Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Redemption


“If God is so powerful, why doesn't he ….?” I would  guess that each of us has either heard this, said this, or felt this, at some point in our life. The context is usually some sad or terrible circumstance that left the one asking feeling broken and hurt.

I would like to share a story of redemption. I do not pretend that my one story universally proves a point--although I do believe that God's redemptive power is indeed universally possible. When he doesn't remove the circumstance, he can redeem the pain.

My mother died. She lived with us for 7 years. Health up and down, but mostly down and declining. Usually the decline was slow, but she would occasionally have a big drop and then that would become the new normal until the next drop. The last six months she was quite ill, the last four months, on hospice.

5 weeks to the day after mom left, the mother of my dear friend and neighbor went to heaven as well. I was honored to be a part of those final days and hours.

________________________

I have a disturbing fluency in skills no one wants to know.
Rolling, turning, changing, adjusting pillows, crushing pills, filling syringes.
Taking minutes to dispense just a few drops, carefully, so as not to choke the throat of one who can no longer swallow.
Swabbing the dry mouth, relieving the cracked lips.
Setting the mood of the room, flowers, music, light levels, even scents.
Tone of voice, gentle touch, stroking the hair. Enough to let you know I'm here, but not enough to disturb or overwhelm.

The relationship with death. It is our enemy, but it is inevitable.
Can I come to a truce?
I cannot control the fact that it comes, but I can comfort how it takes you.
I will not let you feel fear, or pain, or loneliness, although, we all know that the last step you must indeed take alone.
At least alone from my perspective. I pray not from yours.
Loved ones, angels, God himself? Surely someone is there to take your hand in the moment I must let go. Anything else would be too cruel.

But now what? When life has revolved around care for so long, what does one do with these accumulated proficiencies, this unwanted expertise?

I have my family, they need me, but a different part of me. This part, with its particular set of skills, feels useless now, vestigial.

But then comes a call, “I need help, I cannot.”
It is ok dear friend, because I can.
I step up and say, “wait, I know this one!”
I will hold her, touch her, love her like my own. Stroke her brow, whisper endearments.
With practiced ease, I perform the tasks so you are free to hold her hand.

And in this way, I find redemption.
My pain becomes a blessing.
My grief is assuaged.

I have a lifetime's worth of skill, but only one mother to spend it on.
God in his wisdom, in his grace, mercifully gave me another.






Tuesday, June 12, 2018

time


At the end, time moves backwards.
 Years turn to months, then months to weeks. At some point we begin to measure by days, then hours... minutes, moments, breaths, and that final measure of time, heartbeats.

An entire life distilled down to the last heart beats.
At this point, words are useless; there is only touch, feelings, yearnings, groanings.

Did I say enough?
Did I do enough?
Did they know?


As if it knows it is about to be cast off, time bends in the space around this soul readying for departure, normal bounds do not apply. In those days, time stretches out, each hour lasts forever.
Nothing makes a minute last longer than counting breaths.
 20,
12,
7,
5.
Each minute an eon, yet not long enough.

In the space between one heartbeat and the next, the light goes out. The next heartbeat doesn't come. The bird has flown, thrown off the surly bonds of time and space, now a part of eternity.


For those left behind the warp continues, for a short while at least. Hours and entire days, lost. But then, as if to make up for being slowed, time speeds up, unimaginably! What do you mean it has been 3 weeks? 6 weeks? 2 months? Where has the time gone? How dare the rest of the world keep moving... hurtling, along?

I held my breath as hers slipped away. And I'm still gasping.


Monday, October 24, 2016

I can not, I will not.

Please note, this post is written to a very specific audience.  If you do not consider yourself to be conservative, christian, evangelical, any labels along those lines, it very likely will not make sense.  For my friends who do not fit this profile, I encourage you to look at my post here.



This post began life as a reply to one of the many (far too many) articles that are urging Christians that they must, for the sake of  _____(the unborn, the Supreme Court, marriage, family, religious freedom, the right to bear arms, the military, etc. ad nauseam), vote for Donald Trump and defeat Hilary Clinton at any and all cost. I am in the minority and have been speaking out against this trend and this idea for some time. I have written other statements covering particular political aspects, but this is a specific reply explaining my religious/spiritual stance.


I was born in the Conservative Holiness Movement (CHM) , have been raised, educated, and served within the CHM.  These are the principles drilled into my mind, "Stand for the truth, no matter what."  "Never do wrong even for a chance to do right."  "Don't wink at sin."  "Sin will take you further than you ever wanted to go."  Was I not meant to actually learn those?

What happened to the days of,

"I want a principle within of watchful, godly fear,
A sensibility of sin, a pain to feel it near.
I want the first approach to feel of pride or wrong desire,
To catch the wandering of my will, and quench the kindling fire.

