Jesus: I’m Back! Did You Miss Me?

I think it’s fair to say that this Easter will be like no other, and I would like to think of that as a good thing – eventually – hopefully. God has stripped away all the non-essentials: new outfits, haircuts, a review of proper behavioral expectations for the kids at church, and “how to stay awake” for adults. Making up tiny sins suitable to hide the deeper embarrassing stuff for the annual confession – not needed.

Oh yeah, and the relatives you can’t stand that your mother always guilted you into including on the Easter dinner invites – not necessary, either. You’ll be dining alone (and you might want to work on that hate issue of yours).

You take a deep breath and realize what’s left. Ready? Jesus and you. AWKWARD! It’s okay. He doesn’t bite. No matter what your third-grade teacher told you.

So, how about we take a new look with fresh eyes at the events of this Easter week? It was a week that revealed humanity at its best and worst. What might that mean for us today?

We begin with Palm Sunday. Those crowds were lovin’ on Jesus the Prophet on his way to becoming their anticipated King who would finally save them. Christ was celebrated as the One who would bring his people out of captivity. They were enthralled with him. The cheering was almost deafening, sorta like opening day at Busch Stadium. But, remember, these were his faithful followers, and it was all palms and rose petals.

Then it all went sideways as he went to Jerusalem to encounter a not-so-supportive crowd. What a different picture, huh? Here he’s among the political elite, the leaders of the temple, who know enough about him by now to hate him.

Now he is stirring up more anger than a crowd rush for toilet paper on the opening day of coronavirus mania! So, the chief priests and elders meet to plot against him. They know they have to get him away from his faithful followers first. “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.” (Matthew 26: 3-5).

And how about those disciples who vowed never to leave him at the height of his ministry? We know James and John made it clear they wanted to have an honored place next to him when he came into his glory (Mark 10:35-37). Perhaps the rest thought they already had that favored position all sewn up. But then they all scattered and ran for cover when he was taken away to be crucified. “This is not what we signed up for!”

In very short order, He was convicted and dragged before an angry crowd who screamed for his crucifixion, and they probably didn’t even know why. How many do you suppose just got caught up in the moment and didn’t realize until afterward what they had participated in – the torture and murder of an innocent man they would later discover was PRETTY SPECIAL?

Then at the Cross on Good Friday, we watch horrified as Jesus suffers an unspeakable death, and his mother suffers in silence.

On Saturday, the waiting begins as we are called to silently contemplate what has happened. But we already know that his glorious resurrection is coming, and peace on earth will prevail. At least, we used to believe that. But that truth seems to have been morphed by fear and the unknown this year. So, maybe this day will be spent like all the rest these past few weeks trying to numb ourselves to what we imagine is coming: watch TV (which only fuels that fear), take a nap, eat, drink, wash hands – repeat.

Where’s the peace in all that? We usually only have the capacity to think our hearts are at peace when everything is perfect: our relationships are perfect, our kids are perfect, and the mother-in-law moved away (oops, not nice). But even, or especially in these times when fear will try to overwhelm you, don’t let that happen! God is ready to prove to you that you are stronger, braver, and more resilient than you ever imagined! (Which will come in handy when your mother-in-law has to move back in with you).

As Alan Cohen tells us in his book, A Course in Miracles Made Easy, “No person, group, situation, or condition has the power to take away your happiness. NO ONE. NO THING. NEVER. The experience of joy is your God-given right. People can try to remove your happiness, but they cannot remove your peace unless you give them that power.”

So, there you go. Unlike the disciples, we don’t need to hide or be anxious about the future. Surely, they all sat with regret knowing they did the unthinkable by abandoning Jesus and running away. Aside from Peter and Judas, we don’t know what was going through their heads. Did they wish they could have a do-over? I would think they must have. That’s the beauty of second chances. After Jesus invited them to a fish fry, they were all on fire to serve the God they now knew as unfailing love and mercy, especially Peter, the hater, turned lover of Jesus, turned coward, turned forgiven, turned martyr for his now unshakable love of Christ. Whew!

