Poem – Happy death day!

I look forward
to the time
when we see death
as graduation
and not failure.

I look forward
to the time
where we
celebrate
death

not in a dark way
but as a release
into the light,
The all
The ever.

Death should be anticipated,
prepared for
and expected
like births are
with planning
and parties
and maybe even presents.

Not like you need much
where you are going.
You can’t take it with you
after all.

Death isn’t so scary
that way
isn’t so foreign, so frightening.

Perhaps
Hallmark will come out with cards.
Hurray! You are mortal!
Happy death day!
Or
Congratulations! Your Mom died!
You must be so proud of her!

Death is a stepping from one country
to another
no passport required
no overnight bags needed.
Death isn’t something
to be afraid of.
Fear of it is.

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The Now of Job

Job is an amazing character in the Bible. He was wealthy beyond imagining.

Job 1:1-3
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. (RSV)

He was righteous, even offering extra sacrifices for his children just in case they made a transgression unintentionally. They would all spend days together having feasts at each other’s houses.

Job 1:5
5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. (RSV)

But then he lost it all.

Job 1:13-22
13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house; 14 and there came a messenger to Job, and said, “The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them; 15 and the Sabe′ans fell upon them and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “The Chalde′ans formed three companies, and made a raid upon the camels and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house; 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness, and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 20 Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (RSV)

It is amazing that Job doesn’t complain or freak out when he hears all of this bad news. Notice that each messenger hadn’t even quit speaking before the next one came in with even worse news.

Remember how bad news is said to come in threes? He got four. All at once. He didn’t even have time to recover from each blow before he received the next one.

Then he personally is afflicted with sores all over his body.

Job 2:9-10
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die.”10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (RSV)

He praises God and accepts what is given to him. What a model for “being in the now” It reminds me of the story of Jonah. He praised God while in the belly of the whale. While in the middle of a bad situation, he praised God. He didn’t say “If you get me out of this I’ll praise you.” He didn’t know if he was even going to get out of it. In fact, just before, he thought he was going to drown from being thrown overboard during a storm. Things weren’t great, but he was alive, having been rescued in an improbable way.

Job and Jonah teach us a lot about accepting where and how we are, just as we are.

Vicious circle – on codependency

I know a few people who are having a hard time accepting what is happening to them right now. I’m really worried, and I want to help them. If only they could accept the reality of the situation they are in, things will start to get better. If only they could stop hoping and wishing that things were different, they’d start to heal.

Sometimes we are the ones who have to make a change. Sometimes we are in bad situations that are presented to us because we are the ones who are supposed to fix them.

But sometimes things just can’t be changed. Sometimes things are just as they are, and there is no getting around them.

Sometimes the only way is to go through the grief and the pain, and to see it for what it is.

But then I realized I’m doing the very same thing. I’m not accepting the reality of the situation. I’m not accepting that their pain and inability to face it is in fact the reality.

It is all a great big circle of codependency.

Gift

I’m trying to see every experience as a gift, as something special. I’m trying to trust that God is in charge of everything and that everything is going as planned.

It isn’t easy.

I feel trapped in someone else’s madness right now. Some dumb decisions have been made by others and it is affecting me. It is only going to get worse. I want somebody to take over, take charge. I want somebody to rise to the occasion and be an adult. I’m not seeing it happen yet.

And then I remember how much I love the story of Jonah, praising God in the belly of the whale. While in the middle of the problem, Jonah praises God.

And I remember Jesus saying in Matthew 5:43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (RSV)

I’ve come to understand this to be about everything – situations, feelings, ourselves – not just people. We are to act in a loving manner all the time.

And I remember Job saying that if he only loves God when he gives us good things, then he doesn’t really love God. His wife has just told him to curse God for all the afflictions that have happened to him.

Job 2:10
10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (RSV)

OK, so what do I do about all these feelings? How do I handle them? How do I act in a loving way towards my anxiety right now?

I was talking to a friend about all of this and she told me about this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh. “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” (Being Peace)

Sometimes this feels like AA. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference” (Reinhold Niebuhr)

If I believe that God is a loving God, and that God is in charge, I have to trust that everything that happens is part of God’s plan, and that it will all work out for the good.

The problem is trusting that.

I feel like I did when I was in a river rafting trip with a boyfriend many years ago. He was a guide, and we’d taken a raft with some friends down the Ocoee River in the off season. He knew of a spot where we could “surf” – we could ride the river, sort of stuck in this one area for a bit. Some of the water started to come into the raft. I started to get terrified and went to leap out of the boat. My boyfriend knew that would be a terrible idea – I’d get stuck under the raft in that area. Unbeknownst to him, it really would have been a terrible idea – I wasn’t a great swimmer either. All I knew was that something bad was happening and I wanted to get away. He held my shoulders down so I couldn’t leave the boat. He explained it all when we were away from that situation. He didn’t have time to explain it then.

I want to get away from this situation.
God is holding down my shoulders.
It will all make sense later.
Breathe, trust, and give thanks.

