Friday, March 29, 2013
Sunset, Carolina Low Country
It’s been said that human beings were created to be loved and things are created to be used. All too often, we get the process reversed. During his final meal with his disciples in an upper room on Maundy (mandate) Thursday, Jesus left them with three mandates; love others, serve others, and remember him. It was essentially a poignant goodbye after three years of high adventure and world changing teachings. As he died on the cross, his poignant goodbye was simply, “It is finished”. His poignant goodbye to Peter was a mandate to “Feed my lambs”. And just before his final poignant goodbye and ascension into heaven, he mandated that we spread the good news to the entire world.
A health care aide at a geriatric ward recently shared an extraordinarily poignant goodbye. A very frail and older woman had motioned for her to come over to her. When the aide positioned her ear close to the elderly woman’s mouth, she softly said, “I just wanted to say goodbye to someone”. She died a few days later. The woman was not an anomaly. There are hundreds of isolated and cast off people in every community that suffer alone in silence who simply need someone to just be there. They may not be dying physically at the time, but they are quite probably dying emotionally. And as much as it matters for someone to acknowledge their presence, it also matters that someone acknowledges their parting and remembers them, if only for a while.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Black Friday, Internet Domain
As we move along in the holy week, Good Friday looms ahead prior to Easter Sunday. I prefer to use an alternative name for that day over two thousand years ago as Black Friday. The sun stopped shining and darkness came over the whole land for three hours in the middle of that day as all nature mourned the impending death of its Creator. For the first time in all creation, the Father was temporarily seperated from relationship with the Son. The temple curtain was torn apart in that hour. The curtain symbolically separated the court of the people and the Most Holy Place where only the high priest could enter once a year to atone for the sins of the people. Now, Jesus’ death removed the barrier between human beings and God so that His sacrifice could pave the way for the atonement of all sins and the promise of eternal life through the grace of God.
Just before Jesus was condemned to death on a cross, however, a man named Barabbas had also been condemned to death. It was a Passover custom for the Roman ruler to pardon one prisoner. Barabbas had been convicted as a revolutionary insurgent and murderer. Interestingly, he was guilty of the same false charge against Jesus. Finding no fault with Jesus, Pilate offered the riotous crowd either Jesus or Barabbas to be set free; assuming they would chose the obvious guilty man. But Barabbas was spared certain death on that day and given new life while Jesus was sent to the cross in his place.
The names of many Jewish men of the day were derived from their father’s name. Interestingly, bar means “son of” and abba means “father”. Barabbas could be the son of any father--you or me. Jesus was crucified with two condemned men also dying on either side of him. One hurled insults but the other recoginzed His divinity and pleaded, "remember me when you come into your kingdom". And Jesus answered him; "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise". Only this man was able to see beyond the seeming devastation of the cross to the triumph of the eternal Kingdom of God. As he breathed his last on the cross, Jesus softly spoke, “Father (Abba), into your hands I commit my spirit”. We are all sons and daughters of our eternal Abba, and after the events of Black Friday, we are all now the beneficiaries of His priceless grace. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more and nothing we can do to make Him love us less. We only have to look to the cross to understand the full measure of His love. Barabas was given another chance at mortal life, but the unknown dying man on Calvary received a last minute chance at eternal life!
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Snowy Lenton Rose, Jamestown, NC
For some reason, I still remember a quote from a television western after a bloody shootout on the dusty main street of an old weathered cowboy town. The sheriff was the last man standing as his deputy approached bemoaning the sad fate of those lying dead in the street. “Well”, the calloused old sheriff dryly remarked, “One man’s problem is another man’s opportunity. The undertaker now has a windfall of new business”!
As we turned over our calendars to the first full day of spring this week, the weather outside for most of the country was anything but spring like. A trough of arctic cold air has enveloped much of the country as the jet stream dipped far south, bringing icy conditions and hard freezes. Newly planted pansies have fallen over in response and the budding maple trees have abruptly stopped their leaves from opening in a desperate move to save them from certain destruction. The skies are overcast and depressing as the north winds add to the chill factor and rapidly penetrate your skin in a bone chilling second!
