Sunday, June 28, 2015

REFLECTIONS ON GAY MARRIAGE

Picture copied from Ten Famous Paintings With Hidden Codes
I am always concerned when we, who follow the Judeo-Christian theological traditions and beliefs, use the Bible the same way the Pharisees did. Have we learned nothing from Jesus’ crucifixion? That we, as people, crucified Jesus because Jesus did not follow God’s law?

I am grateful we do not follow the many many many many verses in the Bible that would have us kill people as punishment for their sins as well as banish people for being unclean, for example, lepers. How is it that our human wisdom directs us NOT to follow those directives? 

It is interesting to me that many of us rely upon our OWN inspired wisdom to believe that life begins at conception. The literal interpretation of Biblical verses implies that life begins when we breathe on our own and we die when we stop breathing. But we use our own inspired wisdom to go beyond what is available in the Bible to cherish our unborn children and to cherish life in general.

So, can we also begin to rely upon our own inspired wisdom to recognize there are “things” in God’s creation that we do not understand, for example, that ten percent of the population have a sexual orientation that is different from the other ninety percent? Why did God do that? Is God a trickster? I, for one, do not think so, and I think in this contemporary time of some level of “tolerance,” God wants us to learn from gay people and gay couples something about our own sexuality and our relationships.

The gay men with whom I associate and work with in my practice, offer a gentleness and a kindness that I just do not see in straight men, and definitely not in homophobic straight men. When I work with gay couples, it is inspiring to observe them negotiating the relationship beyond the stereotypes that the straight world brings to relationships, and most of the conflicts in marriage center around these stereotypes, some of them hard fast justified by fundamentalist “Christians” who use the Bible to justify male egocentricity and domination.

I realize there are many many many issues here, again issues that are difficult to resolve. For example, I wonder how it works for a child raised in a gay family without that “compliment” of a mom and dad. But perhaps the issue is no more or no less a concern than the zillions of children raised in a family with a mom and a dad who never address their gender wounds which they bring to their family from their own history and inflict these wounds upon their children in so many destructive and painful ways.  

To be honest, I don’t know what to think about “gay marriage,” except that I know the gay couples with whom I work in my practice are genuinely committed to each other and love each other and can be and are as much a sign of God’s love for God’s people as heterosexual couple can be and are.

We have yet, as a species, come to know what it looks like to love. We are getting there, and there are many concrete examples of love in our world today, and some of you demonstrate love in your daily life as well as in your relationships in many outstanding ways. But in general, we still have a long way to go. We will know we have arrived when killing people for whatever reason is no longer an option in our world, and we use all the other powers God has given us to stop those who continue to kill.

“Gay marriage,” is not a concept or an idea. It is about people who love each other and we may not understand it, but that is not a reason to condemn it and be afraid of it, And, even if you insist upon condemning gay marriage, see if there is something else on which to spend your energy, like inviting someone you don’t like over for dinner. And yes, I know I will get a lot of invites after this post!!

I posted the picture of the laughing Jesus because I think sometimes, Jesus doesn’t know what to do with us, but laugh! 
Pinterest link for this picture


Sunday, May 17, 2015

TODAY'S SMORGASBORD

I love smorgasbords, and today I invite you to one of those smorgasbords.  Unfortunately, it’s in my head, but I really suggest you take a bite of everything.  Com’on, be old fashioned and just be obedient. Trust me.  I’m an old guy with some wisdom for you.  Take a taste of everything.





The first dish are my thoughts about war.  If I remember my history correctly, we won the Revolutionary War partly because we were humble and smart enough not to arrogantly attempt to thwart off the British by lining up in a straight row and thinking that our brute force could outmatch their brute force.

In the conflicts following the Revolutionary War, it would have been so amazing if our leaders could have continued to think with their brains rather than with their weapons and perhaps by now, we would have an entire arsenal of “weapons” that did not wreak havoc and violence and destruction, but actually brought both a peaceful resolve to conflicts as well as prosperity to both us and our enemies.