I think I read somewhere that at that fish fry, Jesus recalled to them the Last Supper, “Hey guys remember the great time we had then?” – since they all seemed to have forgotten. “Remember how I washed your nasty feet?” Then he reiterated his call to them to love one another (John 13:34). “And just so we’re clear…that was not a suggestion.” I wonder if any of them choked on their food at that point.

Now, what about us? Here we are, kind of like the disciples, in the midst of what is surely one of the most uncertain times of our lives. And, funny thing, God is still here, still loving and merciful and compassionate. But where are we? Big question.

How many of us have been running from him all our lives? Oh sure, we have been going through the motions of being a “Christian,” mostly to impress others. But what have we done as Christ’s followers? How have we been Christ to others?

Today, maybe more than ever, we need to let the light of the Risen Christ shine in and through us for those who are lost and alone, not just in their homes but in the very depth of their hearts. That is God’s hope and greatest longing. “Look,” He says on Easter morning, “I never left you, and I never will. So, stop trying to hide from me. Let’s sit together and get to know each other. What else do you have to do? You’ve cleaned your house and straightened your sock drawer so many times you’ve lost count. Just sayin’.”

Galway Kinnell says, “Sometimes it’s necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.” I think that’s what God is trying to do with us, so we can pass it on to others who have become frozen with fear. Living into the truth of our loveliness will allow others to do the same. Just imagine what beauty, joy, and peace would be created for this world’s future?!

THIS IS OUR TIME. THIS IS OUR CALL TO LOVE! AND WHO KNOWS BUT THAT WE WERE CREATED FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS (Esther 4:14).

AMEN AND HALLELUJAH!

THIS IS GONNA BE EPIC!!

HAVE A BLESSED AND JOYOUS EASTER, EVERYONE!

All You Need is Love – dootdadododo

The world offers many different expressions of love: “I love mint chocolate chip ice cream!” (Actually, that’s true.) “I love your new car!” “I love shopping!” Love can be humorous, as when Miss Piggy floats across a field of flowers, heart beating wildly, feeling weak in the knees, stomach all a-flutter, shrieking, “Ohhhhhh, Kermie!”

Worldly love can come with no expectations or commitments: “I used to love you when you were thin and had more hair!” or, “Well, I could have loved you, but your ex-wife got all your money, and, well, I have needs!” or, “You didn’t tell me I had to love your kids too!”

That kind of love can be found merely by seeking our own desires, which we believe no one has a right to deny us, and it’s just as rewarding to love things as people. But, unfortunately, that mentality devours childhood innocence, destroys relationships, shrugs off compassion, and muddies the pure waters of selfless love. As long as we seek love from the things of this world, we will always come up lost and empty for our efforts.

How do so many of us get it so wrong so often? Perhaps it’s because our meager understanding of love is based on our personal, human experiences. I often ask myself, “Self, what is your problem? Why do you struggle so much? Why can’t you let go of your past? Why is it so difficult for you to trust God, to accept his love and your inherent worth?” Perhaps my ego has been too big, my fear too overwhelming, and my God too small.

But by the grace of God, I am gradually seeing my failure to truly love and my fear of accepting love. God does not fit neatly into the image I created. He refuses to patronize me when I cry out, “Lord, Lord!” It’s as though he is saying, “Your cries are muted by your deafening indifference, Linda. Your faith is lukewarm, and, need I remind you, how I hate lukewarm?!” (Revelation 3:16)

Then, as so often happens, Richard Rohr puts it into perspective for me, “It is in doing it wrong, being rejected, and experiencing pain that we are led to total reliance upon God….God has let me do just about everything wrong, so I could fully experience how God can do everything so utterly right….If we expect or need things (including ourselves) to be perfect or even “to our liking,” we have created a certain plan for a miserable life.”

