Categories
Opinion

“The Suicide Tourist”

The other night, I watched a documentary on PBS’ Frontline program.  The show was called “Suicide Tourist”.  It portrayed the struggle of Craig Ewert, a middle-aged man that contracted ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  His disease progressed rapidly, as ALS is wont to do.  In three months he was already on a ventilator.  For those of you that do not know what ALS is, it is the wasting away of the muscles in the body.  This includes all muscles, the heart, the lungs everything- but your mind remains intact.  Its not uncommon for people to end up on machines, not even able to blink their eyes, but be literally trapped in a shell of a body.

Mr. Ewert chose to go to Switzerland, helped by an organization called Dignitas, to assist in ending his life.  The documentary followed his decision, how his family reacted, and the eventual ending of his life.

To preface, I watched this while my mother, who was dying of disease very similar to ALS, was still living.  I watched it again on Tuesday night.    Though I recommend this program as a naked examination of the process someone goes through to get to this decision, I don’t recommend it if you are not able to handle it.  It does show Mr. Ewert die.

So after the program I ventured online to read the comments on PBS.org’s site dedicated to this program.  The comments, overall, were better thought out than most that I see on websites that welcome comments.  But there was much about the program and the people’s reaction to it that disturbed me.

Let me state at the outset that I am not in favor of or believe in suicide as a solution to anything.  As a Christian, I believe it is a sin to take out of the hands of God the decision of when you are to die.  But I am not a hyprocrite.  I do know that I daily take out of the hands of God things I should not.  So I don’t believe I am somehow more righteous than others because I don’t believe in suicide.  Sin is sin, not matter if its gossiping, taking the Lord’s name in vain or taking ones own life.

However, what disturbed me was the way that Mr. Ewerts family seemed to easily allow him to do what he wished without even suggesting alternatives.   He was a former college professor who had decided to live abroad after he retired, his wife in tow, who was getting her PHD late in life as well, was an agnostic and obviously well educated.  But, as with many in our society that rise to the level of “education” that he had achieved, they think that their lives end at our last breath and that he is in control of everything.  When he lost that control, it was easier to say adieu.  I am speaking as one that watched a loved one die of a disease very similar to this one.  In the documentary, his wife didn’t say once that she didn’t want him to do this, even when he said he was scared.  When he said he didn’t want his children present, because he would continue to talk to them and not want to go through with it, didn’t the children say, ok then I will come, because I want you to live longer?

I can hear the shieks now.  That would be for them, not him!  He is dying a horrible death and in his own words ” I have the choice of death or suffering and death.  I choose the former.”  I talked to my mother about this documentary after I watched it during one of our many heart felt talks those last months.  She said she found it selfish and could never do such a thing.  This was a woman who needed help to facilitate her bowel movements and couldn’t swallow without choking.  This was a woman who had taken “mustard” (the stuff the nazis gassed the Jews with in the camps) in liquid form through the veins in her feet as a cancer treatment.  If anyone was ready to die many times, I’m sure it would have been her.

As I watched it again, post her death, I felt sadness for Mr. Ewert that only someone who has been on the front lines of these diseases will ever know.  I knew why he was doing it.  Any rational person would choose it.  But when something like this happens to you, rational isn’t enough.  There is more to us than a body with a disease.  We have souls-something Mr. Ewert flatly said he didn’t believe.  I was sorry for him because of that, not just his ALS.    Just because you didn’t believe it, sir, doesn’t make it false.  He said he would hope for the best, if he was wrong.  Isn’t that something we shouldn’t leave up to chance?

Then there were the comments.  So many people were angry at those that didn’t support his right to choose this.  Unfortunately, there are those in power in this world, that would love to Euthanise those that are considered a “burden” on society.  The mentally infirm, the physically ill.  This is why many are so upset about the health care debate.  You’ve heard of the “death panels”?  If it were up to the government to decide who gets care and who doesn’t depending on a line on a graph, my mother would have died years ago.  So when I see people commenting that everyone should have that right, and we should have it legal here,   I wonder if they really think these things through.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  I get why Mr. Ewert did what he did.  But as he sipped the medication that was going to end his life to the strains of Beethoven and his wife patting his hand, I felt a little sick.  Sick that he had to go through it and sick that he felt he needed to do it.

And I wept.

Categories
Christian Life

Walking Through the Valley: Dealing with Trials and Thorns as a Christian

As a Christian, we hear about “valley” and “mountaintop” experiences quite a bit.  It has been written about recently in Christian publications, spoken about on Christian radio and extolled forever on social media.  What does this mean, really?