This second dish are my reflections on the events in Boston this past week.  I’ve heard a lot of discussion about justice finally being served.  (Fits the smorgasbord metaphor!).  I’m not sure I get it at all.  What justice?  Two brothers thought they were carrying out some wild-ass bombing raid that would somehow change the world or have them go down in history or would somehow get back at America for what?  Who knows?  Perhaps their entire goal was simply to humble us, to make us feel very very vulnerable, and indeed, they accomplished that.  I think it is good that we know we are vulnerable.  We can always learn something from vulnerability, for example, hopefully the next time, terrorist decide to take another 9-11 shot, the folks at the airline gates or the border or the subway station or wherever will be slightly more intuned.  I mean I still can’t fathom how all those folks managed to board those planes. Even before 9-11, you and I would never have been able to board a plane with as much suspicion as they carried with them.


After the jury’s decision, I heard one intelligent man say that  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had won an early ticket to hell. Well, that’s kind of interesting because apparently a lot of these folks think they’re going STRAIGHT TO HEAVEN and once there, are going to hang out with a bunch of virgins. So who’s right or does it even matter?  The thing I’ve never figured out is why folks like suicide bombers and other “martyrs” haven’t put it together yet.  Those virgins are virgins.  What makes them think they’re going to give that up once they arrive!  

Do we ever stop to realize that there are people all over the world who think that justice is served every time an American soldier is killed?  Do we ever stop to think how many people around the world hate us because we killed their families, their children, destroyed their homes, their neighborhoods, their city, their country as a result of so-called collateral damage?



The bomber was tried and the jury decided his fate according to federal law.  That’s not Justice.  That’s cowboy justice.  The Hatfields and the Mccoys.  And each time someone is brought to so-called justice and murdered, the cycle is propelled farther down the road of hatred, violence, and more killing.

The dessert portion of the smorgasbord is about the upcoming 2016 election.




I’m looking for a politician to come along who will outline for the American people how little we have learned from every military engagement starting from the Revolutionary War, including the pitiful Civil War, including World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Viet Nam War, down to our pointless invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

We are too arrogant to acknowledge we made HUGE mistakes on so many levels.  That we chose oil and power over our own sons and daughters whom we sacrificed to the gods of war.  Unfortunately it’s our American mentality that believes we are either the greatest or we are going to show and convince everyone that we are the greatest by sheer brute force.  This archaic mentality drives the populous support of corporate driven military strategy with little consideration for the consequences to human life and world peace.  

So I’m looking for a politician who will have the courage to stand up to our brute force prowess mentality and show us how we can become much more effective around the world if we support other people being the best they can be within their own culture, their own religion, their own economy, their own borders.  We did it for Japan post world war II, and we can do it again for other countries, and we can do it without going to war with them. Interestingly enough, war with Japan started over oil.  Yes, read your history.  Pearl Harbor was an attempt to prevent our Navy from blockading Japan's ports.  World War II was not about Pearl Harbor.  It was about economics, the same way our own Revolutionary War was about economics.

I’m also looking for a politician who does not want to be popular, and who will outline a way for us to take care of our own citizens and to stop making it about socialism and capitalism.  Taking care of our own people doesn’t have to be a philosophical debate on economics.  I’m waiting for a republican politician to stand up and tell his wealthy corporate jock straps that outsourcing is, plain and simple, UNAMERICAN.  I think creating jobs in other countries is absolutely awesome, but don’t do it at the cost of jobs at home.  I have to admit, I am not an economist, but I run my own business and I do it well, and I know that I am not the only business on the block or in the city or in the state or in the country that can be successful.  And if I wanted to open up shop in another country, I wouldn’t have to fire all my employees here to do that.  Oh, I forgot.  It’s about taxes. For crying out loud, get a grip.  Taxes are taxes.  Figure it out.  I mean, you always do, so don’t use that excuse.  The reason you outsource is the price of labor.  You want to use people for your gain.  It is that simple.  I know, you’ve gotten over it and you want me to get over it too, and I have.  It’s just a fact, but I’m going to keep the truth on the table, and I’m looking for a politician to come along and put that truth on the table for all of us to see.

Now we come to the beverage portion of the smorgasbord, the fine wines and spirits of myth and reality.




The truth is that you can be as wealthy as you want to be in this country, and you NEVER have to achieve your wealth by using or walking on or over other people.  It is certainly one way to do it, and many folks have done it that way.  But you don’t have to.  I’m not much of a believer in the distribution of wealth because I think there is plenty of wealth to go around for everyone.  And you gotta be willing to go after whatever amount of wealth you want, using your own creative resources instead of talking people into working for you for as little as you can pay them; convincing them that you are doing them a big favor when, in reality, they are doing you the big favor.