Phillip Newell tells us, “Within us – as a sheer gift of God – is the capacity to bring forth what has never been before, including what has never been imagined before. Deep within us are holy, natural longings for oneness….We may live in tragic exile from those longings, or we may have spent a whole lifetime not knowing how to truly satisfy them, but they are there at the heart of our being, waiting to be born afresh….When we love, we bring the very essence of our being into relationship with the essence of the other.” (The Rebirthing of God, p. x, xvi)

There are rare moments in my life when I experience a great and mysterious intensity. Perhaps that is the longing Newell speaks of. I recall someone else calling it those thin places where we feel God’s presence most profoundly. I can’t describe the emotions except that they are overwhelming, and somehow I know God is working in this messy heart of mine.

When I start to judge others, I sense God’s tug on my heart to “see” them as he sees them; to look beyond their actions to their hearts where He resides. The peace that it brings to my own heart is beyond words!

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

There are some attributes of love I would like to focus on: “Love suffers long” and “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.

Love suffers long

Okay. We’re already in trouble. We don’t want to suffer; we want the antidote! We want something to fix the problem. As human beings – even Christians – we really hate to suffer. Actually, many Christians believe God should protect them from suffering.

Scripture tells us of God’s deep longing for those who turn away from him. This is not a God who cannot wait to punish us for our sinfulness. Instead, he longs to lavish us with his love despite our sinfulness. Just as Jesus’ suffering and dying brought many sinners to salvation, and the apostles’ suffering and martyrdom brought others to God, our willingness to suffer well, whatever comes our way, is a witness to the power of God’s love in a broken world.

I have a friend whose marriage is terribly difficult. She has often threatened divorce. But God spoke to the depth of her heart that it was within her marriage that she would grow to be more like him. It’s easy to love a newborn baby, a tiny puppy, or the perfect mother you’ve been blessed with. But what about those imperfect people?

Do you find yourself glaring at that lump of a husband on your sofa – you know, the one who’s guzzling beer and belching show tunes – and wondering where you went wrong? Then there’s that snarky neighbor you secretly wish would fall off the face of the earth.

There always seems to be someone anxious to make messes in our lives. Can’t we do something to make him or her pay? Don’t we have the right? The answer is a simple but emphatic No!” God will handle that person, not us. Definitely not us.

Love bears all things; believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things.

When your wife comes home drunk…again, when your child is arrested on drug charges, when your cancer returns, when your aging parents make continual demands on you, who do you turn to? When you can’t lift your head off the pillow to face another day – how do you bear up, believe, hope, and endure all things? How do you go on when you cry out to God in despair but receive no answer?

You have to believe, truly believe, that the God of mercy loves you immeasurably. Nothing you suffer is lost to God’s watchful, loving care. No part of your life is without purpose. In the book of Genesis, God called Abraham to slay his beloved son Isaac. Could I have trusted God that much? No anonymous tipster in this story whispers, “Pssst, Abe! Just go along with it. He’ll stop you at the last minute. Trust me.” Nope, it didn’t happen that way, but Abraham completely trusted God.

We can find incredible stories of people who have suffered persecution and abject loss throughout history. Yet, countless people have survived the unthinkable by believing in God’s promises and trusting in his love. From the darkness of despair comes the dawn of grace.

When we can’t see God or hear him in the midst of our pain, we need to believe that his love for us is at the core of our being. “Blessed are those who suffer well and hope for things unseen, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 13:13). In suffering, we are comforted by God and, in turn, learn to comfort others.

What if Jesus’ story had been different? What if he had gone to the cross, kicking and screaming? He certainly had the right. He was being persecuted relentlessly. He had done nothing but love his Father and humankind during his life, and for that flawless behavior, he was crucified. He could have retaliated with an army of angels, but he didn’t. Instead, he was stripped, spat upon, mocked, and killed. He could have cursed his enemies to Hell. Instead, he prayed for them.

The world repaid Jesus’ love with hatred in the form of a cross. But the nails didn’t hold him there; love held him there. He chose to forgive in his final act of mercy: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). 

Jesus’ final hours speak volumes about my rejection of atonement theology. So many believe that Jesus had to die to atone for our sins. I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. I believe too many of us subscribe to the teaching that God’s anger over our sins required Jesus’ death. Doesn’t that create an image of a God bent on punishment who can’t wait for us to screw up? I keep imagining that Wack-A-Mole game. No thanks.