Poem – the meal of grief

Grief is a meal that must be eaten.

You cannot leave the table until it is finished.

You can cut it up
into tiny little pieces

or try to wolf it down

but either way you must eat it.

It is harder when it is cold
when you have waited so long
that your tears are the sauce.

It is impossible when it is fresh,
when it is raw.

Then your body barely has room
for breath,
much less anything else.

However it comes to you, it is your task.
No one else can do this for you.

However it comes to you
sit down
look at it
and accept it.

Give thanks for it.

For grief blesses you
and breaks you
and puts you in Communion
with God
and everyone else.

Grief is the great equalizer.
And the great humanizer.

Forgiving Fred.

Fred Phelps has died. He was the leader of the Westboro group. They weren’t Baptist, and they weren’t a church. Not really. They were an organized group of haters. They showed up at military and high publicity funerals to protest gay people, even if the person who died was straight.

Among Jesus’ last words were “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Let us forgive Fred and his followers.

We cannot become like Fred Phelps or his followers. If we do, they have won. To hope that he “rots in hell” or to desire to “piss on his grave” is to let his brand of hate to take over.

This is about really knowing the message of Jesus. This is about knowing that the message is about forgiveness and love. It is about showing that same forgiveness and love that is shown to us through Jesus to others

Why would people want to become Christian if the face of Christianity is Fred Phelps and his group? Why would they want to become part of the Body of Christ when it looks like it is only used to attack others?

This Body was created to heal, not hurt. Our hands are meant for feeding and clothing others, not for holding picket signs. Our fingers were not made for pointing.

Imagine if this group had used its resources to mobilize their members to go to flood areas and other natural disasters to help out. They could have used their powers for good. Imagine if they’d used their money and time to teach people how to read or how to eat healthy food

We, as members of the Body of Christ, are held to a higher standard. We must forgive him. To forgive is not to condone.

We must remember that he was not acting alone. When we talk about how bad he was, we have to remember that it wasn’t just one man who showed up with a picket sign.

We talk about how bad Hitler was, but we forget that it was thousands of his followers that did the dirty work. We talk about Osama bin Laden, but we forget he wasn’t the one who was bombing and killing. Both of them were just giving the orders and others were just carrying them out.

If we are filled with hate towards Fred Phelps, we are one of his followers as surely as they were.

The bad thing is that there are plenty of people who call themselves Christian who agree with the Westboro group’s motives, if not their methods. They think that the purpose of Christians is to tell off other people and to have them live by a certain narrow set of rules.

They don’t remember that Jesus, in John 8:7, when he came across a group that was going to stone an adulterers, said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus doesn’t condemn her, or anybody else. Neither should we. They don’t remember that Jesus paid for all sins, for everybody, across time, by his death on the cross. We aren’t sinners, none of us. That debt is paid.

We can’t condemn even those who condemn others. Even Fred Phelps and his followers. We have to love them, because they need it the most. We have to show them love. We have to show them how to love by being loving to them.

Forgive them. Be the face of love to them. We must teach them who Jesus really is by being Jesus to them. Jesus is love. Thus, we should be too.

Baking with Jesus

When I bake banana bread, I think of Jesus. I remember him saying this in Luke 6:37-38 –

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (HCSB)

Only somebody who has measured out flour would talk like this. Jesus baked bread with his Mom. I think how amazing it must have been for Mary to include her son in the kitchen to help her with the cooking.

Children aren’t much help in the kitchen. They make a big mess. Kitchens are dangerous places. Hot surfaces, sharp knives, raw ingredients that shouldn’t be eaten – kitchens aren’t places for children.

And yet kitchens are great places for them. Kitchens are where they learn about the alchemy that is cooking. Kitchens are where they learn about measuring and proportions and following the order that is a recipe. Cooking teaches more than just being able to feed yourself.

Cooking teaches independence. I’m amazed at how strong I feel now that I can cook. I don’t have to rely on someone else to take care of me. I don’t have to wonder what went into my meal. When I cook, I cook from scratch.

For Jesus to know about measuring flour means that his Mom included him. For Jesus to talk about measuring flour means to me that he fully intended his message for everybody. It isn’t for the elite. It isn’t just for men. It is for the average, everyday person, just making do and just getting by.

He includes us all.

I know plenty of women who refuse to listen to the words of Jesus because they think his words aren’t for women. They’ve gone to churches and heard from the pulpit words that say that women should be silent and they have no business with the church other than cleaning it up and cooking for potlucks. They’ve heard that they are worthless and that they are sinful and it is because of the sin of Eve that we are all cursed.

And none of this is from Jesus.

Jesus loved women and loved his Mom especially. Jesus’ message of love and acceptance and forgiveness and grace is for women and men and young and old and rich and poor. Jesus’ message is for everybody. Jesus says you are good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, God loves you.

If someone says otherwise they aren’t speaking for Jesus, because they don’t know Jesus. If they did, they’d know better. If they read the Word for themselves instead of having it spoon fed to them, they’d see through all the lies they have been told.