Denise Day Spencer

February 23, 2012

Holy Week drama: “Voices”

Filed under: Creative Ministries — denisedayspencer @ 2:56 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything related to creative ministries, and we’re now officially in the season of Lent. Some of you may be looking for short, simple skits appropriate for worship. Below are the dramas I wrote for our school’s 2011 Holy Week services. You are welcome to use any or all; just give me a byline, please. I hope you find these helpful. We had a lot of fun with them.

Holy Week drama “Voices,” by Denise Day Spencer
Monday: James, the disciple

EMCEE: Welcome to our game show, “Voices!” Our contestants will be people from the life and time of Jesus Christ. Their goal will be to identify the voices of people from their lives—from only one sentence. Sound easy? It may be more difficult than you think. (more…)

December 24, 2011

“I wanna see Jesus”

Filed under: Devotional Life — denisedayspencer @ 11:20 pm

Our little church was decorated beautifully for Christmas Eve Mass. Poinsettias around the Tabernacle, oil lanterns on the small shelves by the windows, golden drapes, and an elaborate crèche in front of the altar. The crowd was small but reverent. All, that is, save one.

The three-year-old soon became restless. He got noisy enough that his mommy decided he needed to leave the premises, at least for a while. The priest was giving his homily and the young mother did her best to hustle the child out the door as quickly and quietly as possible. But her plans were thwarted when the little boy bellowed, “I wanna see Jesus!”

Mommy stopped in her tracks when Father Pat interrupted himself to call out the child’s name. “Rocker?” (No, I am not making this up. His name is Rocker.) “Do you want to see Jesus? It’s all right; you can come up here and see Jesus. I’ll just keep talking, OK?” And as Father preached on, Rocker and his mother approached the crèche. She knelt down next to him and he studied the tableau for a long time. At last, satisfied for the moment, he returned to his seat.

The Mass continued and I heard these words in the Preface: “…For on the feast of this awe-filled mystery, though invisible in his own divine nature, he has appeared visibly in ours…” He has appeared. The invisible has become visible. For the first time, we can see him.

I wish I could tell you Rocker was a cheerful cherub through the rest of the service, but it was past his bedtime. He finally had a toddler meltdown and was whisked away — this time all the way away. I wish I could tell you that when we see Jesus it so changes our lives that we always obey him gladly. But we, too, have our meltdowns. We disappoint Jesus, others and ourselves. Yet we return to the manger because His love draws us, and because we are filled with wonder. The invisible made visible. May we always say with Rocker, “I want to see Jesus.”


November 2, 2011

All Souls Day

Filed under: poetry — denisedayspencer @ 1:50 pm

For all the souls I pray, but one the most.
In name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost
my words rise through autumn’s chill.

I loved you with my dreams, my youthful hope,
my joys, my fears, my sorrows, but now those
days are gone, and here I kneel.

I cannot touch you now, or feel your breath
or speak to you, embrace, or smile, and yet
through my prayers I love you still.

June 24, 2011

An open letter to Charlie

Filed under: Personal reflections — denisedayspencer @ 9:11 pm

Dear Charlie,

It was good to see you and your family Sunday. I’m so glad you could all come for Silas’ baptism. It was a wonderful, joyous day. And yet the tears that sprang to my eyes when the water was being poured over Silas’ small head were tears of sorrow. We stood there — you, Rose, me, all the rest. But where was Michael?

Michael would have so loved to have been there. He would have talked about it, written about it, recorded a podcast about it. He would have been beaming. He’d have sung the hymns especially loudly, his eyes turned upward as they did when he sang. We would have been proud of Silas together.

Michael’s missing out on a lot of things lately, isn’t he? The evening Silas was born tears stung my eyes then, too, as Ryan carried our brand, new grandson into the hospital nursery. It was such a moment of joy mingled with pain. When Noel told her dad she was pregnant the first time, he was days away from death. I ached as I watched him clap his hands for the grandchild he knew he would never see. “I wish you could be here,” I said. He answered with confidence, “Oh, I’ll be right there.” I suppose I had hoped that when Silas was born I might feel Michael’s presence in some way, if just for a fleeting moment. But I was only aware of his glaring absence as you and Rose put your arms around each other at the nursery window. (more…)

April 4, 2011

One-year anniversary

Filed under: Personal reflections,poetry — denisedayspencer @ 8:26 pm

Michael, you always said you thought that when we died we’d be amazed at how close heaven and earth had been all along, and we just didn’t realize it.
No, we don’t realize it. How can we?