From Thee that I no more may stray, no more Thy goodness grieve,
Grant me the filial awe, I pray, the tender conscience give.
Quick as the apple of an eye, O God, my conscience make;
Awake my soul when sin is nigh, and keep it still awake.

Almighty God of truth and love, to me Thy power impart;
The mountain from my soul remove, the hardness from my heart.
O may the least omission pain my reawakened soul,
And drive me to that blood again, which makes the wounded whole."


Maybe I listened too much, maybe I took it too much to heart, maybe I learned the lesson too well? 

 I can not and I will not vote for, nor support in any way, a man with the ethics of Donald Trump.  It hurts you see; the pain to feel it near, the poke in the eye of my conscience.  This is not about his recent audio release. This is not me being manipulated by the media taking certain bits out of context. This is about a lifetime of building his kingdom by stepping on people. It is about the lack of ethics, it is about the inciting of violence at his rallies, it is about racial profiling, about not valuing the life of people who aren't just like him.  It is about him seeing humans as pawns to be used.

Many things in the scripture can be confusing.  But some things are not; the essentials don't seem to be confusing.
I am told in the scripture, "He has shown thee, oh man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of thee, to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with they God."(Micah 6:8, paraphrase)  --Trump neither does these things nor shows that he values those who do.
I am told to Love God and to Love my neighbor as myself. (Matthew 22:37-39) I'm not so fussed about Trump not loving God- many people do not love God, but all major moral codes call for loving others.  Trump does not ascribe to this either.
I am told that by clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and welcoming the stranger, I am literally serving God. (Matthew 25:35-45)  Trump actively seeks to prevent this.  He steps on the backs of the least of these. And he does so with glee and abandon.

Do you see? this is not about Hilary or if she is worse. If I were surrounded by a church world who from my youth told me to eschew evil and seek after good and they were supporting Hilary, I would be writing this article about her.

This is about me as an individual voting for him. 
This is  about me ever saying that I could support any party or platform that would support him. Breaking it down to the party or the platform doesn't excuse it for me.  I guess memorizing Proverbs 4:14-19 (and all those other Proverbs about not throwing my lot in with the wicked) has ruined me.
This is me asking the church leaders why they taught me one thing, why they had me found my very life on something, and now they want me to change. 
It won't work. You did too good of a job.  I have matured, life has driven the lessons home.   My beliefs have evolved from merely something I was taught to something I believe, hold dear, and am not willing to give up. 


The division coming forth right now, the unutterable damage to the reputation of Christianity, of conservatism, of everything we have ever stood for, it is unfathomable. 
The tiny, vocal minority are being blamed, being vilified, in fact, being threatened. 
Not for changing our minds or becoming heretical, no, for merely standing right where the church has stood.
 For not laying down our witness. 
For realizing that sacrificing our credibility  to share the gospel in exchange  for "winning" a temporal election is a ludicrous trade-off.

I feel as though I'm watching everything I've ever been taught be flushed down the toilet by the very people who taught me. So yes, I'm emotional.  Yes, I'm hurt. Yes, the disappointment goes deep. 

But I'm not sitting over here like a stubborn child refusing to give in.  The very fact that the people I hold dearest are changing has caused me to turn to the scripture  over and over and over.  I have poured over political resources, I have cried, I have prayed, I have checked and double checked my reasons and yet here I am. 

For spiritual reasons I cannot vote for DJT. It will violate my conscience and my walk with Christ.

For missional reasons I cannot vote for DJT.  It will absolutely ruin any Christian witness I have, any light I have shone, any drawing others to Jesus that I have done.

For political reasons I cannot vote for DJT.  My research has shown me that the decisions of "conservative" SCOTUS are iffy at best and thus not a good enough reason.  Furthermore, DJT, even if he were a man of stellar character, has no experience to recommend him for the job. He's just not a good candidate.

For patriotic reasons I cannot vote for DJT.  I served in the US military as has my spouse and many dear friends and family members.  I will not vote for a man who says horrible things about honorable veterans who were POW or suffered mental injuries.  I will not vote for a man who will not only send soldiers into harms way with little reservations, but has boasted that he will instruct them to commit war crimes.

For humanitarian reasons I cannot vote for DJT.  He openly mocks and degrades people of other races and abilities. 

I could go on and on.  I will not.  I have many reasons, none of them arrived at lightly or flippantly, nor do I think I am gullible and have been led here (for by whom would I have been lead? the leaders have gone the other way).

Why can't I just shut up and be quiet about it?  Because, as  has been pointed out, "all it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing."  I can not do nothing.  I was taught to stand for right and good and Trump is neither right nor good.

