in the shadow of Death

I’m thinking a lot about death and dying this week.  The local high school ran a program inviting their students to think about the consequences of an untimely death due to distracted driving, among other things.  The students were brought face to face with wrecked cars, police and fire first responders, the LifeStar helicopter and team, lawyers speaking of the aftermath, funeral home staff, and clergy. For the first time, maybe ever, for some of them, they talked about death of people close to them, or of their own.  They breached (or avoided) the subject with the extraordinary skill that only a teenager can.

The clergy at the event spoke of what a funeral might look like, and how we put it together. We talked about the ripples of grief in its many forms and about supporting someone who grieves. We made reference to how people try and make sense of death and dying in so many ways… using quip platitudes that do nothing like “God needed another angel,” or “time heals all wounds,” or “everything happens for a reason,” …when perhaps underneath those pithy words are deeper questions like, “I don’t understand and I don’t know what to say,” or “Why me?” or even “why not me?!”  We offered the sincere hope that each student live fully and intentionally, and that we’d never have to do their funerals too young.  Because that aches for everyone involved, not the least of which the family.

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After leaving the 600 or so high school students, we went back to the church to get ready for the celebration of the Last Supper and the telling of the story of what comes thereafter, through scripture, movement, music, and dance.  The cross, set up in the center of the labyrinth, cast a shadow across the lines, almost foreshadowing the darkness of the service to follow.  

Death is inevitable for us all.  We’re all going back to the dust from which we came in one way or another.   We will breathe our last, expelling our spirit and moving out of the body which has housed us for years.  Even God died, in Jesus Christ.  As I sit, in the afternoon of Good Friday, the death feels so very real.  The sound of the drum mimicking the nails or the last breath crying, “it is finished.”  The finality of it all. (and the little voice of hope whispers, “Is it?”)

It’s not pretty.  We don’t talk about it.  But we do need to sit in it for a time.  We are a broken world, and a broken people.  (and the little voice of hope whispers, “broken, yet beloved…”)

So as we move into this time of vigil and darkness and of keeping watch for what might come these next few days, be blessed in the knowledge of a God who wanted to know humanity so fully that God became human, and died. (and, too the little voice of hope, whispering…)

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A Caregiver’s Prayer

 
Oh, God— some days it gets so heavy.  Everyone seems to turn to me for every tiny detail, when the bigger issues–of health, and home, and wholeness– are really the weight that I feel.  It feels as though I’m re-acting instead of pro-acting… and each doctor’s visit brings more news to add onto the pile.  The paperwork and bills and the medications add up, and what was so worrying a few years ago now seems just… silly.  Or the kids just keep asking questions, and the quiet that used to be so easily reachable is now just a dream.
 
People look at me with knowing-but-unknowing glances, they assume that all is well, they see the carefully constructed mask I’ve worn.  Yet, some days, coming home from work feels like even more work.  God, on those days, I just pray for peace.  For twenty minutes to sit by myself and not worry.  It’s so difficult to let go.
 
God almighty, I pray for clarity.  That in the midst of this adventure, I can still find moments of laughter and joy.  That I can still cherish time spend with my loved ones.  That this new chapter of caregiving does not shift my memories of the person I knew before, but enriches my thanksgiving for the life that is lived to the fullest, with all of it’s ups and downs and roundabouts.
 
Lord God, I pray for strength.  I pray that I can be the person that others think I am, in the midst of all of this.  I pray that my shoulders carry the burden gracefully, or that in those moments where I slip up, I am forgiven by my loved ones, as I already know I am forgiven by you. And on that note, God, help me forgive others around me for the words they say without thinking. 
 
Loving one, I pray for support.  .  From those around me, in little ways …and especially from you. Because, God, I’m tired.  We know Jesus Christ reminds us all, “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  I pray, God, that I can, even if but for a moment, release all this unto you to find rest for my soul.  I offer all this up to you… this prayer, all my caregiving, all my burdens… knowing that you will hold it for me, that you know, fully, what my life looks like right now, and that you love me unconditionally as I figure out a way through.    All this I pray in your name, Jesus, Amen.
 
