to share it with others today.

Create in us clean hearts today, O God, as we worship that we might use those clean hearts to bring others to You.

Enthralled, we are, O Father, that You would love enough to save us and to redeem us by the blood of Your Son. With thankfulness and praise we welcome Your presence today.

In the name of the only presence that fills, forgives and saves, we pray! Amen!!

The Path Continues...

Out of Plumb…

plumb bob

(an acrostic prayer)

Only out of the abundance of Your love and mercy, dear God, have we made our way into Your presence to worship You!

Unto You, and You alone, is due our praise, Father! We have been too long leaning into ourselves. We have become undone.

Take us into Your care, O God, for we have failed in our own attempts to remain upright and plumb with You, Father.

Open, once again, to us the splendor and wonder of Your word as we earnestly come to listen. May Your Spirit, lead, guide and test us today as we come under Your will.

Forgive our foolishness in setting ourselves up as the plumb line for our lives. May we kneel again in Your presence to find Your will for our lives.

Plumb the depths of our hearts and soul as we wait upon You this hour, Father.  Help us to see where we need Your correction.

Lift us from the miry clay of our crumbling foundation and set us on the true foundation of Your word.

Under the shadow of death we stand, Father. We confess we are not what You want us to be. We long to be under Your wings of mercy and love, Father.

Measure us, Father. Inspect our hearts and search our souls to see if there is any useful part and purge those parts that are out of plumb with You, O God.

Be the guardian of our ways, O Lord! We need Your mercy and grace to keep us in Your will, Father. We thank You for hearing us as we pray.

          We prayer in the name of Your plumb line, even Jesus Christ. Amen!

The Path Continues…

Father God…

Emily Drake Tree and Sky

(photo by Emily Drake)

(an acrostic prayer)

Father God, ruler of all creation and lover of all created beings, we come to say, “we love You, Father.”

After all that has happened in this world, You still sent Your son to redeem us and to save us. We say, “Thank You, Father.”

Take us from where we are to where You want us to be as we study Your word together, Father. May we submit to Your authority, O God.

Hover over us, Father, as a bird would hover over its young to provide the needed sustenance and to protect us from the evil one and ourselves.

Empty us of our self-centered attitudes that see ourselves as gods and replace it with Your spirit of love, joy and peace.

Reveal Yourself in the faces and lives of those people that we come into contact with this week, O God. May we see You as we journey on Your path.

Go before us, Lord. We long to follow, in our best times, that is. We need Your hand to come alongside us to reveal Your will and path.

Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, that we may see as You see, and having seen, Father, help us to allow You to flow from us to those that are seen.

Develop in us a real sense of Your leading beside still waters in paths of righteousness for Your names sake, O God.

         In the name that is above every name, we pray. Amen!

The Path Continues…

Refiner’s Fire…

Gloria Scott Sunset-MArch 13 2013 copy
(photo: Gloria Scott)
(an acrostic prayer)

Reigning King of Kings, Lord of Lords, God the Father, Son and Spirit, we come worshipping You today in this time and this place.

Enter into our time, even now, to refine us through the reading, hearing and understanding of Your Word.

Find us faithful, Father, as we seek Your cleansing and renewing, for we come confessing our sins to You today.

In-flow in us, by the power of Your Spirit, the needed refreshing and refine us through Your presence, O God.

Needy, we are needy of Your mercy, Father, for we have failed to not be of this world this week. Please forgive us!

Envelope us, as a fire envelopes its fuel, and make us stronger for Your use in Your kingdom’s work here in this world.

Refine us as You remove the impurities from us, Father and make us pure in Your sight through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Send us from our worship into a time of acting on our worship that shows our refining to those people on our path today, Father.

Forgive those times when we know Your will and yet decline to do Your will, O God!

Illuminate our path in such a way that we see what You see, who You see, and what You want us to do as we go.

Refine our attitudes that we may be more like You in love, peace, joy and patience to all Your children, Father.

Enter us into Your refiner’s fire as You bid us come and walk in it with You. Thank You, Father, for loving us enough to want to refine us.

We pray, earnestly, in Jesus’ name, Father. Amen!

The Path Continues…