Oh!  you say, but we must turn an eye, we must give in this once, or Hilary will win!! 
Then perhaps she must. 
But that is not my problem. That is God's problem.
He only told me to obey him, to defend righteousness. He did not guarantee that I would then "win" or get to keep my religious freedoms or continue to have an easy life. 
I see time after time in the scripture and history where people had to choose the right thing but still have a bad outcome.  That is another thing I was taught. Choose right, no matter what, no matter what others choose, no matter the outcome, leave it to God.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

I need you to know...

I have had people question if I should be so vocal in my push-back against the Christians for Trump movement. That perhaps is is a bad example for non-Christians to see the "struggle within the walls."

Believe me, I have thought and prayed about this and have come to the conclusion that yes, I do need to be very vocal about it. It is precisely because I have such a variety of friends, many not Christian, and some not of any religion, that I think I must be so vocal.

It is important for me (not as a matter of pride, but as a matter of defending and clarifying my faith), that you know.

You know I am a Christian, and that even though I follow Christ so imperfectly, that I do try, that I am trying.

I need you to know that first on my allegiance is Christ and his love, not the label of "Christianity" , and if the time comes to follow Him while disengaging from the 78% of white evangelical christian voters who support Trump, then disengage I will.

I need you to know that Christ commands me to love the poor, the stranger, the sick, the hurt , the minority, and the slave, and that I will be judged based on whether I cared for them. I am told that whatever I do for them, I am literally doing for Christ.   Joining forces with one who belittles and abuses them is not part of that.

I need you to know that I believe in bodily autonomy and that Christ's words strongly reprimanding those who would ever hinder the little children, that his defense of women in general and especially those who were the lowest of the social hierarchy, are evidence that sexist, abusive, and misogynistic behavior from anyone is not ok with Him, and should not be acceptable to any who call his name.

I need you to know that Humans Beings are God's special, sacred, creation and that I will support human rights before I will worry about "Christian" rights.

I need you to know that I do not understand or condone the many things that are being done, the excuses that are being made, by those who also claim the name of Christ. I confess to you my bewilderment at their actions, even as I acknowledge that I also fail so many times.

Hello. I am a Christian, my name is Jody. I am the same person you have always known. Quick on the temper but long on loyalty. Always seeking truth, always over-explaining. More interested in your values than your labels.

I just need you to know.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

the Hope of Christmas

This time of year there is a huge emphasis on being “merry and bright.” In church the atmosphere is one of celebration, of glitz and light and joyful music, of triumph. Merriment and pageantry, festivity abounds.  And so it should!  We are celebrating God come to earth, the culmination of a promise given at the beginning of time.  The tree and the lights and the music and dance and drama and gifts have become part of the celebration, to the point of extravagance—and again, I am not finding fault, after all, how extravagant is it for the God of eternity, the Creator of the universe, to join his creatures for the sole purpose of death and resurrection and redemption?

My thoughts are simply this; to those who are bent and weary with burdens that simply won’t let up, those for whom grief and pain are constant companions, those who are quite simply, spent. The thought of needing to put on a fa├žade of “merry and bright” can be overwhelming.  For them, the expectation of festivity is not a preparation for joyful ceremony, but rather one more task on hearts already so very taxed.  May I say that the degree of celebration is not a marker as to how much you love Jesus and appreciate the gift of his coming to earth?

I submit that it is every bit as worshipful, every bit as appropriate and genuine to lay aside some of the frolic and simply dwell on the Hope.  Jesus birth did not signal the prompt end of oppression. His coming did not bring immediate ease, the suffering of Israel did not cease.  In fact there were many more long years of war and turmoil, of persecution and tumult and being scattered. 

Jesus’ birth was the declaration of Hope.  Hope that in the midst of suffering God had not forgotten or abandoned.  Hope that God was not merely enthroned on high, but was present, he was now, he was sharing the pain, the hurt, the grief.  Jesus’ coming meant that there was Hope that the current circumstance was not all there is, the promise still stood. 

That promise stands today. He remembers the frailty of humanity. He knows, not simply as one who has seen, but as one who has borne, the fragility of our spirit and emotion.  And he does not merely remember!  He does not share our burden as one who can only sympathize.  Christ Jesus is unique in that he not only knows our infirmity, he has the power to carry us through it.  This is the Hope of Christmas. 


I invite you to lay aside the guilt of “not doing enough for Christmas” and focus on the Hope. The Hope that although suffering may not cease immediately, that you are not left alone in it. The Hope that though the burden is so very great, you are not alone in carrying it.  The promise that although your Christmas may not be filled with lights and pageantry and spectacle, your Hope is just as real; for does not a candle shine most brightly in the darkness? 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Do Unto Others

Even people who have never picked up a Bible love to quote from it, and while I don't have research to back me up, I think one of the favorite and most often misquoted/misinterpreted scriptures is some version of "Do unto others as you would have done to you." (The other most misquoted has got to be "Judge not that ye be not judged" but that is a whole different blog post. Or two.)  I have seen some pretty interesting takes on this; even what I just wrote above is not exactly what the Bible says. The two scriptures that  Golden Rule quotes are usually derived from are:

Luke 6:31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
and
Matthew 7:12 
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

There is so very much that one can say about these scriptures and the principles that are taught in their context.  I will not attempt to explain  exhaustively, or even partially what they mean. I would like to think for a few minutes about what I think they do NOT mean. 