The prolonged wintery weather has now prompted an Ohio prosecutor to indict Pennsylvania’s infamous Punxsutawney Phil for fraud after he predicted an early spring by not seeing his shadow! But for me, all this icy grief is perfect. I’m in the rehabilitation stage of a total knee replacement. I love to get outside at the heralding of the first robin’s song and dig in the dirt. But I can’t effectively do that right now, which accounts for the elective timing of my surgery. March Madness is in the air and I love college basketball. March Madness is at its best when the north winds are howling and you can nestle into your favorite chair with some appropriate snacks and go channel surfing for all the games that are simultaneously in action all around the country. There’s no temptation to venture outside for competing warm spring weather activities if the wind chill outside is below zero. That may be a problem for some folks in Ohio, but not for me--One man’s problem……
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Dallas, Chicago, IL
A cautionary tale is a story which contains a warning. Humanity has used such stories since Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden to drive home lessons learned in an impactful way so that the point is never missed. They teach survival lessons. Generally, there’s a threat, taboo or prohibition, a narrative that includes a violation, and finally the violator comes to an attention getting fate that won’t soon be forgotten.
Recent events in Steubenville, Ohio have been characterized as a modern day cautionary tale. Graphic tweets and photos essentially self-convicted two starting ex-high school football players. They could be incarcerated until they turn twenty one years old. Modern technology hasn’t altered human behavior, but social media is now an effective accelerant. Social media was characterized as the oxygen that fueled the fires of the recent Arab spring. In this case, old fashioned stupidity and lack of moral character became immortal as fast as you can hit “post”! The new technology has exposed politicians such as ex-Representative Anthony Weiner who exposed himself. An ex-cast member of The TV series Glee tweeted some plot spoilers prior to airing. Her producer responded with a tweet that hoped she was qualified to work in something besides entertainment.
Not surprisingly, cautionary tales are scattered throughout the Bible. One that immediately comes to mind is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Jesus is making the point that blessings of wealth are not proof of a person’s righteousness if those blessings are not shared with those less fortunate. The rich man exquisitely lived and dined, while the beggar Lazarus lay at his gate without aid or compassion. They both die and the rich man finds himself in hell while a great chasm separates him from Lazarus who is now with Father Abraham in heaven. The gift of wealth did not condemn the rich man, but rather his selfishness and hardhearted refusal to use it for good condemned him.
Monday, March 18, 2013
The Light, Miramar, FL
Many of the world’s religions have many things in common. But Christianity has a couple of beliefs that uniquely set it apart. The first is God’s priceless grace that flows to all believers who humbly and sincerely ask for it. God’s grace forgives all sins in repentance, albeit with the consequences that accompany all sin. The second is the extraordinary gift of the god we worship dwelling within us. Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God and the Light is within us. We simply have to invoke the power source to switch it on. When Jesus ascended to be with his heavenly father, he promised his disciples that he would send a comforter to guide them in his absence to be with them always. This form of the holy trinity is part of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Isaiah tells us that the faith that is begun in darkness is grown in the Light. And the Light will always chase away the darkness, but not the reverse.
May our Creator bless you with grace, presence, love and light to guide your path this new day.
Monday, March 4, 2013
The Power Within, Greensboro, NC
I’ve been fortunate in life. It wasn’t until late in life that I’ve dealt with any major surgeries or serious accidents as I’ve traversed a variety of adventurous paths. My recent knee replacement has brought all of this back into perspective. I’ve watched with wonder as the wound that travels along a twelve inch length of my leg has slowly but surely healed over and is now just a thin red line where the gaping incision was made to replace my original equipment with the latest titanium model.
I found it amusing during one of my first days in a reconditioning facility to discover that the morning background music was the Rock ‘N Roll genre that defined my formative years of high school and college. It became obvious that these business folks had done their demographic homework and were following the first wave of the baby boomer generation that is now moving into their senior years while continuing to break new ground for active living. As a trained Industrial Engineer, I learned the rationale of Sutton’s Law early on in my career. Slick Willie Sutton had robbed one hundred banks in the mid 1900’s and was asked why he had chosen a life of crime to rob them. His infamous response was “because that’s where the money is”.
