Bearing Unbearable Love

And we are put on earth a little space
that we might learn to bear the beams of love

—William Blake

I ran across this verse yesterday, and it felt just right for these last days of Advent. The time preceding Christmas provides exactly this: a little space to focus anew on learning to bear the beams of love. There are several ways to bear something, of course.

  • One meaning is to bear a child, or a crop; to bear fruit.
  • Secondly, to bear can mean to tolerate, carry, or accept a burden or condition.
  • And thirdly we can bear witness, or a gift; to share with others.

Mary must have wondered how she was to bear the beam of love that grew within her. She had the need to bear love in several meanings of the word. Her child would enter the world as we all do, she must give birth. But before that, Mary had to bear a difficult and lonely “beam of love” in carrying an illegitimate child. Only Mary really knew that she had been given a sacred mission; Gabriel did not write her a glowing letter of reference to explain it all to Joseph.

Her story told in Luke leaves out her inner conversation about her predicament. She was so young, we are told, unlikely to have had a lot of education. She was a pious young woman. But what would any of us make of a visit from the angel Gabriel announcing that we are ‘favored by God?’ And what kind of ‘favor’ is this when a young girl must bear the long months of a pregnancy by some invisible father?

Mary bore the news of the destiny she was offered by God, but not without distress.

She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean” after Gabriel trumpeted “Rejoice, you who enjoy God’s favor! The Lord is with you” to her, moments before.

Beams of love are sometimes so unusual, surprising, or foreign to us, that they seem unbearable, at first. All we can manage sometimes is to be, like Mary, ‘deeply disturbed.’ We ask ourselves what this new offering means, especially one that feels so strange. Beams of love that arrive out of order from the way we have imagined reality to function are the worst. “But how can this come about,” Mary asks, “since I have no knowledge of man?” she wonders. I do not imagine Gabriel’s answer was immediately satisfying or comforting to Mary. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow.” No sane woman of any era expects this far-fetched explanation will satisfy her questioners.

But somehow, Mary is convinced to receive, to tolerate, to accept this strange beam of love that apparently feels genuine to her, even though dangerously defying all reason and social convention. She began to bear the beams of God’s love when she said “Let it happen to me as you have said.

When Mary visited Elizabeth, she shared the revelation she received, and the news of her pregnancy with her cousin. But in Luke’s telling, Mary’s stayed quiet about her news with others, as far as we know. We can imagine how sensitive this pregnancy was for Mary. Joseph must have been terribly unhappy, knowing as he did that he was not the child’s father.

When Mary’s moment came to give birth to a real life, fussy, squirming baby Jesus, Mary bore her “beam of love” into plain sight. Jesus was a child who needed milk and warmth and cleaning just as all of us needed at the start of our earth careers. Mary bore her beam of love into flesh and blood, into smiles and speech, into a person who would reveal love in a fresh and unprecedented way to us all.

Which way am I meant to bear the beams of love more fully today? Is a new thing about to be delivered through me? Am I to labor and cry to bring forth some new creation? Am I able to carry a bit of compassion to another living being, and oh so gently lift someone’s heart? Or am I simply in that place of learning to bear the magnificent beam that is given to me, by letting loose of my own stubborn notion of what love should look and feel like, making room for the real thing? Might I make room at the inn for a love that melts away foolish striving and angling for power, that beam of love that transforms the heart to a radiant source of the very same warming glow?

For when our souls have learned the heat to bear
The cloud will vanish, we shall hear his voice
Saying: `Come out from the grove, my love and care,
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice!’

—William Blake

***

Carol Toben

The Unholy Family of Christmas

As long as it’s Advent/Christmas season and you’re over here to read encouraging and uplifting articles on this special season, let me bring one more thing to the table.

Over at Jubilee Economics Ministries, another site I do extensive work for, Lee Van Ham has now posted two complete series of blog entries that take some interesting looks at Christmas as told in Luke (from 2010) and Matthew (this year). You can find them within a category called Unwrapping Christmas. The series on Luke explores the cosmological breakthrough of Christ into a world that would be Caesar’s. (Lee gives the grown up Linus answer to Charlie Brown’s question.) This year’s series, dubbed The Unholy Family of Christmas, is actually rather much a topic that should be on this very site for the way it looks at the women of Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus.