GOD IS LOVE…PERIOD. And because we were created in his image and loved beyond measure, we must also be that love to others. Jesus’ last command to us was to love. When did he tell us to hate, judge, and flip off that jerky neighbor? The last words out of Jesus’ mouth were to forgive, not to condemn.

My mother-in-law (God rest her beautiful soul) could offer you a perfect example of why God calls us to love. She bore the pain of losing a younger sister to cancer and the death of a beloved son. She struggled through a difficult marriage and other challenging relationships. And then I came along.

Forty-three years ago, I stood before her in a short skirt, a long wig, a seven-year-old daughter by my side, and a heathen attitude in my heart. I was self-centered and demanding. I resented the occasions when my husband would stop to see her after work. I was jealous.

For those and other reasons, she could have done what everyone else in my life had done – she could have rejected me or struck out at me. I would have understood that reaction; I was accustomed to it. But instead, she chose to love me despite my attitude. Soon I could feel myself being drawn to her. She had something I wanted, and I didn’t even know what it was. But after being in her company and experiencing her selfless love for others – and for me – I was hooked. That was the beginning of my long (still ongoing) journey of change.

If I hadn’t experienced her love first-hand, I would most likely still be self-absorbed and wearing those dreaded short skirts (probably not a good idea for a sixty-eight-year-old grandmother!). I can imagine her reunion with God, “Come on, give us a hug, Catherine! Thank you for so brilliantly dealing with that mess of a daughter-in-law of yours! Well done, my good and faithful servant…well done!” (Matthew 25:23)

 The greatest of these is love.

Scripture tells us the value that God places on love: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). love is a verb. It’s an action word. We can’t just give lip service to God’s commandment to love one another. If the action doesn’t match the words, it’s a lie. Jesus went beyond telling us that he loved us; he showed us and expects us to do the same.

How about 1 John 4:20 for a wake-up call? “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” Of course, we all know someone like that, but could we be accused of the same shortcoming?

God never promised us that his way would be easy. The Bible depicts a love unlike the worldly version: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friend” (John 15:13). How many people would you consider dying for? Hopefully, your children, your spouse, possibly other relatives (except crazy Uncle Bill), and most likely your dearest friends. Those friends would have to be your dearest ones, though! Fair-weather friends wouldn’t make the cut. How about an enemy? How about that crotchety neighbor you’ve had to contend with for years? How about that lying sneak of a co-worker who managed to get himself promoted to a job that was rightfully yours?

Although God’s love is freely given, it longs for a response. If fear holds us back, it masks who we really are. Fear clings to the old self, refuses to relinquish control, and attempts to tie the hands of the Holy Spirit.

And lest we forget, God’s sacrificial love infuses an inherent dignity in everyone! We, as Christians, have no monopoly on God. We don’t own him, and we don’t have exclusive rights to him. This isn’t a private club. We are to be instruments of his love or our response, and our faith is inadequate at best and sinful at worst.

I would like to end with a quote from a sermon on Job once given by Archibald MacLeish. He said, “Man depends on God for all things; God depends on man for one. Only man can prove that man loves God.”

So…what are you waiting for?

PROVE IT!

Jerks Who Steal Your Christmas Cheer

Oh joy! The Christmas season is upon us!

Gleefully we buy and wrap presents for everyone on our shortlist and ignore those on, you know, that other list! No sugar plums dancing in our heads because they are too filled with anger and resentments we revisit every year.

Instead of living in hopeful expectation of the coming of a Savior, we hope against hope that the one we hate so deeply would have dropped dead before we have to sit across from them at Christmas dinner yet again. In one breath, we thank God for sending his beloved Son to reveal his deep and abiding love for us, while we begrudge his creation of that so-and-so who makes our life a living hell.  

Attempts to sing any Christmas song other than “Grandma (or my brother or former friend) Got Run Over by a Reindeer” is just not going to happen. And you swear that if you hear “Fa La La” one more time you’re going to punch someone!