Instead, learn to attract folks to work WITH you, along side of you, and give them the opportunity to go after whatever amount of wealth they want to have.  Attract people to work with you because perhaps you have the skills to teach them how to create and enjoy wealth.  It’s not about socialism or capitalism.  It’s simply about hard work and dreams.

And give up our arrogant "thing" about earning.  If you're rich and wealthy, don't fool yourself into thinking you earned it. Either it fell in your lap OR you saw the possibilities and went after them.  Sometimes, you took out any and everyone who was in your way, including your mother.  What you didn't realize is that you didn't have to do that.  It's part of the power mentality that makes you think you earned and therefore deserve every and anything you want.  None of us ever deserve anything and none of us ever earn anything.   The creative forces of the universe are not based upon such arrogant concepts. 

And if we change the notion that the poor will always be with us and stop using Jesus’ words to jock strap our maintaining a hierarchical order in economics, then we’d all have to learn to enjoy work, enjoy paying taxes for the country we have, and enjoy our wealth instead of hoarding it.

Well, I hope you took a bite of everything and please let me know what was tasty and what you thought was abominable.  It's the only way we can MOVE forward.



I shared my thoughts on the Boston Marathon Bombing at the time it occurred.  You can check it out on this You Tube Link . 

Monday, May 4, 2015

REFLECTIONS ON MY FIRST COMMUNION

Today is the first Sunday in May.  Sixty two years ago, May 3, 1953, I received my First Communion.  I was seven years old and in second grade.


I remember well, the day before, going for a haircut.  It seemed uneventful to me, just another haircut, but my Mom and Dad were quite upset with the haircut.  Dad joked that he had no sooner sat down to read a magazine and the barber was finished.

What I remember about the haircut is it was very very short on the sides and back.  It didn’t look particularly bad to me as I looked in the mirror, but Mom and Dad were so upset about it that I was left with the impression that anyone who wasn’t blind would either be shocked or would burst out laughing.  In my best recollection of what the “hairdo” looked like and my current ability or inability to make sense of what happened back then, perhaps once the barber had consciously or unconsciously taken off everything on the sides, he didn’t know what to do with the top!  Or maybe Dad gave him some instructions that he heard differently from Dad’s intent.  Who knows?  But again, it was one of those childhood experiences that I didn’t know how to make sense of only that I looked shockingly weird.  It was not exactly a good framework for such a blessed occasion.  Of course, that's your cue.  Play the violin!

I also remember being very very nervous.  Scared I might swallow some toothpaste and break my fast.  Yes, remember that insanity? It was a warm morning, and the church was crowded and stuffy.  I had butterflies in my stomach, and by Communion time, I was feeling a tad faint.  I remember having a hard time swallowing the host which stuck to the roof of my mouth, and that made me even more nervous.  I was glad when Mass was over, and we went home to celebrate with danishes from Nurmie’s bakery.  But I did relish that now I could approach the communion rail with everyone else and receive Communion.

Since that Sunday, sixty two years ago, I have grown in my understanding of and love and appreciation for the Eucharistic CELEBRATION and for the miracle of the Eucharist.  And that understanding, love, and appreciation has not waned.



For many years, I took Jesus to the sick, and that was always a highlight of my day even with Joe who was so lonely that he practically tied me to the chair and did everything he could to keep me from leaving.  I started falling asleep on Joe, I guess as a way to escape, but it didn’t bother him in the least.  Taking Jesus to Joe was always an hour to an hour and a half “ordeal.”  But that ordeal did not detract from the overall joy I experienced bringing Jesus, in the form of healing bread, to folks who were bed-ridden or house-bound for one reason or another.

On one occasion, I stood on Bob’s oxygen hose during the entire time I was saying the prayers and giving Bob the Eucharist.  I sometimes exaggerate the story and say that I couldn’t figure out why Bob was turning blue.  “I was bringing Bob the Bread of Life and killing him at the same time!”     