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Is your Pastor Textually Active?

It’s a new age of communication, folks, and you probably reach out to people across the globe in several different ways.  So, too, does your Pastor!  And if you choose to enter into this texually active relationship, it may be helpful to have some guidelines:

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  • Identify your self!  Believe it or not, we don’t have the whole church directory in our contact lists.  So a little “hey, Pastor, it’s _____!” goes a long way!
  • Proofread!  Autocorrect, while hilarious at times, can also be awkward and boundary twitching.  And no, we have no idea how that word got entered into your personal dictionary, either.  And we don’t want to know.
  • Double check to whom you are sending that text message!  Even more strange than the autocorrections are the ones you actually meant to send to your mom or teenager…. or partner.
  • Texts are helpful if you’re running late, if you’ve got got a quick medical update, or if you’re leaving the hospital, or even pop culture references are fun (are you watching that TV special or game too?!)
  • Texts are not helpful if it’s life altering news, if you have an issue with Sunday’s sermon, if you want to resign from a committee, or bring up a personal grievance.  (All of these things we absolutely want to talk about, face to face, and with intention.)
  • Sometimes you’ll get an immediate response, sometimes you won’t.  If you don’t get a response in a few days, mention something on Sunday or call!  (It may be a personal Sabbath, a day off, or a vacation!)
  • If you’re coming in and stopping by a coffee shop and want to offer me a coffee along the way, PLEASE text me!
  • Say what you’re expecting: a phone call? a visit?  a check in?  As much as we try, Pastors can’t read your mind!
  • If you wouldn’t send it to your grandmother, don’t send it to your pastor.
  • If you use them, know what your internet acronyms mean.  (LOL means “Laugh out Loud,” not, “Lots of Love.”)  Google it if you’re not sure.  (LMGTFY)
  • Text if you found a theological connection with the show you’re watching! Or if you found God in your everyday life by surprise! We love moments of God-connection.

Keeping up with healthy communication! What would you add?

Here comes the Son

This year has seemed like the never-ending winter.  Each week there’s been a glimmer of hope, of sunshine peaking the horizon momentarily only to be greyed out and colored over by a cloud or a snowstorm or a week of rain.  And when there is a never-ending winter, I’ve noticed that my spirits dip, as well.  Missing the sun makes me cranky and irritable and extra snappy at people I care about, if I’m not extra-careful.  Missing the sun means that I’m more liable to leave papers and books strewn all over the house and the dishes undone and the laundry piling for an eternity.  Missing the sun means that I need a little extra self-persuasion to lift myself out of bed, sometimes, to start the day.
For me, though, I know I’m missing the sun on my shoulders.  It hasn’t become debilitating.  I can still usually self-persuade (or Thomas & Erik help) to check my mood and my reactions and my ability to be productive.  For some, though, the privilege of movement seems even more distant at this time of year.  For some, the prayers are just to *feel* at all, to overcome lethargy and eternal sadness.  For some, the winter compounds a way of living that seems, at times insurmountable, and the weight of being a human in the world without the rays of sunshine is crushing.
And while reaching towards the Son isn’t the entire answer for those that are sad, it can be a small part of it.  The truth that the Son will rise into the world again and prove to us, once again, that through this darkness, there is a glimmer of hope.  Summer is coming.  Hope is present.  The Resurrection is real.  And while it doesn’t answer all of our problems, it certainly can provide a measure of comfort in these dark rainy days.
Let’s pray:
Son, rest upon my shoulders.  Hold me together while I weep. Light up my world.  Son, show me the hope for summer and rest and a moment that is lighter than this one.  Son, be beside me to lighten my mood and inspire my happiness.  Remind me that there is new life.   Amen.