Dark Side

I hold your shirt to my face and breathe in your scent.
Where was it that you went
that day?
You forgot to pack before you went away.

I take your books from off the shelf, the pages worn.
You loved the words, the lore
of each.
But now your story takes you beyond my reach.

I gaze at the nearest foothills, past muddy fields.
A search beyond would yield
‘Tis not in woods or earth your spirit takes wing.

I wonder at the brightness of the burning sun.
If I could to it run
or fly,
not in its heat would you see His majesty.

Where are you? Is it as they say, or do shadows
fall around you high, low,
black hues
stilling your voice and now keeping Him from view?

I stand with face upturned, survey the midnight stars.
The answer comes with tears,
and soon.
I am the one on the dark side of the moon.

March 18, 2011

“A Path Through Suffering – Discovering the Relationship Between God’s Mercy and Our Pain,” by Elisabeth Elliot

Filed under: Book review — denisedayspencer @ 7:47 pm

Instead of writing about grief I’ve decided to do something different and write about books on grief. You’re still not getting much of a break from this, are you? Sorry; it’s where my life is these days.

I’ve been reading books on grief over the past year and I thought it might be helpful to post some reviews. My plan is to write these in the order in which I read the books. First up is Elisabeth Elliot’s A Path Through Suffering — Discovering the Relationship Between God’s Mercy and Our Pain, Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, MI 1990.

The backdrop to this book is John 12:24 — “A grain of wheat remains a solitary grain unless it falls to the ground and dies; but if it dies, it bears a rich harvest.” Elliot says, “There is a necessary link between suffering and glory.”

Each chapter of this book begins with an excerpt from Lilias Trotter’s Parables of the Cross and Parables of the Christ-Life. Throughout A Path Through Suffering are black and white reproductions of Trotter’s watercolors of desert plant life. The plant imagery works well as Elliot speaks of suffering as a form of spiritual pruning, new life being birthed from the death of the old and springtime always coming no matter how severe the winter.

Elliot’s underlying assumption for her book is detailed in the first chapter when she tells of her two-year-old daughter, Valerie, learning to sing “Jesus Loves Me” and asking if Jesus had loved her daddy. When Elliot answered “yes,” the inevitable question followed. Then why did God let the Auca Indians kill him? “I did not know all God’s reasons…” Elliot confessed. “But that He had reasons, I was sure. That they were loving reasons I was also sure. The assurance that it was not for nothing comforted me and I gave peace to my child.”

She draws on stories from the lives of many Christians who have endured suffering for the glory of God, including Joan Andrews, Amy Carmichael, Walter Ciszek and others from Elliot’s personal life. A Path Through Suffering is firmly grounded in Biblical principles, with liberal references to scriptural heroes of the faith as well.

I found this to be a good book on suffering in general, and it was definitely helpful to me in my grief. Elliot encouraged me to hang onto the belief that God had a purpose for events I could never possibly understand. She reminded me that our God is One who can and does bring life out of death — something I desperately needed to hear as I began, ever so slowly, facing life without my Michael.

February 1, 2011

Just moments

Filed under: Personal reflections — denisedayspencer @ 6:48 pm

I am in our school’s dining hall. A faculty member asks another teacher if he can borrow a plastic tub to take some sweet potatoes home to his wife. “She really loves sweet potatoes,” he says. Such a simple act of lovingkindness. I recall how often we’d be traveling and Michael would come out of the convenience store with something for me that I hadn’t asked for — a candy bar, an oatmeal cake — just because he knew I liked it.

A friend sits down to eat supper with her husband. I overhear her telling him all about her doctor’s appointment that day. I realize that now if I have health problems or concerns, there’s no one who will care quite like a spouse cares.