I actually met very interesting people with very interesting and touching stories during my ministry, and some of them even famous which was so cool because I realized that we are all in the same boat here together, no matter who we are, no matter our so-called status in this world.  We are all pilgrims, and we will all become dependent some day the same way we arrived, and we will all leave some day and move on to a heaven we know little about.  

My understanding, love, and appreciation of the Eucharist has not waned, but I have almost no desire to attend “Mass.”  And with the building of bigger and bigger churches as a way to avoid changing the canonical law on celibacy, Mass is just that, a mass of people looking straight ahead and having no idea what this ritual is all about, and neither does the organizational church, unfortunately.  I say that because Benedict, God Bless him, took us back in the Eucharistic prayers to a pre Vatican II English version of the original Latin Mass instead of the vernacular version prescribed by Vatican II.  Many important prayers and responses have lost the significant meaning embedded in the vernacular translation of Vatican II.




Here is the most profound example for me.  After Vatican II, when the priest holds up the host and the cup of consecrated wine to the congregation just prior to everyone receiving communion, the priest says, “Behold the Lamb of God.....Happy are those who are called to His supper.”   The congregation responds with “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

For some reason, these meaningful changes must have been threatening to Pope Benedict, and when he finally got his chance, he took the Church backwards to the pre Vatican II Latin response which reads, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Note, pre-Vatican II, this response was never spoken in English. And the Vatican tries to persuade us that this version of the prayer is more closely aligned with Scripture. 

Well, that is really weird, because the Scriptures were not originally written in Latin, but in Greek.  And in the Scripture, this verse is based upon the story of the Centurion who requests Jesus to heal his servant.  When Jesus said that he would come to the Centurion’s house, the Centurion replied, “Lord I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but only say the word and my servant will be healed.”  The Centurion said nothing about his own soul nor his servant’s soul. He wanted his servant to be healed, his servant’s whole being to be healed.


Image taken from Laleocafe


The Vatican II vernacular response gives testimony to our belief that in the Eucharist, we receive the body of Jesus, and in our reception, Jesus heals our whole person, all of us, not just our soul.

So these new revisions have successfully taken us back to a dualism between body and soul which ultimately allows the organizational church to disregard our physical humanity, to delegate our body to a split off lesser “place” in the scheme of creation.  This conceptualization of being split into different parts, one being more important than the other, goes totally contrary to our current understanding of who we are as God’s creatures and the belief that our BODIES are temples.  

Not to mention that Jesus did not speak in Latin and the Gospels were most likely written originally in Aramaic or Greek and only later translated into Latin.  And in translating the Scriptures into Latin, there is a richness of the Greek text that is often lost.  Take the phrase in John’s Gospel, “The word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.” The Greek actually says “....He pitched his tent amongst us.”  For me, that is a profound juiciness that gets lost in the Latin translation.

This reverting back to translating Latin into a literal English version rather than a vernacular translation reinforces the word ROMAN.   The fact that the organizational church continues to hang on to the identification of Roman is a clear message that the organizational church, in other words, Rome or the Vatican, is not here to inspire us, but only to CONTROL us.  The Vatican DOES NOT look like Jesus in any way whatsoever, and if anyone can show me one way that the Vatican looks and acts like Jesus, I will welcome your comments. 

Yes, we have a new Pope who is much like John the twenty third, but like John, he is often held captive by an organizational structure that has its own existence as the priority and not the message of the Gospel.  Francis is obviously humble and connected to us common every day people, and let’s pray that he will someday dissolve the organizational structure and create a new “structure” that is representative of the way Jesus lived his life and representative of the many invitations Jesus offers us in the living word to live our lives.

I do not think that most Catholics who attend Mass and who receive Communion have even the slightest understanding that the point of the Eucharist is for us to offer, as sacrifice, our body and blood and our lives as a pleasing offering to God.  The word sacrifice, by the way, means to make sacred or holy.  It does not mean to destroy or give up.  The meaning of “do this in remembrance of me,” has been totally lost in a notion of worship. God does not want worship. God invites us to love and to transform our lives.