I’m not a theologian, but I can give you my own experience about “valley” and “mountaintop” experiences.    I am personally going through a very deep “valley” experience.   The list of things that have happened is pretty long in such a short time.   My  99 year old Aunt, who I am at least partial caregiver for, fell and fractured her pelvis, my kitty -which was more my baby than pet, died, I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer and my father’s last sibling, a very dear woman, my Aunt died last Thursday.  All this has happened since the beginning of April.  On top of the autoimmune liver disease I suffer of, this has been quite a bit.    If I were a superstitious person, I would think that I had walked under too many ladders.  But as a Christian, I am told that I am in a “season of trials”.

Let’s look first at the difference between a “season” and a “thorn in the flesh”, as stated by Paul the apostle.  Paul asked God to remove his thorn several times but realized it was something he was going to have to learn to live with.  My liver disease is an example of a thorn.  But, most theologians would agree that what has been happening to me lately is a “season of trials.”

When you are in the middle of things like this, you feel like it will never end.  There are some good steps to go through when you feel this way.  These are good things to remember if you are a Christian or not.  However, as a non-believer, you may find it more difficult to find the joy in the situation.

1.    This too shall pass.  With a few exceptions of course, most seasons of trial will eventually pass.  Will health problems not resolve and the person die?  Yes, that sometimes happens.  Sometimes healing will not come on this side of eternity.  Will bad things go on for a considerable amount of time?  Yes.  But except for a few extreme  circumstances, things will usually resolve.

2.   Accepting the New Normal.      Things may eventually pass, but sometimes what happened will cause what is normal in your life to change.  A significant health issue may cause you to now have to take certain medications, go to the doctor more, etc.  A financial set-back may make you reassess your lifestyle.  A death will cause your life to be irrevocably changed.  Don’t fight it and say “I just wish everything would go back to the way it was!”  It is counter productive and will do nothing but make you hurt.

3.   Remember what God did for you last time.  If you aren’t a believer, this may make this step difficult.  Remember how God got you through bad times in the past.  It may not be exactly what happened this time, but God uses trials and bad events to grow us.  If you have never had a person close to you die, it may be the worst thing to ever happen to you.  But when it happens again, and it will, you will be more prepared to deal with the onslaught of emotions.  If you aren’t a believer, what coping mechanisms did you use last time?  Were they productive or destructive?

4.  Don’t confuse a trial for a thorn.  There may be thorns lurking in that trial that will become permanant.  That is part of the new normal and applies to number 2.   If you are diagnosed with a chronic disease, God may wanting to work through you to help others, perhaps he wants to make sure you realize you have to depend on Him.

5.  Its ok to be mad at God.  Don’t gasp, yeah it is.  He has big shoulders.  This is ok as long as it isn’t permanant.  God doesn’t inflict pain on purpose, but he can use it.

6.  Don’t confuse a trial with a consequence.  A lot of that stuff we deal with is because we made bad choices, plain and simple.  You bought a house that was more than you can afford and you can’t make the payments.  Consequence.  You borrowed too much money for school for an underwater basket weaving degree and you can’t get a job.  Consequence.  You’re child gets leukemia.  Trial.    I could get into the sins of the father here, but I won’t.  Don’t think the sky is falling and God is putting you through something that you caused.  Can he use it and get you out of it?  Oh yeah.  Will you still have to suffer through it.  Most definitely.

7.  Don’t make more of a situation than it deserves.  What if thinking will kill you when you are going through a trial.  Don’t look too far ahead and don’t take small things and turn them into catastrophes before you know what is going on.  I am terrible at this one.  I’m a planner.  It helps me in my job and makes me a good administrator, but not good at coping with stress.

You aren’t going to get these right every time.  There are going to be times when you feel like you can’t put one foot in front of another.  This is especially true if you have suffered a death, or you have a health problem.  I speak from experience, it is hard.  But if you trust in the Lord and use good coping mechanisms you will survive it.

Categories
Christian Life

Life Together: What we can learn from Dietrich Bonhoeffer about Christian Fellowship

Christian fellowship has come to mean different things to different people.  To some, its a Sunday afternoon pot-luck, with rows of casserole dishes and pies made by silver haired ladies and busy Moms.  To others, its a Bible study at someone’s home.  To others it may be getting together with a good Christian friend.  We, as American Christians, have done what most Americans do to everything.  We have taken something from the Bible and made it fit into our lives and culture.

There is nothing wrong with making things fit within your cultural norms.  But with Christian fellowship, according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book “Life Together:  A discussion of Christian Fellowship”, there is everything wrong with this.  For those you do not know, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor during Hitler’s Germany.  He was executed at Flossenburg concentration camp, April 9, 1945.  The following is from the foreword of Bonhoeffer’s book:

“For innumerable Christians in Germany, on the Continent, England and in America, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s death has been a contemporary confirmation of Tertullian’s dictum,  The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church; for his life and death and his writings, which throb with the simple, downright faith of one who has met Jesus Christ and accepted the ultimate consequences of that encounter in the World (which he defined as the sphere of the concrete responsibility given to us by and in Jesus Christ)–these are still a living witness in the ecumenical church in which he served.”