Christmas dredges up “stuff” that we try all year long to ignore. What is it about this season that not only brings out the best but, sadly, the worst in us? I don’t know for sure, but I believe it was intentional on God’s part. (He’s pretty clever that way.) Think about it. Other times of the year can trigger bad feelings in so many of our relationships. But, Christmas just seems to profoundly manifest our deepest feeling. Why?

What do you think is most important to God? Relationships, right? He is always about the business of teaching us how important they are: his relationship with us and ours with him and our relationships with each other. Every Christmas is supposed to remind us of a Divine Love that had to come to earth incarnated as the child Jesus so we could touch and feel it for ourselves. Whoa, that’s way too scary, so we just go to church instead. That’s easier and less demanding. Then we can hang onto our perceived righteous anger because we don’t want to let them off the hook, “I hope your Christmas sucks!”

And so, again, the need for forgiveness is upon us. Like that stupid elf on the shelf! Every morning you get up knowing it’s there somewhere, watching your every move. It is not possible to be in relationship with others without the need for forgiveness at some point in our lives. Everyone screws up. Everyone! All of us, at some time in our lives, will be called upon to forgive or to ask for forgiveness – usually both and usually often.

Of course, we can deceive ourselves into believing that we did that already. So, how will you know if you have? If the result of your forgiving or being forgiven has mended and restored that relationship you struggled in then let me throw out an AMEN AND ALLALUAHA!!! However, you will be tested again and again if it has not been, especially if that person slips again.

Forgiveness will not change the past. Period. It may not make the present more bearable or the future more hopeful if the other person refuses to accept or offer forgiveness. That’s when we can so easily revert to our stance of hating them all over again.

But forgiveness is a must, no matter the outcome, no matter the response of the other person. Usually, we have to get to Easter to be reminded of Jesus’ last words on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Come on, we’re just as guilty as anyone else of doing something stupid and unforgivable. It’s human nature. That’s why God has to forgive us over and over again. I suppose he does roll his eyes and smack his forehead while asking the proverbial question, “What were you thinking?!”

But he still forgives because he is well aware of our incessant and unremitting screw-ups. He accepts all our foils if he knows we are doing our best. He loves us despite ourselves. I’m not sure how we can think for one moment that we can get away with giving anyone else grief for their sinfulness. Perhaps we all need to be reminded of the following scripture – A LOT!

Matthew 18:21-19:1 (loose translation), “Peter, all smug and sure of himself, asked the Lord how many times he is expected to forgive the dimwits in his life. He picked a number out of the air that he thought Jesus would agree to. How about seven? But Jesus rebuked him, “NOPE, wanna try again?”

Oh boy, I feel a parable coming on. Jesus told Peter about the king who lined his servants up and demanded they settle their debts with him. All but one holdout did. He thought he could hedge his bets that the king would forgive him if he groveled enough, and amazingly he did.

In a sudden lapse of memory, the servant ran into a guy who owed him money and demanded it back just like the king. The other guy begged him to give him more time. But, unlike the king, he refused and threw him into jail. The king got wind of it – oops, busted. He rescinded the jerk’s forgiven debt and threw him in jail too. There, take that, moron!

So, what about you? Is there a relationship you need to mend this Christmas? I believe the most challenging struggle we have is when we are in a close relationship with someone, and we can’t avoid it. The anger or hurt is always before us; if their attitude is indifference, we struggle even more. Our hurts are like open sores that never heal. So, instead of seeing the good that person may do, we forever carry around our “Jerk Meter”. AHA! There she goes again! Great! –now I’ll be up all night again. Just me at my pity party with my “Jerk Meter.”

Perhaps a quote I am constantly reminded of may help you move toward forgiveness: “Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you the way you have hurt me.” (Author unknown). And here is an excellent blog about forgiveness: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-maintain-a-relationship-with-a-loved-one-who-has-hurt-you/

Finally, my prayer for everyone, especially those who harbor past hurts and pain, is that you will see the Love of God anew. A Love meant to be carried into a hurting and broken world by us. So, instead of just stepping in the church’s doors this Christmas, step into the heart of someone who’s broken and in need of love. You’ll probably find them sitting across from you at the dinner table.

Have a VERY BLESSED CHRISTMAS!