Part of what we hope to gain from our attendance at the Eucharistic Celebration is some inspiration in the homily as the priest or deacon gives us some insight into the Scripture readings.  In “my” Church in Yucaipa, the priest reads his homily and it appears he reads it from a book.  What?  Why is he afraid to take the risk to be himself and trust that we will love him no matter how good a speaker he is and to share with us what is in his heart?  I know that is a huge judgment, but the reason I say this is because there is NOTHING personal in the homily.  There is no shepherd speaking to us.  There is NO ONE for us to follow.  The words are theological diatribe that are meaningless when it comes to facing our own day-to-day struggles and the day-to-day struggles of our family, our neighborhood, our city, our State, our country.  Those words teach us nothing about getting out of the parking lot after the celebration is over or even before the celebration is over.

Yes, I am going visit him and gently and humbly offer my support in working with him to give a homily from his heart and his own experience of living the Gospel, both his success and his failure, as a model for us to continue to grow and continue to hope in a world that is often hopeless.

I don’t know how common it is that priests do not address the Scripture readings with an application to both their own personal lives and to our lives, but when that is lacking, the Liturgy of the word and the Eucharistic celebration simply becomes an exercise to fulfill our obligation which is also meaningless in the big scheme of things.

If we were really taking in the meaning of the Eucharist, we would be willing to make eye contact with each person standing at the end of each off ramp and actually show them with our eyes and facial expression that we love them and are willing to do SOMETHING to support them in making their lives better.  SOMETHING! Perhaps ANYTHING short of judging them and avoiding them and pretending that they are not standing there.  Maybe we could take the risk of giving them whatever we can afford to give them at that moment in time, whether that be food, water, our time, money, ANYTHING.  Maybe, we could even give them a job!


From Kwaree Blog


There is a wonderful line in the movie, Lars And The Real Girl, where the pastor says, “We have to ask ourselves here, what would Jesus do?”  If we really take in the meaning of the Eucharist, we open ourselves up to looking at everything that is going on in our world today, especially the events we cannot understand or make sense out of and ask the simple question, “What would Jesus think, what would Jesus say, what would Jesus do?”  This is what we could be helped with in a homily.

I could go on and on, as many of you know.  But I do not want to profess my beliefs.  I do want to live my values which means my behavior, on a day-to-day basis, reflects what I say I believe in. “What you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me” is a haunting belief of mine, and one that I cannot rationalize away no matter what my brother is doing or saying.  I wish this verse were equally haunting to the organizational church.

So my daily endeavor is to find ways to bring Love to the world in every situation that I encounter.  For me, killing people, war, punishing people because they deserve to be punished, excommunicating people from my circle, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, are not options.  Yes, it becomes challenging then to come up with options, but the foundation for any option for me is Love, bread, and healing.




So, today, I celebrate, my First Communion, realizing that my First Communion was really the “day” God said, “Let there be Vern.” And God said that for each one of us, and so it is not for me to decide whether or not you deserve my love, my care, my respect, my attention, all the goodness that God has given me to offer to you.  And ironically, this kind of transformation I am writing about begins with Vern deciding to love Vern the way God loved me into existence.

Thank You for reading.

   

Saturday, July 5, 2014

YES, YOU CAN PROMISE US, ROB FORD

Photo posted on 92.3 The Dock
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he wants us to trust him.  Really!  Trust him with or about what? Trust him that he will not relapse, BUT, he is not willing to promise us that he will not drink or use again!  Wow!  Politician par excellence.  But not really.

That “interesting” statement (trust me) is what self-centered and narcissistic addicts proclaim when they have yet to hit bottom and are not willing to take responsibility or be accountable for their recovery.  Rob throws in there a tad bit of truth, that he can’t make promises over something he has “no control.”  Absolutely correct.  As addicts, we are control freaks, and our addiction slaps us right smack in the face because as much as we try to convince ourselves to the contrary, we have no control over our addiction.  BUT, we are still “required” by our own integrity if we have any, to be accountable and responsible for what we are going to do about something we have no control over.

What Rob DOES HAVE CONTROL over is how he is going to address his addiction and what steps is he going to take to live a lifestyle that runs counter to his addiction and a life style over which he has ABSOLUTE CONTROL.  

