Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

When the decision to help Biscuit die had been made, we had to talk specifics with the vet’s people. A very gentle, soft-spoken woman named Heather, presented the options to me over the phone. I asked for the prices of each option. I was somewhat in a fog of grief, so I had to ask her to repeat several things. The gist of it all was, Biscuit’s body could be returned to us for burial (no charge, except for the injection); he could be cremated individually and returned to us in a basic urn, or in a decorative urn of our choosing ($200 plus injection and urn cost); or he could be cremated along with all the other animals who had recently died, and nothing would be returned to us ($90 plus injection). After going over the prices, Heather added, “I know your bill is already huge, with the last week of day hospital, so I imagine you want to keep costs down…”

“Well, yes,” I answered, on autopilot, while mulling our options. We had once buried another dog in the yard of our old house. We had been told then that it was illegal to do so in our area, and this was a source of anxiety for a very young LG. I thought aloud that cremation would be better. I mentally dismissed, though apparently did not state, that I did not want Biscuit lumped in with all the other deceased pets.

So Heather continued trying to help me with arrangements. “OK, then, we’ll have $90 for the euthanasia; we’ll do the cremation; the mass is an additional $90…”

The mass? We would, I was certain, say a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing as we buried Biscuit’s ashes in the yard, but we had no intention of having a mass for him. $90? For a priest . . . mass cards . . . ? Just when I was mentally finalizing the funeral arrangements, Heather throws in this monkey wrench. I went through an elaborate inner process, trying to find a compartment for this new mass information. I finally decided that I needed to respond something like, “Thank you for thinking of that [clearly, Heather is Roman Catholic, and apparently assumed that we are as well; she is only trying to be sensitive and attentive to our spiritual needs], but we are Presbyterian [Biscuit has received communion (and by “received,” I mean stolen, and by “communion,” I mean bread) on at least two occasions], so we really won’t need a mass, we’ll take care of our own service.”

I opened my mouth to make this rather odd reply, but instead, out came, “Wait, what?”

Turns out, “the mass” meant “mass cremation,” as in, with all the other pets. That’s not what we wanted. Even though we were already dipping into all the $ we had, and some we didn’t, for his care, we wanted him cremated alone. I told Heather this, and that we’d take the basic container, nothing fancy, and we’d bring him home to bury him.

So that’s the story of how Biscuit was almost converted at the end of his life. We were greatly surprised that the “basic container” which I imagined as a plastic margarine tub, is actually a lovely wooden box with an intricate floral carving on the top. It is now on a bookshelf. I don’t know when or if we’ll bury it. Presbyterian.



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Sunday Post

cnd window

“You would do well to pursue your causes with vigor, while remembering that you are a servant of God, not a spokesman for God, and remembering that God might well choose to bless an opposing point of view for reasons that have not yet been revealed to you.” — Barbara Jordan

Romans 8:18-28

I love/hate this quote. It came to me serendipitously, attached as a signature on the bottom of an email forward. The kind of thing I would not normally even scroll low enough to see. The forward was actually “People of Wal-Mart,” and the quote was the signature of someone a few senders back, someone I don’t know at all. But I knew it was for me.

It came a few months ago when I found myself in the middle of a situation in which one of my students was being scapegoated by someone who had an axe to grind with our agency. The student was being sacrificed in what amounted to a pissing contest between the agency’s director and the college’s program director. I am a mama bear for my interns, for better or worse. I supported the intern in every way that I could. I wrote letters and went to meetings and I encouraged, and I prayed.

And it started to become clear to me that while I had no doubt we (the intern’s team) were on the side of right and good, we were not going to “win.” I just began to have that sense, even without any confirmation of it.

And the day I began to have that intuition, was the day I noticed that “coincidental” email signature, by someone I don’t know. Except at that point, I knew it was from Someone I do know. It was a note from God. And I said (btw, I wouldn’t recommend this as a response to a note from God), “Oh, shit. It’s not going to go our way, is it?”