Lee is a retired pastor of 32 years (Presbyterian) and brings not only his clergy background to explaining the texts, but also his post-retirement passion for helping people open the Bible and to discover the economic themes that bind it together. He is working on a book about “One Earth” economics and the stories that get us there, i.e., the Creation-centered stories of the Bible, in contrast to the Civilization story of empires and superpower nations, which have done much to diminish the former. In this Advent series, Lee looks at the notable women that preceded Jesus, and found how their stories harkened back to the Creation story, and their actions were rejections of the systems that would see them hemmed in by patriarchal laws that might even lead to death if not for the bold life-saving rejections that made these women notable.

While much would be familiar to you as clergy, and as women, for many folks, this is a great new way to unhitch Christmas from the commercial extravaganza it has become, or even to put some power back into the story, leaving the tame little pageant imagery behind. Feel free to share it around as an extra resource with your friends and congregations.

While you’re looking into Jubilee Economics, why not subscribe to The Common Good Podcast too?

God Asks Much

Luke 1:39-56

As I read today’s scripture I am struck by several things. This scripture, like my own schedule this week before Christmas, has too much going on. There are so many important lessons in this scripture, or at least possible lessons, that the temptation is to try to wring every bit of meaning and activity out of it. And in the process, I risk doing a poor job at all of them. That is always the risk at this time of year, we try to do so much, to wring every moment of joy, every perfect Christmas activity or experience out of each moment and each day, that we risk not savoring or appreciating any of them. And so I will narrow my focus in this scripture to just a few things.

First, Mary could not face it alone. God had asked much of her—that she would be an unwed mother, who well might lose her fiancé as a result of the pregnancy, that she would be the mother to the Messiah, the long awaited savior of Israel, and that she would allow the babe to grow inside her until the time came for him to be delivered. Facing all of this, Mary could not do it alone. She had to seek out Elizabeth who was facing a similar situation. Elizabeth was not carrying the Messiah, but Elizabeth was carrying a child also long foretold and much awaited. And in the presence of another who understood, Mary sings. Mary’s song of rejoice reflects what the Messiah was supposed to do: to bring down the powerful, lift up the lowly, feed the hungry, and to send the rich away empty. Mary sings of these things as present realities, things that have already happened—God has done them. 

God sometimes asks much of us too. I realize that I am, like Mary, asked to let the Messiah grow inside of me, not as a baby to be born, but to grow inside me so others can see the face of Christ. As a disciple, I am to grow in my faith, to let that part of me that is in the image of God, that part of me that is my place in the body of Christ, to let that part inside me grow and grow, to let Jesus grow inside me, until there is new birth.

And there is much risk. Following God’s will for us requires risking that others will reject us. When we do what God asks of us, instead of what the world expects, we risk rejection even by those closest to us. Being a Christian is counter-cultural. As Christians we are the ones call to bring down the powerful, lift up the lowly, feed the hungry and send the rich away empty. These are not society’s values, they are God’s. Mary sang of radical change as if it had already occurred. But in this Advent 2011, we can see that there is still so much to do. And yet, the babe is growing and preparing to be born, in each of us.

And that brings me back to my first point—Mary could not face it alone. Neither can we. This Advent, put on your list, along with the other many things to do, time to gather with others to sing, to rejoice, to support each other as we prepare for the radical change that comes with carrying the Christ child inside.

***

Rev. Ann Thomas is the senior pastor at Griffith United Methodist Church in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she is working to renew and revitalize this downtown congregation through spiritual renewal, social justice work and missions.  A recent graduate of Claremont School of Theology, Ann practiced law in Las Vegas for 18 years before entering full-time ministry and seeking ordination.  She was commissioned in June 2011 and is seeking full ordination in The United Methodist Church.

Waiting on the Lord

Backstory

Two years ago, when I wrote this, I found myself in a very fearful waiting place. I was without a job, without any prospects, and with the knowledge that my money would soon run out while in California. It was nearing a time when I would need to pack my bags and head back to the East Coast to begin again. This was the very last thing I had wanted to do that that time.

Waiting on the Lord

Waiting on the Lord? I suck at it.

Yes, for all the times I’ve sat with families and patients waiting for a test result, a surgical outcome, pain medicine, a trauma doctor to come and give some news—for all the times I’ve prayed for God to make me a peaceful presence, a non-anxious presence, when my life is on the line, more often than not, I crack.

And that’s okay.

My goal here is not to chastise myself over ‘cracking’ or my impatience or my misguided thinking that I can tackle the problems of the world (or at least my little world) alone.