Rob CAN PROMISE US 
*that he is going to attend a twelve step meeting every day.
*He can promise us that he is going to practice living other-centered rather than self-centered.
*He can promise us that he is going to search out a God of his understanding rather than the god of his addiction.
*He can promise us that he is going to hang out with folks who will support him living clean and sober.
*He can promise us that he is going to have a “sponsor” who will personally walk his walk with him each day and hold him accountable and responsible for keeping his walk in line with his talk.
*He can promise us that he is starting and leading a support meeting each day for all the other folks in his administration who are addicted to one thing or another.

OH YES, ROB FORD, there are LOTS AND LOTS OF PROMISES YOU CAN MAKE US.  So we are waiting.

 

Friday, June 20, 2014

END OF LIFE CARE

This is an article I wrote for the St. Frances X. Cabrini grief ministry's newsletter, Good Grief.


I hear so many people today say, “I never want to be a burden to my kids....I am glad that I took care of Mom/Dad, but I wouldn’t want my kids to have to take care of me that way....If I get Alzheimers, just shoot me....I don’t see the point of suffering through the agonizing last stages of cancer let alone someone having to take care of me....I’d rather just die than to go through chemo and radiation....When there is no quality of life, what is the point?”

These statements and questions reflect our fear and our dreaded powerlessness when it comes to end-of-life issues.  And they also reflect a growing trend in our society to deny those who love us the opportunity to take good care of us when we need good caring. They reflect our inability to “surrender” to being loved. Some of us can’t even imagine that someone wants to love us by taking good care of us.  We are becoming more and more like Peter who was adamant that Jesus was NOT going to wash his feet.  Unfortunately, our stubborn and ironically selfish mind set feeds a growing interest in assisted suicide as an option to end-of-life “care.”  And we are also teaching the next generation that it really is preferable not to take care of our aging loved ones, but to farm them out to the growing business of “retired” and “memory care living.”

We have bought into the “company line” when it comes to illness and treatment.  Our very language limits our response to serious illnesses and allows only one choice: die a dreadful death.  For example, we talk about “terminal illness.”  Or we might even go so far as to tell someone, “you’re terminal.”  So what chance of life do they have, now that we have defined their life as terminal?  The language indicates that the only option is to patiently or inpatiently wait for the death train to pull into the station to take them away.
The fact of the matter is that every person on the face of the earth has only THIS MOMENT.  We are all terminal.

And when we talk about either ourselves or someone else no longer having quality of life, what exactly do we mean?  How is it that we do not experience being exquisitely cared for at the end of our life by the people who love us as QUALITY OF LIFE.  What better way to leave this earth than to be loved to the nth degree?  Or what if receiving that quality-of-life care, perhaps for the first time in either our adult life or our life period, becomes the catalyst to our healing and recovery from our illness?

And if you don’t see chemo or radiation as a quality of life option for yourself, there are other options, and there are many many people in the medical field who are now investigating the divine power that each of us is given to self heal.  Wishes Fulfilled, Wayne Dyer.  The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton.  You Are The Placebo, Joe Dispenza, M. D.  Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You can Heal Yourself, Lissa Rankin, M. D.  There are folks like Pamela MacDonald a nurse practitioner in Northern California who uses integrative medicine to support people healing from illnesses that typically leave one doomed for certain death.  And folks like Larry Dossy, M. D. who integrates spirituality and medicine in his practice and believes in miracles.

I’m not suggesting quackery, but simply informing you of the options being offerred to us by sound and scientific people who have come to believe that when we are ill, we are more than our diseased body.

And when it comes to pain in general, the business of medicine, consciously or unconsciously, wants us in the dark about pain management that does not require drugs.  So that leaves us with a reasonable enough question.  If there is not a drug to remedy our pain, especially at the end of life, why stick around?  What’s the point of suffering? 

There is so much that no one teaches us about pain management.  For example, I can have pain, but I can choose whether or not to suffer.  Whoa!  Am I for reals?  Yes, in fact, a new pain management program at the Betty Ford Center, Palm Springs teaches folks, who live with chronic pain, how to take control of the pain without medication.  Really?  Yes, Really!

David Kessler, who has been working with dying people for twenty five years, says this about assisted suicide.   “I don't believe that if you're getting poor pain management or inadequate end-of-life care, in a civilized society, suicide should be your best option for a good death.”  You can read the entire article online.