There is much that can be read on Bonhoeffer’s life online or in many biographies.  I highly recommend you pick one up and read.  Not only does he speak truth on Christianity, but also his words resonate in today’s world events like few others do.

Back to Christian fellowship.  Bonehoeffer says in his book that there is a difference between true Christian fellowship, that is where we are brought to community by Christ and Human Fellowship, which is where we are brought together by ourselves.  Something really struck me about the following passage:

“One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood.  He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere;  he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood.  Just at this point Christian brotherhood is threatened most often at the very start by the greatest danger of all, the danger of being poisoned at its root, the danger of confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship, of confounding the natural desire of the devout heart for community with the spiritual reality of Christian brotherhood.  In Christian brotherhood everything depends upon its being clear right from the beginning, first, that Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality.  Second, that Christian brotherhood is a spiritual and not a human reality.”


Now granted, this is only on page 26 of a 115 page book, but what he is saying struck me as the antithesis of everything most modern American churches stand for.  According to Bonhoeffer, we have taken the truth of true fellowship, with Christ as our only mediator, and turned it into a dream world of human community.  He does state later on that there is a place for both and we can’t make everything spiritual, but if what he is saying is true, we have lost the point of being with other Christians.  That would explain why to many people they see no difference in the churches they visit than they do with people in the world.  Christians sagely say that it is because Christians aren’t perfect and we are just sinners saved by grace.  We are human, so we will act like humans.  There is truth to this, of course.  But what really is happening is that we have taken something that is spiritual and tried to bring it down to our level, instead of trying to elevate ourselves.

Not only do we begin to be annoyed by those around us and question their faith, we begin to elevate ourselves to the place of their judge.  Bonhoeffer states:

“Because Christ has long since acted decisively for my brother, before I could begin to act, I must leave him his freedom to be Christ’s; I must meet him only as the person that he already is in Christ’s eyes.  This is the meaning of the proposition that we can meet others only through the mediation of Christ.  Human love constructs its own image of the other person, of what he is and what he should become.  It takes the life of the other person into its own hands.  Spiritual love recognizes that true image of the other person which has received from Jesus Christ; the image of Jesus Christ himself embodied and would stamp upon all men.”


Now, to clarify, there are all stages of Christian, and non-Christian, attending our churches today.  They may not be the level that Bonhoeffer states above.  However, that isn’t who I am referring to.  It is the mature Christians, regardless of chronological age, the leaders, the teachers, the Pastors, that have fed into this idea Church may be one great big pot-luck.  Our programs, our youth groups, everything fosters the idea of community.  That’s fine, as long as its a Christ centered community, not a group of Christian humans getting together and calling it a Christian community.

I am not a deep theological thinker like Bonehoeffer, but I can see this in congregations.  A few weeks ago, I posted on divorce in the church, how sometimes it was better just to part ways.  Bonhoeffer also states that this is true.  To paraphrase, he states that if as a community you have deluded yourselves to believe that church is a social hour, that all your human support and love comes from your fellow church members, or your Pastor, you should probably just walk away.  Our support, our love, and our help comes from Christ and Christ alone.  It is by his grace and that grace alone that we are allowed to have the community of other Christians.

“Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ.  No Christian community is more or less than this.  Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this.  We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.”


So when you are having strife in your church or with a Christian brother, remember this.  If your community has tried to become anything more or less than this, perhaps the potlucks are all you have left.  Christ left the building a long time ago.

Categories
Christian Life

Divorce in the Church: What it does to God’s Children Part 2

We completed part one with the large and looming question of  “Who divorces who?”  or should it be whom?  I’m not a great grammar person.  When is it time to call it quits with either your church, your Pastor, or both.

1.  Christian Fellowship:  The Bible states clearly to not forsake yourself from the fellowship with the saints.  But what if the saints are the ones causing you to lose your joy, and drawing you into the black hole of unchristian thoughts and actions?   You need to analyze what is causing this and whether or not its something you can overlook or deal with.  There is an old joke that says, “People who attend Sunday mornings love the preacher, those that attend Sunday night love the church and those that attend mid week service love the Lord!”  This may be a joke, but there are always some truth in these little sayings.  If you are finding it difficult, almost impossible, to make yourself attend a church, because being in God’s house is causing you pain, you may need to look for a new church home.  Attending the Lord’s house should bring you joy!  You should desire to gather close to the Lord every chance you get.  The problem with many who are going through the “spiritual divorce” is that it so pains them to be around the other members or the Pastor, that they cannot bring themselves to be in the same room.  To a true Christian this is a very, very difficult situation.  We are COMMANDED by GOD to not forsake his Church.  For some, the pain is so great, they would rather move on than remain in this situation.

