peace in the whirlwind

Phyllis - El Monte, California
Entered on July 28, 2008

There my mother laid in the coffin. As a four year old I reached out to her familiar face and shouted “mommy, wake up, mommy wake up”. Someone grabbed me roughly and pulled me away as i cried and covered my face filled with flooding tears.

From that moment in May, 1949 I knew that i would find peace in the whirlwind. There was no father but there was the husband of my dead mother who was known as the town alcoholic of Custer, South Dakota. He proved to be a nightmare in my midst. Somehow peace in the whirlwind comforted my survival tenacity, as my mother at death age of 32 had been a fragile, victimized rural South Dakotan second generation German immigrant.

No one took charge of my four year old self and two years later at age 6 years I weighed 25 pounds appearing like a prison camp orphan. Somehow, for two years I survived by finding food in garbage cans and at times living with a very elderly couple and foster homes where I was given left-over food that the families left on their plates

Peace in the whirlwind was ever present and at six years old, miraculously, a couple whose wife was the sister of my dead mother’s husband adopted me. The judge presiding asked me “do you want this couple to be your parents and do you want to have the name Tyler?” “Double yes,” i said, “double yes!”

Peace in the whirlwind followed my spirit when i chose to join the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March with Dr Martin King, Jr. Even though my adopted mother told me that if I chose to march with Dr King, I would not be her daughter. I chose to march. Peace in the whirlwind accompanied my coming of age and taking the consequences.

Following college years and masters degree in United Methodist seminary the hierarchy of church in 1971 told me “you can not be a married woman, have children and be ordained in the United Methodist Church.” I defied their proclamation, married, give birth to two sons and pastored congregations for 38 years as I continue to do so today. Peace in the whirlwind accompanied me.

Thirty years of marriage and the decision to leave that marriage brought about a wrestling with health or faithfulness and I chose what I saw as health. Peace amidst the whirlwind prevailed the decision to move along.

Peace in the whirlwind continues to this day as senior pastor of a pan-Asian congregation. Peace amdist the whirlwind grew within me when I supported a Chinese congregation meeting in our facility while the Japanese-American leaders threaten to leave because of remembering historical atrocities. The crisis passed. My personal support of a Japanese-American Lt Watada who challenged the legality of the Iraq war by refusing to be deployed brought the threat again of the Japanese-American leaders leaving the church. Peace amidst the whirlwind was given once again in the circumstances.

Peace in the whirlwind is the assurance that no matter what the circumstance outside myself, God’s Spirit will steady my frightened and shaken self. No circumstance nor power nor pain will take away the peace in the whirlwind.

This I believe.