I knew that so clearly that I wrote to the intern and told her. She wasn’t going to be vindicated. Not right then, anyway. And we must have faith that our momentary loss was in the service of a greater victory later on. Being a person of faith, and a person who, I think, has come to trust me, she accepted this. Indeed, she may have come to that realization on her own.

Sure enough, many weeks later, someone in a position of power intervened and my intern no longer was oppressed in the way that she had been. The matter is not over. But more people are looking more closely, and our best hope is that the whole matter will lead to an examination of some people and some practices that needed examining.

All that to say, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. That reminds of another quote, I may have used it here before. From Richard Foster in the book, “Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home”:
“God is out to do me good.” And I always add, although the good Mr. Foster did not say, “even when everything looks like shit.”

Keep the faith. Or get you some.

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Sunday Post

these boots are made for puddle stompin'

“No accurate thinker will judge another person by that which the other person’s enemies say about him.” — Napoleon Hill

Romans 14:10-13

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(How’s that for a Sunday Post?)

Due to WTF-medicine-related nausea, I did not attend services today. But Jif and LG did, as they often do without me.

First thing LG tells me when she gets home is that “Miss Ginger doesn’t like my new haircut.”

“What? How would you know that?”

“She told me. She said, ‘Did you get a haircut? I don’t really care for it. I liked it better before. But if you like it…I guess that’s what’s important.'” Thank the good Lord, my daughter has a sense of humor, and was telling this whole story in the context of laughing at the wacky and clueless Miss Ginger.

I ask LG what occasioned this unsolicited commentary, and she tells me that Miss Ginger told her this during the “passing of the peace”, when we are supposed to be sharing loving, encouraging greetings with one another.

On what shamar-moore planet is that a proper thing for a 50-something woman to say to a 13-year-old? ‘Bout to lose my religion…

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Working on this tonight, to be shared at my Mom’s funeral this weekend

Some of my earliest memories of Mom are her washing dishes at the sink at our house in Delaware. She would wash dishes and sing. I heard my mother sing songs that I didn’t hear anywhere else. If a radio was on in our house, my father had it tuned to Orioles baseball. The music came from Mom. Years later I heard someone named Loretta Lynn and some dead guy named Hank Williams, singing Mom’s songs. They had more talent, I suppose, but they had no more heart, soul or passion than my Mom. I learned to love music from my Mom’s singing at the kitchen sink.

I learned to love books and reading from my Mom. She read to me. And she taught me how important books are. She said that if she had not married and had babies so young, if she had made different choices, she would have wanted to be a librarian. She would have wanted to be surrounded by stacks and stacks of books, instead of stacks of dishes and laundry.

I learned to laugh at myself from my Mom. As a psychotherapist now, I have to say, the value of that ability cannot be overstated. The difference between survival and defeat is often the ability to laugh at oneself.

You couldn’t be around my mother for very long without two things happening. She would feed you something, whether you wanted it or not, and she would mention the Lord. If you were having some sort of trouble, she would advise you to pray.

My mother was not as well-educated as she would like to have been, but she said a lot of very wise things that her children will always remember. She taught us, “You treat the janitor and the governor just the same, with respect.” Tony reminded me that she said, “Don’t ever take from a person anything that you can’t give back.” She was talking about someone’s reputation. She told us we were no better than anyone else, and we were no worse. She told us not to bring out candy unless we had enough to go around. She taught us the things that all good mothers teach their children: you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar; if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything. She taught me that mothers will cheerfully sacrifice in order for their children to have the best. In the 60s, when schools were integrating, she taught me to get along with people who looked different from me; we used the term “colored people” then; I remember her telling me, about a little black girl that I mentioned to her, “Don’t treat her the same as everyone else; you treat her better; maybe you can help make up for the ones who are mean to her today.” As a human being, she taught me tolerance. As her daughter, she taught me to love pretty clothes and too many shoes. She taught me not to buy shoes without buying a bag to match; you’ll regret it. And no matter how bad life looks, or how bad you feel, get your bath and fix your face and smile. I teased her that her motto was “It doesn’t matter how you feel as long as you look good.” And she surely did look good. When I was a little girl, I thought my mother was as pretty as any movie star. My father thought so, too. On my wedding day he told me, with no unkindness intended, that I was pretty, but not as pretty as Nell.