2.  Respect of Leadership:  Pastors, teachers and leaders are brought to their positions, by God himself.  We are told by the Bible to respect and follow the leaders placed over us by our loving Father.   Is your relationship with your pastor healthy?  To have a healthy relationship you need to have the following in place:  Trust, Communication, Respect and Obedience.
The problem with a “divorce” is that one or all of these may be lacking between the member, the congregation and the pastor.   If you can’t trust, communicate, respect or obey your Pastor, you need to let God work on your heart.  If you have prayed, fasted, and tried to deal with all these situations one to one with your Pastor, or through a group, and it still has not been satisfied, you may need to move on.  Here on some scriptures:

1 Timothy 5:17 ESV 

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

Hebrews 13:17 ESV / 

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

If you truly, and I mean TRULY have submitted yourself to the Lord and asked for his guidance on this, and he communicates to you that you cannot do this, than it is better off for you to leave than to add to the pain of the divorce.

Here are some other things to consider:  These are not my ideas, these are taken from batteredsheep.com, and written by James McBride.

 Search The Scriptures

What a church teaches ought to reflect what the Scriptures teach. The source of Christian belief is the Word of God. How does your denomination meet the challenge?
To help you make a wise decision, ask yourself these questions.
Is Jesus Christ preached ? The heart of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ. Attitudes to him range from a dead formalism through to disrespectful chumminess. Yet it’s only through Jesus Christ–his life, his sufferings, his cruel death on the tree–that we are reconciled to the Father. Only through him, through his shed blood, can our loathsome (to God) sin be freely forgiven upon our repentance. Only in him will we enter into eternal life. It’s a personal decision which each of us must take.

Does my church reject clear Bible teachings? Some denominations, even on fundamental issues, cling blindly to tradition. Is this likely to change in your church–even after maybe several centuries of error? Changes, all too often, are away from the truth of the Bible!
Be sure to examine your church’s teaching with the Bible in hand. It’s yourresponsibility to get it right, not the pastor’s who answers for his own error. God’s Word is plain to those who want to understand! For example, have you personally sought out the Bible teaching on heaven–and hell? What about the immortality of the soul? And do you know on which days–weekly and annually–God says, in the Scriptures, He desires worship?

Do I dislike the pastor? We each differ in personality–clashes can occur! But the Christian Gospel promotes reconciliation, and you ought to exhaust every avenue to achieve it. We must seek peace with everyone one in the congregation, as much as is in our power. If there are no channels for reconciliation or there’s an unbridgeable–and unbiblical–gap between leaders and laity, then this, too, must be considered.

Does my church express the spirit of Christ? All too many local churches and even whole denominations are spiritually dead. There’s little chance to express Christian practice or to “grow in grace and knowledge”. A living church will be aserving church showing concern for the spiritual and material welfare of its members and for the world around. It will be a learning church, continually growing in Bible understanding and the training of its membership. It will be an evangelizing church with an active program for taking the Gospel to the world. And it is strong on theethical and behavioral aspects of the Christian faith.

Serve Christ

It’s unlikely you will find a church with which you can agree one hundred per cent! And indeed there’s no need to do so. For not all “knowledge” is vital to salvation.
There are, however, vital truths which distinguish the true from the false. Search the Scriptures. Discover what is truth. And wholeheartedly and energetically serve Jesus Christ where He is faithfully taught and expressed.

+++++++++++++++++

I hope this blog has given you some things to think about on your own thoughts about the spiritual divorce.  I hope some of this gives you hard things to think about, but also, maybe comfort in your own journey.

Categories
Christian Life

Divorce in the Church: What it does to God’s Children Part 1

Before you click past this, read on.   This isn’t what you think. What I am discussing today is when a Church becomes so broken, so dysfunctional that divorce is the only answer.  When you are tearing apart the children, after you have been through months of counseling, sometimes its better to walk away.  Stay with me on this, because its something very close to my heart right now.

I know not everyone who reads this espouses what I believe when it comes to faith.  However, I think that everyone can at least understand what I am talking about and you might actually learn something from what I am about to say. In this analogy,  I am treating a Church, its Pastor and congregation, like a marriage.  It is said in the Bible that the Church is the bride of Christ.  So this isn’t that far out of the realm for most Christians to understand.  So when I discuss things later on, its in this context.

What really happens in a divorce?  What is the cause?  Sometimes its one spouse being unfaithful to another.  In this case, that isn’t what I am discussing.  There is something more subtle and must more devastating, in my opinion.  It’s because you fall out of love.  You fall out of love with the congregation, the Pastor, or ultimately, Christ himself.