What if we talked about end of life issues differently?  What if we looked at being taken care of at the end of our life as a divine gift?  What if we looked at the experience of having our diapers changed as a tender moment rather than something burdensome and disgusting?   What if we changed our entire vocabulary to describe the end of life as a time of healing, of caring, of loving, of preparing for the journey, a journey we invite all of our loved ones to be intimately involved in, with us, right there with us?  What if we, as a faith community, committed x number of hours each week or each month to be a part of one of our fellow parishioner’s end of life journey? 

Why would we walk away from such beautiful people when the end comes?












  
In 1977, We sent Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 on a journey deep into space to explore Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto and Uranus.  In 2011 and 2012, these spacecrafts each plummeted BEYOND our solar system.  To this day, they continue to send back information about their voyages.  It takes 17 hours for the radio signals to travel from the probes to earth, and 17 hours for earth to send command signals back.  These radio signals travel at the speed of light, so you do the math.  186,000 times 3600 times 17.  That’s how “far out” these probes are.

If we can go that distance, we must have the God-given intelligence to go the distance in caring for our loved ones and go the distance in allowing our children and loved ones to care for us in our common end-of-life journeys which will take us far beyond the universe as we know it.  It’s not a “far-out” idea, but one that ancient and native societies practice as a way of living.  Perhaps we need to return to those ancient and native values of family and community and hold precious those at the end of their life, revere them, wave good bye to them knowing assuredly that we walked with them to the finish line.   And allow ourselves the same honor and privilege.
      
In the next article, we will explore the spirituality of end of life care.



Sunday, April 20, 2014

HE WASHED OUR FEET

  So you attend some kind of religious service on Easter Sunday.  What is that about?  No, seriously, I want to know.  Love to hear your answer to the question.





  More of us, at least in this country, attend some kind of religious service on Easter than on any other day of the year, including Christmas. There is standing room only.  Overflow crowds gather in buildings adjacent to the main building of worship and watch the services on closed circuit big screen television.  I don’t know if the collections reflect the over flowing attendance, but I would imagine they do.  So not only do we attend, but we feel generous to give to an institution about which at other times we have nothing good to say.

  Hey, I am not knocking it.  Just curious to know why we attend and why we give?

  So you attend a lengthy vigil service on Holy Saturday evening.  Or you attend a rousing service on Easter morning.  Yes, rousing. Usually the music is extremely celebratory and often extra instrumentation is added to highlight the feast.  Maybe even a liturgical dance is performed.  There is often a renewal of some sort, in many churches a renewal of Baptismal vows. Oh, and we dress up.  We really dress up.  Even the guy who never dresses up, dawns a white dress shirt even if he does leave the tails out.

  So what is it all about?  

  As I reflect on the way Jesus was born and died and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, the way he walked the earth and served people, it seems pretty simple, pretty uncomplicated, pretty non liturgical, pretty non-organizational in nature, and overall, non-descript.

  Well think about it.  Non-descript compared to our current religious rituals and liturgies, our lavish buildings, our marketing, our collection of goods and property, and our exclusivity.  Yes, exclusivity.  We have rules about who is in good standing and who is not, who can attend and who cannot.  We have an absolutely awful evil trail of cruelty and wickedness toward people and cultures we judge not to be in either God or the church’s good graces.

  For whatever reason, during this Paschal time, we focus our attention on the crucifixion, and what little we know of the events of Easter Morning.  We don’t know much about those events because we were off hiding.  Remember that part?  Somehow we equate the crucifixion and the resurrection with our salvation. But if we stop and think about it, the outstanding event of Holy Week is Jesus washing our feet and inviting us to do likewise.  Maybe there is our salvation.  Allowing Jesus to wash our feet and then doing likewise.

  So who was the last person whose feet you washed? Hey, I can’t tell you either.  So I’m in the same boat. I’m just asking the questions. I’m not pretending I’m any better than the rest of us.



  For whatever reason, we could not let this gesture, the washing of our feet, sink into our hearts.  We could not go with Jesus after he washed our feet and pray with him.  We fell asleep!  We did not get it that our Faith is not about slaying “bad guys” with our swords, but about washing feet, even the feet of our perceived enemies.
  
  Even though Jesus washed our feet, we could not stand by Him when the soldiers came to arrest him and go with him after they arrested him.   We ran and hid.  We denied we knew anything about him.  One of us betrayed him outright.