What Doesn’t Kill You Will Try Again Tomorrow

(Original post-2021)

Well, I’m still here in case you were wondering – or even if you couldn’t care less (in which case, I don’t suppose you’d be reading this). Regardless, here we go…

For over a year, I went kicking and screaming into a new and uncertain reality. In the process, I have slowly, often unwillingly, been discovering who I am in the midst of loss, pain, and sorrow. The world I thought would never change – changed – without any warning.

As I packed up my former self, one box, one picture, one memory at a time, I suddenly realized the uncertainty I had been trying to suppress with superficial words and inadequate certitudes, “I’m fine. Really!”

Many “experts” encourage us to act “as if” _________(fill in the blank) until it becomes our truth. So, I did – or at least I tried. But, in pretending I was already there, I believe I also denied the necessary process of change. So, does acting “as if” my life is often a total shitstorm count? Because it is – no acting required.

Jen Hatmaker beautifully describes the inevitable change of seasons in life:

“It can be difficult to envision a new start but impossible to deny one. This is your work. No one can do it for you. Something doesn’t have to be bad to be over. That season has possibly given you everything it had to offer; it shaped and developed you, and it stretched and inspired you. We are not entirely rebranded with each new season; we simply build the next layer. Throughout transitions, we embody permanent virtues and become deeply shaped. As a testament to our design, we are capable of preserving the best of each season while rejecting the worst. The human heart is shockingly resilient. We need to get better at permission and grace.”

The pictures are packed up, leaving bare walls. It has now become clear that I have been stuck in the past. God tells us to stay out of there and move on, trusting him every step of the way. The past certainly formed my identity to this point. I am grateful for all of its lessons, but that’s not the end of my story or my journey. Hatmaker says: “You can care about new things and new beginnings and new people. Carry on, sister!”

God wants me, wants all of us to boldly step into each new day, believing each life experience, good or bad, will influence how we impact our world. Our loving God has created our most outlandishly gifted, magnificently designed selves for that very purpose.

It’s time to grab onto that desire of my heart that has been sitting too long and aching to be acknowledged, that one passion refusing to fade away no matter how much I have tried to ignore it.

CDC Concedes: No Known Cure for #1 Cause of Death

(Originally posted 10/17/13)

After extensive research by the Centers for Disease Control, it is confirmed that everyone who starts breathing will eventually stop. But if you’re holding out for a miracle, I have some bad news for you. Are you sitting down? Stop breathing, and you’re gonna die. So, stop breathing at your own peril…

DUH!

Do we really need the Centers for Disease Control to tell us that we will all die? Perhaps. Apparently, in our western culture anyway, many of us believe that if we ignore that 900-pound gorilla in the room, death will never darken our door.

Not so, folks. Sorry to be the one to dampen your dreams of living forever, at least here on this earth, in this body. It just ain’t gonna happen. Why does it matter? Because there’s a reason we refuse to accept that death is another part of our journey. But, if we can’t bring ourselves to face our own mortality, then those following us may be doomed to that same fear and uncertainty.

There could be any number of reasons we avoid the inevitable. Pick one or choose your own:

  • I am afraid of the unknown, and death is the ultimate unknown. If someone would just come back and tell me what it’s like…sigh…

Remember the rich man begging from hell that his five brothers be told of his torment so they wouldn’t end up there. Luke 16:27-31: The rich man said, “Then let me ask you, Father: Send him to the house of my father where I have five brothers, so he can tell them the score and warn them so they won’t end up here in this place of torment.” Abraham answered, “They have Moses and the Prophets to tell them the score. Let them listen to them.” “I know, Father Abraham,” he said, “but they’re not listening (my emphasis).

  • I kinda like it here with all my stuff.
  • I don’t want my husband to remarry some snarky woman who will raise my children. (That used to be my favorite. Never mind that I was that snarky woman!)
  • I wanna be here for: graduations, weddings, and grandkids. Oh yeah, and the anniversary when you get all those cool red vases and candy dishes you never use.
  • I have lots of plans: I have to finish school, finish a marathon, finish the dishes.
  • And, what is probably the biggest reason: fear that my sins will come back to haunt me on that great judgment day. They are surely logged somewhere: I never forgave _________, I never asked forgiveness from ________, I never admitted to stealing ________, or lying about _________, or coveting ___________. And – sin of sins – I missed Mass on October 23rd, 1974.