Why does this happen?   Many will say that they have valid reasons why they fell out of love.  “He hurt me!”  “He said unkind things to me!”  “They are always bitter!”    Something that started as small gets churned up and becomes a major problem.  Then the sniping begins, the fighting and even the most well intentioned people can turn even the smallest things into major drama.   Each person thinks they are correct, they are the most injured party and the heart hardens.  In the meantime, the “children”, or those that didn’t start this drama, sit around being affected by snide comments, the unbending attitude and the lack of reality by those involved.  I will describe a few of the individuals and what they are like below.

1.  The Perpetually Offended:   This is the person that no matter what the individual they are angry at does, good or bad, they find a way to be offended by it.  This person may have had an originally valid reason to be upset, but they have discussed it, held onto and nurtured the hurt to a point where it is now a huge blot in their soul.  This type of person will read something like this and also be offended by it.  They have long lost the ability to forgive and they draw others into their black hole whenever they get the chance.  These people are poison to themselves and others.  The worst part is that they don’t realize it, most of the time, they are so buried in themselves.  Some even think they are being offended in protection of others, because somehow those others can’t defend themselves.  These people will have little or no ability to find a middle ground and forgiveness of the person that offended them is not an option.

2.  The Holier than Thou:  This is the person that doesn’t think they have done anything wrong.  No matter what they are told or the amount of evidence they are given, they don’t think they have hurt or wronged anyone in any way.  They even have Biblical back up for the way they have acted.  These people are highly controlling, slow or even resistant to suggestion, become aggressive when criticized and have no realization why anyone would find them at fault.  They will apologize when confronted, but will internally not mean it, because they find no reason to do it.  This person may be in a position of authority and will think that they need to be followed without question, even if they, themselves, do not do the things that they expect of others.

3.  The Innocent Bystander:  This is the person that may be oblivious to what is going on.  They find things about the way they always were and don’t know why people just can’t get along.  You will find many of these people elderly, or people who just don’t want to get involved.  When the “divorce” progresses, these people will, unfortunately, get drawn in.

4. The Sniper:  These are people who might have been in group 1 or even in group 2, caused issues and then took off.  These people might have been deeply involved with starting the process leading to the divorce, but they set their time-bomb, packed up and left before it went off.   These people, unfortunately, are as much to blame as group 1 and 2 for the ultimate divorce.  They will also be similar to group 1 or 2 and think they had good reason to go what they did and take little responsibility for what happens later.  In their minds, their hands are clean because they left before they, personally, were the reason for the divorce.  These people may be genuinely contrite and like number 2 have Biblical reasons for doing what they did.  These people will also stay peripherally involved-sitting on their metaphorical roof top taking shots at the people still there.

5.  Switzerland:  These are the people in the unenviable position of trying to ride the fence and be peace makers between all of the above.  Number 4’s may have been number 5’s at one point and decided, for whatever reason, to cut and run.  These people will have Biblical reasons for doing what they did, be people who hate conflict so much they will avoid it at any cost, or just want “Mom and Dad” to love each other like they used too.  These people are the type that figure if they can keep the trains running on time and the money where it needs to be, that eventually everything will be ok.  These people, unfortunately will probably become number 4’s if pressed too hard.

6.  The Casualties:  These are number 1-5’s, but number 1’s will think they won if they get their way, as will number 2’s.  Number 3’s will continue to go along and the 4’s and or 5’s may or may not be the same.  Many will become the “walking wounded”  and will have to leave to just survive.  They will be permanently damaged by the whole process and may not be able to commit to another relationship for years to come.  No matter who wins, these people will find themselves losers.

So what does all this mean in the context of a church divorce?    Jesus has words on how to deal with these situations, Let’s look at Matthew first:

Matthew Chapter 18

15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16 But if he will not hear [thee, then] take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

This is pretty clear.  Jesus states the way to deal with someone that has a trespass against you.  He doesn’t say, “Go first and hash it out with your friends, talk about it on email, then draw someone else in to fight your battles for you”  does he?    The problem is, that all the numbers above may have tried this already and failed.  So now what do you do?  You need to analyze how bad the trespass is and then consider this:

Ephesians 4:32

Viewing the King James Version. Click to switch to 1611 King James Version of Ephesians 4:32.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Can you forgive the person?  According to Christ, you should.  But can you forget it?  Can you excuse it?  That is something you need to decide for yourself.  But what you can’t do is become like the “Perpetually offended” and draw people into your black hole.  You can’t be like the “holier than thou” and be oblivious to those around you with feelings.  If you want to leave, because you have become like the “walking wounded”, don’t be a “sniper” and remain on the side sending in volleys.

So if you are in this kind of situation, what do you do?  Nothing above is very Christian, in all honesty.  Divorce is prohibited in the Bible unless it is a case of adultery between a man and a woman.  But in some cases, divorce in a church may be necessary to save the children.  The problem then becomes, who divorces who?  When should it happen?    When I figure that out, I will let you know.