  Jesus also invited us to heal others, not with a big show, but quietly moving about the world, laying our hands on those who are wounded, letting them be healed by what Jesus placed in our hearts when he washed our feet, just as he did for Malchus after Peter cut off his ear.
    
  If Jesus were to show up today, He would again wash our feet.  Unfortunately, shortly after washing our feet, we would have Him arrested and taken away again.  We have yet to take in what it means for Jesus to wash our feet and his invitation for us to do likewise.

  Jesus absolutely does not fit into any of our church settings or worship ceremonies.  It is beyond me that we don’t get that, or if we do, we ignore it.  Jesus would once again decry us for our dens of thievery, our philacteries and long tassels, and for our complete lack of service.

  So, we went to a service either Saturday or Sunday morning.  What are we taking away from our attendance?  Perhaps, there’s not much there to take away.  So go back, all of us, go back, go back to that evening when Jesus washed our feet.  Let us look at the simplicity of his life and his absolute commitment to serve and heal us.

  Just think about it.  Let it sink in.  Let it sink in. He washed our feet.  Told us to do likewise and to heal. 

  Is that something we can take away and put into practice in our own simple, non-descript way?  In other words, no one has to know when we heal someone.  No one has to know when we wash someone’s feet.  



  What do you think?

Friday, March 21, 2014

THE MOVIE: GOD'S NOT DEAD


I saw the movie, God's Not Dead  this evening, and even though I disagree with many elements in the movie, it is a good film, perhaps even an excellent film.  I also like the fact that the screenplay and production of the movie were purportedly motivated by the “persecution” of Christian-oriented student groups on college campuses.  It seems like every other belief system is tolerated in the secular scene but Christianity.

Unfortunately, the film seems to polarize any and everyone who is not a Born Again Christian and that was distressing, very distressing to me.  Any other religious sect or belief system was either discredited directly or by innuendo. Born again Christians are good guys and saved, and the rest of us are selfish, narcissistic, atheists and bordering on being outright evil and slaves of Satan.  The dubbing (as in knighting) of the Duck Dynasty folks as spokespeople for Christianity really through me for a credibility loop.

The story line, a debate between a philosophy professor and a student over the existence of God would have been equally powerful without polarizing ALL of God’s people into two  groups. The film not only seemed to discount any other religion or faith but seemed to imply that people who do not believe in Jesus will face a certain bad fate.  They took the typical theme of most stories, good versus evil, and boxed it into Born Again Christians versus the rest of the world.

As a philosophy major in the mid to late 60's at a Catholic seminary, I am very familiar with the God is dead THEOLOGICAL movement of that era, and the film never informed the viewing audience what that phrase really meant probably because the film makers do not know themselves.  The God is dead movement of the 60's actually decried the loss of the sacred in our society.  “...modern secular culture had lost all sense of the sacred, lacking any sacramental meaning, no transcendental purpose, or sense of providence.” (Gabriel Vahanian, God Is Dead )

Sadly, the phrase “God is dead” was portrayed erroneously in the movie, which for someone like myself tends to tarnish the film and makes me question what the real intent of the film is.

The debate between the freshman college student and the Philosophy professor is absolutely brilliant.  Although, I was surprised that the script writers did not reference Einstein who has a lot to say about the existence of God.

The scene when the mother with Alzheimers has a moment of clarity and shares a Scripture passage with her angry and disillusioned adult son and then reverts back to not knowing who he is, is very poignant.  And the reoccurring theme of synchronicity, God acting in our lives in unsuspecting and mysterious ways, is exquisite and funny. Unfortunately, the scene depicting the middle Eastern father, who loves his daughter dearly but physically abuses and throws her out of the house for her conversion to Christianity, although well-done from a dramatic perspective, was a tad scary to me, and, as real as that religious-cultural clash is, and as real as that scene is, it made me question the overall agenda of the film.  We do not need to become Crusaders.    

Despite my criticisms, it is a movie well-worth watching and will stir inside you some discomfort and self examination about how far you are willing to go to not only live your faith, but be willing to tell folks, who do not believe in God, that you do.  And if you have somehow been wounded in your relationship with God, it may provide an impetus for healing. Unfortunately, the polarization may also only deapen the wound.