It’s all there. All my ugliness. I really intended to clean that up “one of these days”. I just never got around to it because there was lots of time. I never considered that I would die at an inopportune time.

  • All of the above.
  • None of the above.

Death is Cousin Eddie: obnoxious, showing up unannounced, making impossible demands, and flushing your sewage in the middle of the street for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

griswalds-300x152

Beauty, for sure, but ugliness also manifests itself during the dying process: Ours, that of the person dying, or both, as the world watches in horror and disbelief. “Whoa, didn’t see that coming!” A good example was the funeral of my grandmother. With a room full of friends and relatives, my mother and aunt began to fight over who would get my grandmother’s…ready?…wheelchair. Not millions of dollars or prized possessions, but her wheelchair. There you go. What’s your worst memory? I’m sure you have one. We all have at least one.

As I sit here and write today, tears well up in my eyes from an experience I had just last night. When called by my supervisor, I will sit vigil with dying patients. I consider it a blessing and a privilege to be in such a holy place at such a time in the dying person’s life and to be with loved ones if they’re there.

Some are not there by choice, as was the case last night. For obvious reasons, I cannot share details of the person I visited. But I can tell you this, she was a believer, but her husband was not. They had no children and no other family. When her husband was told she would likely not make it through the night, he refused to go see her. Now, I am only speculating here because I have no way of knowing. She had dementia and was not coherent enough for me to understand her needs or the source of her torment. I can only speculate after reading volumes of examples from the experiences of hospice RNs.

Trying to fully understand what is happening during the dying process is impossible because it is one of God’s great mysteries. However, we do have hints of what may be taking place. For example, some people will not die until a son from out-of-town arrives or until a beloved spouse says they will be okay and gives them “permission” to pass.

I am slowly witnessing glimpses of the mystery and beauty of our creation by a mighty and loving God. We just welcomed our thirteenth grandbaby two days ago. YEA! What a blessed event!!! Even at number thirteen, I am still awestruck by the magnificence of the beginning of life. Aren’t we all? Isn’t it just breathtaking? But the end of life? Not so much.

I will try my best, as inadequate as this may be, to summarize what I have grown to understand about death and dying. Bear with me.

At that moment of birth, we are most connected to the very core of our Being – God. Remember, God “knew” us before we were born: Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born, I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” But, then, so many things go awry, don’t they? We lose our way, push away, “cut the cord” I suppose you could say, and go our own way.

Then the end comes. (I told you that was going to happen, right? Okay, just wanted to be sure I didn’t leave that little detail out.) So, guess what happens then? God shows up, if you will, to bring us back to our core, back to him, back home. It’s mysterious and glorious. But, if we’re not ready, we will fight it with all we have left.

We often struggle to get to that place of peace and trust in the process because of all of our “stuff”. And that’s what I believe was happening to the woman I sat with last night. I do know this: she’s a believer, but her husband is not (a huge problem for her). They both were very ill and, at some point, promised not to put the other in a nursing home. That’s all I know for sure. The rest is speculation.

Her breathing would slow, then race, then stop – over and over again. She would seem to be peaceful one moment and then cry out inaudibly the next. What was she trying so desperately to say? Was it physical pain or emotional torment she was expressing? I don’t know. I prayed with her and for her and her husband, and at times that would make her cry out. At one point, she said clearly, “pray”. So I did. Is she still with us today? I don’t know as yet. But here’s what is so important about what I have shared with you:

Life should be lived each day as if it’s the last because it may very well be. Suppose you and I would just accept that fact and live accordingly. Wouldn’t we make our little world a better place while we’re here, and wouldn’t we make our own dying something beautiful and memorable for our loved ones? When it’s my turn to take that final journey, I want my kids, my thirteen grandkids, and seven great-grandkids to witness the glory of God at his best and not fear their own journey. I want to die with grace. The End.