Categories
Christian Life

Maundy Thursday

No, its not a Mama’s and Papa’s song.  On the liturgical calendar, today is Maundy Thursday.  Today is remembered as the night that Christ had his Last Supper with his disciples before he then walked to the Mount of Olives, and was later arrested.

I was raised in a non-liturgical church.   We didn’t celebrate Maundy Thursday services.  I knew nothing about them until I took a part-time job as a church secretary/administrator at a Presbyterian church in the early 90s.  Though my demonination does not celebrate these type of remembrances, I find going through the motions of what actually happened on those nights as very interesting.   I plan to attend a Good Friday service tomorrow if I can make it out of my office.  There are several churches in town that have them, I will just need to look for them.

The only problem I have with these type of services is that many times its more about the service, the pomp and pagentry, then it is about what is really going on.   Jesus was definitely not a pomp and pagentry type of guy.   I find it difficult to believe that the minister of one of the services tomorrow is going to whip out his towel and bowl of water and begin washing our feet.   Besides the fact that most people would probably run screaming from the building because they were touched inappropriately, modern man just isn’t that humble.   Don’t be too hard on modern man, though.   Ancient man wasn’t that humble either.  Peter, the disciple called His Rock, by Jesus, was appalled when, that night, Christ began washing his disciples feet.  He told Christ that it was basically below him to be doing this.   Christ told Peter he was acting like the devil.  Literally.  It was bad day for Peter, after all.   He got into lots of trouble later that night.

But never put yourself above any of these men when you read the Bible or hear of what they did.   These were ordinary men put into extraordinary situations.   I only hope I would have a tenth of the strength of Peter or a tiny bit of the love and excitement of John.

So as you go scurrying around trying to find that bag of Reese cup eggs on sale, or that perfect box of Peeps for your Easter baskets, remember this holiday isn’t about the Easter Bunny or chocolate.  It’s about the God of the universe lowering himself into the body of “just a guy.”  Someone like you and me.

Though, I believe Jesus is the kind of guy that would have loved Reese cup eggs.  Don’t you?   I know plenty of carpenters and builders who can’t resist and a little PB and Chocolate.

Point is, this holiday is all about Him.  Let’s try to keep that way.

Categories
Christian Life Love

Never Underestimate Grief

Last night I felt like such a fraud.   I’ve been on this blog saying how happy I am that my mom is in a better place, that she has told me she is ok, yada, yada.   Well as Easter has approached, a holiday that my mother LOVED, I find myself getting more and more depressed.

The last two days I have done something I haven’t done in months.  Cry uncontrollably in the shower.  The shower is a great place for crying, don’t you think?  I mean, you are already wet, you already look like junk, why not cry too.  Plus, you can’t be heard in there very well.  Perfect crying closet.

When my mom died, I had this crushing guilt over her final days.   My mom started having pain in her legs and all over her body, she began crying constantly, couldn’t stop.  She would call out all the time and pull at her legs.  Her swallowing became non-existent as well and she couldn’t hardly take her meds.  I found out later that this had been going on for several weeks, from my dad.     The only thing that would quiet her and give her some relief was drops of morphine, adminstered through a liquid in her mouth.   She was very sensitive to medicine, but hospice told us that the morphine was so light and such a small amount, that it would only make a person sleep.   Well, when they told us that the pain she was going through was the dying process, we relented in giving her more morphine.  This is common for people in their final days/hours, but I couldn’t get over the idea that maybe we were accelerating her death.   Hospice told me over and over that there was nothing that could be done and that if we took her to the hospital, they would try to use heroic measures such as feeding tubes (she couldn’t swallow), vents (for breathing) or intraveneous morphine (stronger than what we were giving her.)  My mom said many times she didn’t want a feeding tube, didn’t want to go to the hospital, didn’t want any of that.   She had a do not rescussitate on her living will.   She stopped swallowing, could not take her meds anymore, pills that, in essence, were keeping her alive.  So really, nothing could have been done more to help her at this point.

But I still feel like I didn’t do what she wanted.  I still have moments where I wish she could have told me what she wanted.  When her swallowing stopped, her ability to communicate stopped too.  She was crying as if she was trying to tell me something, but I never could get out of her what it was.   When I finally told her, after a couple of days, that they told us she was dying, she calmed down.  I think she just didn’t understand that this was the final fight.  She didn’t have to struggle anymore.   For someone who had lived through a terminal cancer diagnosis in her 20s, breast cancer in her 40s, heart disease in her 50s and 60s, just laying down the fight is hard to do.

My husband asked me the same questions I ask myself.  What if she had lived through this crisis?  She would have been in a nursing home the following week, and my mom didn’t want to go to a nursing home.   My wonderful husband also said, “God takes us in His own time.   You second guessing God?”  Sage advice from my hubby.