I learn that a friend has lost his mother. My very first thought is, “I’ve got to tell Michael right away. He’ll want to know about this.” He’s been gone nine and a half months and a part of me is still in denial.

I’m talking with a student. She asks, “When you were my age, did you ever wonder sometimes if you’d ever get married?” I began to make some reference to before I began dating Mr. Spencer and it suddenly hits me: “Mr. Spencer” is just a name to her. She’s never known him. All around me this school year are students who’ve never known him. The kids loved him so; how can they not know him now?

I see a younger couple quarreling. I want to grab them by the shoulders and yell, “Every minute of your marriage is precious! Don’t waste even one!”

A Facebook friend posts a photo of himself with his wife. Middle age is being kind to them; they make a handsome couple. I can’t resist. I comment, “Enjoy these years.”

Another Facebook friend enters a thread in which folks are wishing her husband well on his birthday. She adds a mere four words that capture her heart: “Happy birthday, my love.” I wonder if they will have a special dinner at home that evening or if they will go out. What flavor cake did she bake for him? Will her card be funny or romantic? When the dishes are cleared away will they make love?

Such are the moments that make up my life.



January 10, 2011

53 and holding

Filed under: Personal reflections — denisedayspencer @ 4:53 pm

When someone doesn’t want to acknowledge aging with another birthday, she often picks an age and claims to be holding there. Generally it’s a number ending in “9.” But for me the number is 53.

Maybe I’ve always been inexplicably drawn to the number 53. As a child, I was always making cards for people. Actually, I still do that. Anyway, it started in childhood. For some reason I still remember the card I made for my grandmother on her 53rd birthday. I put “53! 53! 53!” all over the front of the card. Inside I printed an original poem that began, “Bet you’ve always wanted to be the just-right age of 53!” It never dawned on me that a grownup might not be as excited as I was about growing older — and may not appreciate having her new age plastered all across the card. I didn’t truly believe 53 was a just-right age; it was her age and that’s what made it great to me. (I confess I was not so enamored with 53 when that was my birthday last year.)

This past year 53 has come to be a special age for me once more, because Michael was 53 when he died. Now to me he will be forever 53. And today I turned 54.


January 2, 2011

The year the magic died

Filed under: Home Front,Personal reflections — denisedayspencer @ 11:05 am

It’s time for reflection on Christmas 2010–my first Christmas without Michael.

Christmas is such a time for memories, and 31 years of marriage left me with memories galore. Like our very first Christmas, when we bought a real tree and Michael had to trim off the lowest twigs to make it fit in the stand and he chopped his thumb to the bone with the carving knife. We never forgot my taking him to the ER for those seasonal stitches. And like that same year when Michael wanted to do stockings but he bought everything except the stocking so he crammed the stuff into a brown paper bag he labeled “Christmas Bag” with a ballpoint pen. I saved that precious little bag for years, and would give anything to have it now. (more…)

November 26, 2010

Magical Mistoffelees

Filed under: Home Front — denisedayspencer @ 8:28 pm

In the past year I have lost three cats and one husband — not exactly in that order. Since I’ve written a lot about my husband, today I’d like to write about one of the cats. I write about one and not two or all three not because I didn’t care for them all, but because the one had such an interesting — at times even bizarre — life.

His name was “Mistoffelees.” Not “Mephistopheles,” as some misunderstood the name to be. He was named after the “Mr. Mistoffelees” in T. S. Eliot ‘s poetry book, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Even more specifically, he was named after the “Magical Mr. Mistoffelees” of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Cats. Just in case you don’t know, Webber’s Cats is based on the felines in Eliot’s book of poems.

When Clay was in the fourth grade we made a family trip to Memphis to see Cats on stage. Magical Mr. Mistoffelees is described as “quiet and small; he is black from the ears to the tip of his tail…” He is called “the original conjuring cat” because in addition to being able to do card tricks and make things disappear, “His voice has been heard on the roof when he was curled up by the fire, and he’s sometimes been heard by the fire when he was about on the roof.” (more…)

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