One of the main activities of Jesus’ three year ministry involved healing. He restored a blind man’s sight and a lame man’s ability to walk again. He drove out demons and even brought folks back from the dead. Yet, everywhere he traveled there were hundreds of people who continued to suffer and even those who were healed eventually shared the common fate of all human beings. These events demonstrated his ultimate power over this world and even death itself. Many folks get angry with God when petitions for healing are not immediately received. Some even use that example as a reason to not believe. And yet, we’re surrounded by thousands of examples of healing every day of our lives when we experience such seemingly trivial things as a slight paper cut on a finger. Blood clotting immediately springs into action to stop the bleeding and life threatening infections. The miracles of healing can be overlooked and never given a second thought or cause for thanksgiving. Our mortal bodies are fearfully and miraculously made by our eternal creator and father. We are the care giver but He is the cure giver. As priceless water revitalizes parched lands, the divine light within us provides priceless healing vitality and strength coursing throughout our weakened bodies. It’s almost impossible to guess how many times this occurs throughout our lifetimes.
When we’re facing a serious need for healing, it’s good to get a plan and deal with everything including our daily lives one day at a time. And we need to be committed to living each of those days to the fullest while not getting too far ahead of ourselves. We then deal with those things we can control and trust God for the rest. Healing can be both a physical and a mindful experience.
I’ve learned that pain is an expression of weakness leaving the body. The prayers of others for strength and healing do indeed translate to God’s positive response in the body. And even those prayers for healing our mortal bodies during our last hours on this planet are answered with a new and completely restored spiritual body in the next eternal life where no pain, suffering or tears exist.
Friday, March 1, 2013
End of Day, Kiawah, SC
I just recently spent a couple of weeks in a reconditioning facility after total knee replacement. It was my second and thankfully my last, as I only have two legs. As you might expect, life in such a place is not real exciting with your days filled with post operative pain and the mind numbing effects of the necessary pain meds to enable you to work through the required physical therapy. One life lesson learned from the experience is that pain is weakness leaving the body. That’s a good mindset to keep in perspective so that you can keep pressing on with the therapy.
Your world is also compressed within the walls of the facility as you focus on the one goal of rehabbing the body so that you can return back into the world of active living. Any distraction is welcome so that you are not focusing on the temporary pain of regaining your strength. Enter Francine. I first encountered her while getting my tendons and muscles stretched back to normality in the therapy room. Francine is a permanent resident and has become a daily fixture in the room with the staff. She stealth’s into the room in her wheelchair by independently moving it with her feet. And she’s become quite proficient with this method as her hands are apparently wracked with arthritis. After all, I learned that Francine is in her late nineties these days. Her trademark attire is a different colored head scarf that she wears every day of the week. She can’t weigh over 80 pounds. My first impression of Francine was the old woman in the woods in the childhood fable, Hansel and Grettle.
Francine’s mind isn’t quite what it used to be and she can occasionally become irritated, but that hasn’t stopped her from endearing herself to the staff. I’m told that they have gathered on more than one occasion to pay their last respects, only to see her gliding down the halls the very next morning. She was apparently called the pie lady years ago. You can only assume that she sold pies to get by in life. That could explain her habit of carrying a small coin purse with a few dollar bills that she will pull out and methodically count each one and then return them to their resting place. It would seem that she is making change for the sale of another pie. She religiously joins a small cadre of patients and staff outside in the courtyard every day to have a smoke and social time. Then once the smokes are spent, she wheels her chair towards the door and leads a small convoy back inside. Who would possibly try to get her to quit smoking if she has made it this far?
Francine is one of the many folks that are hidden among us on the edge of survival. She obviously cannot take care of herself, so all of us contribute to her well being. We have a moral obligation to do so--especially when you come face to face with such a fellow human being in need. Francine entered the therapy room while I was there one morning in a very agitated state of mind. She was looking for her long dead son because she realized that she needed money to buy food. My therapist assured her that she didn’t need any money to receive food here, but she was inconsolable—as if old fearful memories of going hungry were forever scarred into her mind and had somehow resurfaced amid the fog. Finally, she was wheeled back to her area where familiar nurses could calm her down. On another occasion, she entered the room and demanded one of the therapists to open her mouth. After realizing there was no other choice but to acquiesce, the therapist opened her mouth. “Ah Ha”, shouted Francine. “You have my teeth”! Those false teeth of hers are quite probably part of only a handful of material possessions to her name.