My thoughts were brought here this morning by a friend's status update.  Basically, she tried to treat someone the way she would like to be treated and it didn't go well.  Story as old as time, yes? 

First, let me say we aren't responsible for how others act, only for ourselves. We can't say, "oh, they were mean" and then return evil for evil (how come the scripture telling us not to do that isn't on greeting cards and coffee mugs?).  The other person's action or reaction does not excuse me from doing what I know to be good. 

Secondly, and what I was really thinking of when I read my friend's status was this:  treating others the way we would like to be treated does not always equal "being nice."  This is a big pill to swallow, I know.   It has been drilled into us since preschool to be nice.  Especially as Christian women, we are supposed to, above all, be nice.
  
But more than "nice", I value being treated justly, rightly.  No, thank God, I'm not treated the way I often deserve (ouch), but our obedience to the Golden Rule doesn't mean we must open ourselves up for abuses.  
Don't forget Micah 6:8, we are to do justly and love mercy--this is what God requires of us.  I believe that within the context of mercy, within the context of "do unto others", it is entirely appropriate to treat people with justice.  This means that I do not have to, under the guise of "being nice", open myself up for others to take advantage of or misuse me.  I do not have to extend the same privileges of trust and friendship to every person in my life.  Everyone should be treated with justice (while loving mercy), but not everyone gets the same access to my heart/emotions/home/bank account. 

There will always be people who take advantage, who hurt us, who misuse us.  Jesus told us this would happen to even expect it and that we are blessed if we are persecuted for righteousness' sake.  But not all of our hurt comes from righteousness' sake...sometimes we are so focused on being nice that we don't think of being just. Treating people with justice isn't mean (although they may not like it). Doing unto others as I want them to do to me may not always be pleasant.

 
I expect that if I hurt someone, that I will have to work to regain their trust.
I expect that people will speak with me truthfully, even if it is painful to hear.
I expect that if someone needs to set boundaries or alter their expectations of me, they will.

I need to be brave enough to treat others in these same ways. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

cereal, soup, and dumpsters

Recently I've heard several references to "pick the meat and spit out the bones" or, "there's a lot of good in it, just ignore the other"  and other thoughts along this line.   I've been thinking about this and while I totally understand, I think that we need to use discernment in this process.

Analogies can be tricky... they can help make a point, but they can also distract from the point as you try to reconcile all the bits that don't really carry over.   I am going to hope that in the analogies that follow, it helps to clarify and not to confuse.

Lucky Charms
 This is where we cherry-pick and only take what we like in order to make a point, ignoring not what is questionable, but what is actually beneficial.   I would say it's like picking through the bowl and only taking out the marshmallows and leaving the cereal.   This is super easy to do and happens with everything from scripture to statistics. We need to guard against it not only in our own life (reading something that is whole and complete, but only taking in what is convenient or suits our agenda) and also in the content of those we choose to listen to. Are our preachers and teachers giving the whole truth or just the marshmallows?

Chicken Soup
...or stew, or meat and bones, whichever way you look at it, this is the "good" way to pick and choose.   I call it "chicken soup" after my dear daughter who loves chicken soup and can eat her way through bowls full of the stuff and at the end leave a whole heap of carrots behind.  The carrots aren't bad or harmful, they just aren't to her taste.
I own and read and use as reference many books that I don't fully agree with every thought the author presents. However, it's not bad or or harmful, and it does make me think.  Listen (or read) critically, weigh the information, and keep the good stuff. Even what you don't choose to "eat" has been beneficial in making you think through it (much like carrots giving flavor to the soup).  If we only read or listened to people we completely agreed with, our lives would be much smaller.

Dumpster Diving
Sure lots of great things probably get thrown away and if you went digging for them, you could find them.  But at what risk?  Rotten food, germ ridden sharp objects, and other items that are downright hazardous are also in that dump.  To me, this is like reading or watching media that has obvious bad philosophy or doctrine and justifying it by saying that there are lots of "good parts."  

The first consideration  (for me) would be, "is there a better place to get this?"   Whether the "this" is entertainment, advice, or information, is there any other source that wouldn't require so much picking through?   If so, then choose the other option, if not, then really look long and hard at what it is that you need so badly that you are willing to dig through putrid trash to get it.
Discernment is both a learned skill and a gift from God.  When we seek to fill ourselves with Truth, he will honor that and give us wisdom and discernment to do so.  


Proverbs 18:15 - The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge

1 Thessalonians 5:21 - Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.