I guess my biggest issue is that I was unable to be at my mom’s side every minute that last 7 days.  I was there, don’t get me wrong, but for the most part my husband, my two uncles and my sister sat vigil.   My dad and I, after years of constant caregiving, and some of the hardest months in our lives,  just couldn’t watch it anymore.   I feel like I abandoned her when she needed me the most.  I still carry that with me, though I know, deep down, my mom has forgiven any weakness I might have shown in those last days, and knows that I did my best.

What I am saying is never underestimate grief.  It comes in lulls and bursts.  I have just had a burst.   My friend, who has lost both her parents, told me that the “firsts” are the worst.   First Easter, First Birthday, etc.

I discounted that early on, but not again.     I know somewhere my mom is trying to reach across the great divide between this world and the next and comfort me.   I will take all I can get right now, Mommy.  I’m sorry for my mistakes.   I did the best I could.

If I made some that I shouldn’t have, I guess she can admonish me in glory.  We’ll have eternity to commiserate about every detail.

Somehow I don’t think she plans to do that when I see her again.   Just not her style

Categories
Love

The Green Monster

Jealousy?  No, not that green monster.  The monster is fear.  Real or imagined, fear can paralyze you.  It’s one of the major regrets I have now, since my Mom has passed.  When she was alive and free of MSA, just fighting her normal day-to-day battles with heart issues, I worried about her every minute.  I worried about if she was ok, called her all the time.  Now this didn’t happen all the time, mind you, but I did obsess about it some times to the point of ruining vacations, work days, and all sorts of time I will never get back.  In this case, it was imagined fear.  My mom was fine.  This past year, when I traveled to the Mayo clinic with my Mom and Dad, just about this time last year actually, I found out what real fear was.   I found out my Mom really was dying this time, and that no amount of doctor intervention would help.  A miracle would do it, but God had decided this was her last battle-something I realized after a few months.

Lately, the green boy is back.  I don’t have my Mom to obsess over, so I have turned it onto myself.  I have been concerned for some time that my Mom’s disease might be hereditary.  Though it states in the literature that in 95% of cases its not, my family has a tendency to fall into that 5% all the time.  My Grandfather died of Parkinson’s disease combined with several strokes.  His brothers all had some sort of neurological disease.  Either Parkinsons or Alzheimers.  My mom was my grandpa’s only child and I am her only child.  So, you do see my concern.

So lately I have noticed little things that remind me of my mom’s issues happening to me.  All of them could be explained by stress, possible perimenopause, and several other things.  But my mind has leaped to the possibility that I will be another MSA stat and that I will be one of those young people who get this dreaded disease.   I have a talent for leaping to the worst possible conclusion because in my lifetime, many times, it always seems to be the worst possible thing.  My mom was told she was going to die more times than I can count, after all.

What makes it different this time is that I have her experience to bring some of this into perspective.   Worrying does no good.  If you get it, you do.  There is no cure, so knowing ahead of time really isn’t going to make things any better.   So each time I accidentally drop a cup, feel my fingers wanting to move a little too hard on my mouse when I didn’t expect it, or I trip over something (usually my cat!), or can’t find the word for something I am trying to say, my mind tends to think, “Oh no, is this the start of it?”

Who knows.  If God intends for me to be another in our family to die of a neurological disorder, then I will, right?

But, God?  I’d really rather not.

Green monster wins again I guess

Categories
Opinion

One Fine day: A venting post for Sunday

You live day to day.  Getting out of bed, going to work, going to church, doing tasks.  You go to the grocery, you talk to people, you answer emails, you pay your bills.    The list could go on and on, but suddenly, on one fine day, the sun is shining-you feel pretty good about yourself and the world and….WHAMMO!!!!

You look around your home, your office and even your car and you start to see all the things that your loved one touched, gave you are talked to you about.  You reach for your cell phone and want to tell this person about the great joke you saw on the Internet that day, or ask them how they made that special you dish you liked.  You see the flower they made you standing in your office, still dripping with the love and attention that this person took to make it special and nice.  You realize that the love that person gave to you in this life will never be duplicated.   Then the doubts start.  Did I really listen to everything they had to say the weeks leading up to their death, or did I simply dismiss them as the ramblings of a degenerating mind and not really take to heart what they said.  Did they resent that when they stepped over the river to take the hand of God?  Did they think, why wasn’t she there with me holding my hand as I died?  Why couldn’t she be there as took that last breath?

