Remembering Bonnie Blair (1940-2023)

Our MainStreet Covenant matriarch and church grandma, Bonnie Blair, has gone to be with her Lord and Savior, and reunited with her husband and daughter in Heaven. She will be missed but is at rest and free from her suffering. Someday she will rise in glory and enjoy the unfathomable beauty and magnificence of the coming New Creation.

Let me share some of my favorite memories of Bonnie and her significant role she played in the life of our church. She was one of those quiet, behind the scenes saints who did seemingly small things with a big heart and impact we’ll only know in eternity. She started out serving on our coffee team as we were just launching the church at the Gillespie Center. She spent years sending birthday cards to every member of the church, and every new visitor in the early days got a hand written card in the mail thanking them for visiting our church. She led a cookie decorating station at our Advent Festival for years. Bonnie is famous for her cakes she baked with great care and love and creativity for every church family celebration.

“It’s gonna be marvelous!”

Bonnie’s kind and compassionate heart went far beyond the walls of the church. She always had a spare bedroom in her house for people struggling along and needing a place to live. She went on multiple mission trips to Romania before joining our church, and she loved to show us pictures and tell stories of her adventures over there and the people she so dearly loved. She volunteered at Sojourn Adult Program leading arts and crafts, and spent time each week reading stories at Lake Minnetonka Shores. As her kids put it, “Mom has helped so many throughout her life, we would need to write a book to do her justice.”

Bonnie loved all of our children and spent many Christmas Eve services reading a children’s story to the kids as they licked their candy canes and squirmed about. She was a masterful storyteller and narrator, and that meant we asked Bonnie to read the Scripture at all the most important services such as our Charter Sunday and of course the Gospel Reading on every Easter. When Bonnie could no longer get to services, either due to her health and mobility challenges, or because we were isolated during Covid-19 lockdown, I would bring my video camera to Bonnie and record her reading the Scripture for us to enjoy.

Bonnie loved her big dog “Bear” and was heartbroken when they had to part ways a couple years ago. She was a lover of nature and her house was filled with plants and flowers. If Bonnie had a weakness it was that she refused to give up on living things–both vegetative and sentient. I’m quite certain she was doctoring plants, propping up broken stems, and trying to revive plants that others would have given up on long ago. That’s a pretty strong and forgivable weakness to carry.

What’s amazing is that everything I’ve shared about Bonnie thus far, including all that she did for us and meant to us, was done in her 70s-80s. I can only imagine all the fun stories and remarkable impact she had on the churches she served and belonged to in her prime! She shared some of those stories with me and was so proud of rag-tag, somewhat difficult youth she helped love on for many years at Mound Assembly of God Church.

“Death can’t hurt you, if you got God.”

For me, I will always cherish my visits and chats at Bonnie’s kitchen table, trying to hold a conversation while her dog brushed his wet snout against my leg. We once shared communion at that table, and its the closest I’ve come to having a four-footed creature join in the holy sacrament. Speaking of communion, in her last days at Waconia Hospital I had one more chance to share the Lord’s Supper with her. When I had visited a couple days earlier, she was unresponsive and never woke. So, on my drive over I prayed that I would find her awake and alert and present so we could share one more special time of communion and conversation. Prayers answered!

I shared this special time with her daughter Julia, and while Bonnie could not formulate sentences, we could tell she was hearing every Scripture read and every word spoken. I could tell she was trying her best to testify to God’s goodness and share how faithful God has been to her. We anointed her head with oil for healing, and Julia got to serve her the bread and juice. “Mmmm, that’s sweet!” she said of the cup of the Lord. I thought to myself, “She has no idea how very sweet its going to be when she’s face to face with Jesus soon.” After some more Scripture and chatting, she pointed to the bread and cup again and said, “Let’s get to it.” “Oh, you want seconds?” I asked. “I don’t think the Lord would mind.” So Bonnie was doubly blessed that day at the Lord’s Table. And we’ve all been doubly, triply, manifoldly blessed for having had Bonnie in our lives.

The Scripture the Lord gave me for ministering to Bonnie in her last days, feeling weak and helpless and frustrated, was from Song of Songs 2. Bonnie never struck me as gushing with gooey sentimentality, and I doubt she spent her weekends reading sappy romance novels. She had an earthier and grittier kind of love, a love with gardening gloves on. But I sensed in her last days it was time for her to be romanced a bit by her long-time Lord and Savior, Jesus. No longer able to “do stuff” for the Lord, I encouraged Bonnie to simply be the object of God’s affection and activity. I said, “Your gardening days are over. It’s time now for you to let God be the Gardener and for you to simply rest in the happy thought that you are God’s precious garden, you are his delightful flower. Rest, close your eyes, and let him water you with His grace.”

Here’s the words I read to her each time I visited, sometimes when she was awake, and other times while she slept. It’s a conversation between her and Christ, her Heavenly bridegroom and lover of her soul:

10 My beloved spoke and said to me,
    “Arise, my darling,
    my beautiful one, come with me.
11 See! The winter is past;
    the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
    the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.”

… show me your face,
    let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
    and your face is lovely.