I learned how to love from my mother, and I hope to some day be as good at it as she was. Not likely, though. I believe she’s been awarded her gold medals by now. If my mother loved you, like she loved her husband, children, grandchildren, and others, then you were loved beyond all reason and good sense. I can’t help but think that’s very much how Jesus loved; like Mom.

My mother was the Queen of the Second Chance. No matter what her husband, children, nieces, nephews, in-laws, out-laws did, she never wrote them off. You always got another chance. No matter what kind of fuss you had with her, you could come back the next day and get something to eat, a place to sleep. Her door and her heart stayed open all the time. We could learn a lot from her example of forgiveness.

My mother wasn’t perfect, of course. She and I got on each other’s nerves the way only mothers and daughters can. I will also say that she loved her daughters-in-law the way she loved me, which includes getting on their last nerve sometimes. That’s OK. One thing that I think has always spoken well of Mom is that even her sons’ former wives love her and continued to ask about and keep in touch with her.

Sometimes Mom didn’t know when to quit. That’s a trait most of us have inherited from her – talking, working – you name it, we’ve probably done a little or a lot too much of something. I heard about a time Mom traveled North with two of her nieces, whom she loved very much, and she talked so much they stopped and bought her a book so she’d be quiet for a while. She didn’t get the hint. She stopped chatting and started reading out loud to them!

And Mom never quite caught on to the concept of political correctness. For example, if she saw someone whose nationality or ethnic background she wondered about, she would not think twice about asking them about it. She would say, sweet as could be, “Now, honey, just what ARE you?” I would cringe, but the person would give her their answer, also sweet as could be. I guess people could tell that as politically incorrect as she was, her spirit was never malicious.

Thank you for being here to honor my mother. I hope she is pleased with the things we’ve all had to say about her as we’ve remembered her here today. If we remember to talk to Jesus regularly, and be sweet to each other, and aren’t afraid to laugh, then we will keep her memory alive. And ladies, if we always have a bag to match our shoes.

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I’ve been asked to think about my mother’s eulogy. It occurs to me that she might be a “forgivaholic.” Which, if you’re going to be any flavor of “-aholic,” is probably not among the worst you could be. I don’t think God will say to anyone, “You forgave too many times! You gave too many second chances.” That would be a pot and kettle kind of situation. I think.

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Easter cupcakes

I wish for each of you a joyful Easter day, peace beyond all understanding in the midst of whatever is happening, and a way to get to a place that feels like home. Those are the blessings of Easter, it seems to me today.

I learned something about Easter celebrations this year, thanks to the internet. All my adult life, I’ve heard Roman Catholic friends and relatives talk about “doing the Stations of the Cross.” I figured it had something to do with remembering the crucifixion of Jesus, but I didn’t know what. The “stations” are not part of my Protestant tradition. But I was curious, and I had internet, so I went a-googlin’. First I found sites for adults that gave me information but didn’t entice me in the least. I learned that the “stations” are a devotional practice that begin in the 4th century in Jerusalem. Believers went to places that Jesus had gone during His last days and hours, and meditated upon His experience and its meaning. For a Christian, that is clearly a worthwhile thing to do, but the way in which it was presented — going to different locations in a church and reciting scripted verses and prayers — didn’t capture my imagination.

Then I went to a Stations of the Cross site for children, and I saw much more value in the practice. That’s the site I’d like to share with you this morning. What I liked most about it is that after describing each scene — Jesus being mocked, or Simon helping to carry the cross — the reader is encouraged to remember a time when you felt that way, and “show Jesus your heart.” Then Jesus will help you change your heart, will heal your heart. That seemed to me to be as good a description of following the Christian path as any I’ve ever seen: showing Jesus my heart, getting help to change my heart when it needs to change.

Happy Easter, friends.

He is risen!

Psalm 51:10-12

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