As you can see, these aren’t just the doubts of some random person, they are mine.  I wasn’t with my mom when she died.  I wasn’t with her every minute as she went through the “process”.  That is a guilt I will take with me the rest of my life.  But as my husband so sagely said, “your cup was full”  you couldn’t take another minute of the pain.  That is why I was stepped in and the rest of the family did to let you and your Dad deal with it how you could.   My husband was with my mom when she died, so was my dad and the hospice nurse.  Not me.  Not the person that was intended for that.  Not the person that my mom showered so much love on her entire life.  Not the person that, in her own words, was the reason she kept living when she had cancer as a young woman.  I know my Mom isn’t in heaven right now sitting around with my Grandmother and Grandfather saying how disappointed she is with me or how heart broken she was that I wasn’t there. My mom wasn’t that type of person in life, so why would she be that type of person in death?   But, to me, I know I hurt her by not being physically present and this is a hurt and pain I deal with on a daily basis.

Grief is funny.  It isn’t like any other thing you will ever go through.  It hides and relaxes, taking a nap for months on end, then it appears out of nowhere and decides it wants your attention again.   One of my friends mentioned that it wasn’t the daily pain it was the emptiness.  That is what it is.  Emptiness.

I have a full life, don’t get me wrong.  I live daily with the love of Christ, my family and friends.  I have a good job that takes my time and a church family that is supportive and loving.  But its what the veterans call the “empty chair”.  It’s when I go to the Chinese restaurant with my Dad and my husband and they say table for three?  No!  It should be table for FOUR!!  Its the anger I get when I hear someone chatting about how they went shopping with their mother over the weekend, they called their mom and she said this or that.  My mom was only 65 years old!!  I was supposed to be having silly conversations with her, decorating Christmas Trees, going shopping and laughing about the stupid stuff my dad does sometimes for at least another 20 years!  My dad shouldn’t be going from room to room in a house dripping with her essence wondering what he will do that day that will take his mind off the searing loneliness that is permeating his life!  It isn’t fair!!

Sigh.  Sorry, I had to say that.   Years ago, I wondered if I would lose my mind when my Mom died. She hadn’t been what a normal person would call “well” for decades.  We knew her death was not that distant of a possibility.   I wondered if I would collapse mentally, have to quit my job, and retreat into myself for years.  I would lay awake at nights wondering what it would be like.  When that didn’t happen, and life sort of went on, I thought, wow, this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  And, for the most part, it really hasn’t been.  But there are days, even weeks, where I wonder if I can put one foot in front of the other.  As with most people, I hide myself in busyness.  But the body can only take so much before it says “no” and you must rest.  I had thought about taking a leave from work, but what good would that do I wonder.  Work has kept me focused and given me something to direct my energies.  I don’t think that is a solution.  Running away from life, is never a solution-only a temporary respite.

So, as I felt the world crashing in on me yesterday I felt the still, small voice of God saying.  Come to me and I will give you rest.  Take my hand, sit down and just be quiet.  So that is what I did today.  My husband had to work 7 days this week and he is asleep in the other room.  There is no TV on, no Radio, no IPOD, no sounds but his distant snoring and the occasional irritated meow from my cat as he insists I come back to bed with him.  Tomorrow is a holiday, so I have it off too.  I intend to slowly listen to what the Lord is going to say to me, in the quiet of my home.  I will listen as I have never listened before.

Every persons walk down the grief trail is different.  This, just happens to be mine.

Categories
Women

Full Moons and Home Parties

I always hear the expression, is it a full moon today?  It’s usually an expression of someone who is having a bad day or dealing with nutty people with attitudes.  Well I work with the public, so, let me tell you, if it wasn’t a full moon last night, it probably should have been.

I won’t bore you with the details of my day, just the high points.  I had a candle party today.  Well, sort of a party.  Our bank allows employees to have a party of sorts of the break room during lunch.  I had a candle party.  Not many showed up, but it should be enough to make a decent showing.

The home party biz is an odd thing.  I can speak from experience because I’ve been one of those ladies.  I used to sell jewelry on the side.  Daytime banker nighttime jeweler.  Cute, I know.  The company I worked for was what I call, one of the good ones.  However, I sometimes wonder at the personalities that this kind of business draws.  To be a salesman, whether you are selling electronics or make-up, all have to have a level of confidence that some people shrink from.  When I see someone take on the knock-down-drag-out world of home party sales that can’t say hello to you without looking at their hands, I cringe.  I give them two weeks and a huge dent in their bank account from all the supplies they had to order.

The real hard sellers are the ones that get others like me to do this.  I was told I had the “gift” to recruit others to sell.  I was already using that gift to get people to take out mortgages and buy annuities.  I was replete of the energy to add to my plate.  Selling the bling was not that hard.  Most ladies like jewelry, selling the biz was not my cup of tea.  I was successful as a jewelry lady, my life changed suddenly, so I had to let it go.

I guess the moral of this rambling post is for you to choose your career wisely, don’t let it choose you.  If you are going to be a Mary Kay lady, be the pinkest and most Mary Kayer you can be.  If you are going to sell jewelry, be a perky jewelry lady.  I could go on.

Today it was candles for me.  In the less than correct vernacular of the folks, “I love me some candles!”