16 My beloved is mine and I am his;
    he browses among the lilies.
17 Until the day breaks
    and the shadows flee…

(Song of Songs 2:10-17)

For Bonnie, the Day has now broke and all of the shadows of this life have flown. Bonnie’s favorite Bible verse was Isaiah 40:31 and she is now experiencing the reality she so loved to read about. “Those who wait for the Lord’s help find renewed strength; they will rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they will run without growing weary, they will walk without getting tired.”

Let me share a Pastoral Letter I wrote to Bonnie on October 1, 2020, in the thick of Covid-19 and which I entitled “Kitchen Table Temple.”

Dearest Bonnie—grandmother in the LORD:

I hope this letter finds you happily back home, healing in body and encouraged in soul, scratching your big Bear and watching the leaves turn and fall from your kitchen window. I have always seen autumn as a bleak season of death, but just this week Pastor Mike Fox gave a more positive spin on this beautiful season by calling it “nature’s retirement and well- earned rest after a hard season of fruitful labor.” I now imagine those leaves falling down like giddy empty nesters heading south for the winter!

Well, I’m writing pastoral letters this fall, and trying to connect MainStreeters to various Bible characters they may resemble in some ways. I have chosen the prophetess Anna for you, and hope you don’t think I chose her simply because “she was very old” (2:36)! Though age in Bible times was a badge of honor and something to flaunt, not hide. Nevertheless, you are our honored MainStreet Matriarch and our most senior member (I think). Here’s the passage:

“There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:36-38).

You and Anna are also both long-time widows, whose husbands passed far too soon. Have you been widowed longer than you were married? Let’s praise God you had more than seven years together, unlike Anna. Still, these circumstantial similarities are not what I want to dwell on. No, I actually want to talk about your kitchen table. Let me explain.

Bonnie, every time I have come to your home, I find you in the same exact spot in the exact same chair at the same old table near the kitchen window. Alongside your little piles of mail can be found your well-worn Bible—usually open. Maybe its just coincidence, and maybe when I’m not there you are flitting around the house all day long, enjoying different rooms and chairs. But in my imagination and experience, you are just like Anna the predictable prophetess:

“Anna never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (2:37).

And likewise:

Bonnie never left the kitchen table but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying in that chair.

I know the past couple years have been long and hard for you, and you haven’t even been able to get to church much anymore. While I think about you often, and get weekly updates from Mona on your health, I honestly don’t find myself worrying about you. Perhaps I should, but until very recently, I could always bet I’d find you sitting content in the LORD’s presence at your kitchen table temple all day (but hopefully not all night!), in casual ongoing conversation with God, reading Scripture and writing cards, looking after Bear and the boys, and offering a silent sacrifice of praise up to God for all the simple gifts in life.

I never knew the more youthful Bonnie who would dissect animals on that same kitchen table for the neighborhood kids to learn anatomy, but I’ve seen the photos and that’s pretty close to a levitical priestly sacrifice! I’m guessing even in your most active and on-the-go years, you always had a special appreciation for the little blessings and natural beauty of God’s creation. You have a knack for slowing down to smell the roses—and tulips and geraniums and lilies and daisies and lilacs and…that’s the extent of my botany vocabulary.

What could possibly allow Anna to find contentment remaining in that Temple for 40 or 50 or 60 odd years—day and night? I suspect it was because she found God’s presence and beauty shining through every ordinary brick or sacrifice or worshiper or ritual she observed there. I have observed you similarly find the greatest joy and fascination in God’s fingerprints on a blossoming plant (was it a Jack in the pulpit?) or the changing of the seasons, or a story well told or a stray animal or roomer you take into your home.

You don’t need to “go to church” when all creation is singing God’s praises. Right there from your table temple and kitchen sanctuary you can join in creation’s chorus as “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).

Bonnie, I am so glad you are back home in your little sanctuary on Eastview Road, and I will pray that you continue to find your kitchen to be “filled with the knowledge of the LORD’s glory, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). I will always cherish the memory of visiting with you and recording you for my Easter sermon last spring. I have a precious photo of you sitting in your “kitchen pew,” a contemplative look on your face, and your Bible open under your folded hands. You’re even donning your “priestly” purple bath robe! It’s a gem.

Thank you for all the prayers you have prayed and the cards you have penned at that table. May you know that God’s angels will follow you wherever you lay your head. Whether you’re at home, or in Delano, or wherever, may you find yourself, like Jacob, continually exclaiming: “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven” (Gen 28:16-17)! May God bless you with his peace, presence and healing in these days!

Your favorite pastor,


Let’s let Bonnie have the last word. She was not afraid to die. She longed to be reunited with her husband and daughter and others in Heaven. Her faith was solid as rock and she never wavered in her hope in Christ and the resurrection. That’s why my Easter sermon during that dark and death-drenched year of 2020 found me wandering around a cemetery, talking about death very honestly. Tucked away in the middle of that meaningful sermon is a precious interview with Bonnie, asking her to tell us about how she has navigated death in her own life.

As we prepare for Bonnie’s graveside burial service on June 3 at 1:00pm at Mt. Nebo Cemetery in Hewitt, MN, I invite you to watch this message again in its entirety, or at least skip to the 7 minute mark to hear Bonnie speak about her thoughts on death and her faith in her resurrected Savior. Below that, a bonus video of Bonnie reading Scripture on Christmas Eve 2020.

We love you Bonnie! See you soon.

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