I’m here to wrestle with this—it’s usually in this wrestling, this struggle (la lucha) that God most clearly speaks to me, and hopefully to anyone else who needs to hear what He has to say.

I’ve wanted to write this, to struggle with this waiting on the Lord since Monday night, as I drove home from my friend’s house.

The anxiety that I had fought so hard to keep at bay crept up and took me by surprise. Two weeks and I may be packed up and heading back East! The thought gripped me by the throat and squeezed, hard! Now, to those in the Northeast, I’m also not writing this to do a whole East vs. West comparison or to say one sucks and that the other is perfect. This is not what this is about.

So this thought is choking the life out of me and I’m way past panic mode when—finally!—I remember. My life, my future, my everything is in God’s hands. One would think that this new thought would tear me from the hands of despair and bring me some relief. Not quite so. Not yet, at least. I think my dialogue with the Almighty went something like, “Oh my God, no. Really?” “Really, I’ve got this. It’s all okay.” Except it wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t okay. I was and have been scared shitless, sleepless and at times grumpy at others. Sorry Mom, Dad, and [insert your name].

It was anything but okay.

Still, in my own infinite wisdom (laugh here, please), I pushed on. “I can do this. No worries. It’s all under control,” which of course it wasn’t, and I was slowly driving myself insane. Everything is in God’s infinitely capable hands.

‘But I’m scared,’ I heard myself whisper.

Of course, I’m scared. It’s scary. Uncertainty and a looming unknown are both scary potentials. Words to many songs came into my heart. Knowing that giving voice to these, and to the prayer that was in the song, would make me emotional, I found myself resistant at first and I also knew that surrendering my heart, my soul, my hopes, and my fears to God was the very best thing for me. I also remembered that “throughout the day we may need to surrender our will repeatedly. This can be especially true while struggling to let go of expectations” (Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses, 46). And what was I in need of doing but letting go of expectations and outcomes in regards to my job search and my drive to stay in California?

I sang, I prayed. I pranged. I did it honestly, openly, and vulnerably. And yes, there were tears. First came the worship song, “The Everlasting God”:

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord…

—But I don’t want to!

We will wait upon the Lord…

— But I don’t have time to!

And again, until all my fearful resistances were silenced. Until I pranged it right through:

Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our strong deliverer
You are the everlasting God
the everlasting God
You do not faint
You won’t grow weary

The words came and suddenly my history of waiting, my history of being delivered, was before me. Call it a documentary of God’s salvific work in my life running through my head, my heart, and my soul. A strong witness that God—the one holding my life, my everything in his hands—is indeed the defender of the weak, the comforter of those in need and the one who will lift me, and all of us, on wings like eagles’.

I felt my heart change. I felt secure; surrounded by the love of God and as I was changed, so changed my song:

I have decided,
I have resolved,
to wait upon You Lord.

It is the only thing I can do. It is the only thing I can ever do, and when the waiting is difficult, when it feels impossible, I can ask God to help me. The song/prayer (sayer?) goes on:

My rock and redeemer,
shield and reward,
I’ll wait upon You Lord.

I will wait with the help of God, my rock. I cannot do it alone. I cannot do anything alone. It’s foolishness for me to think that I can, and yet I know I will think so again and again (and again). And again I will need to ask God for help; I’ll ask for God to dim the lights and roll the film, allowing that glorious documentary to play on a larger-than-life screen. Except this time a clip of me in my car, wrestling as I turned onto the southbound Interstate 15; tearful, fearful and resistant, will have been added, as will the song of my heart rising high to the heavens and the everlasting God’s graceful, merciful response.

As surely as the sun will rise
You’ll come to us.
Certain as the dawn appears,
You’ll come.
May it be so.

Epilogue

Oddly enough, I got home that night, checked some random job postings and stumbled across something I had never seen before. I applied the next day and am going to be arranging for an interview on Monday. Thanks to all those who have kept me in prayer! And now, two years later I remain in California, have that job that I found that night, remain relatively impatient and still struggling to wait on the Lord, but I have another memory of God’s hand in my life to turn to when the waiting begins to be too much.

God came then in this reflection, that very night even!

God is coming to us in this holy season.

God will continue to come to us in all our needs.

***

Donna Batchelor is a hospice chaplain and youth pastor in San Diego County, CA.

Nobody Can Change the World

A nobody can change the world—
It has happened many times.
But the best one so far was when a baby was born
On the fringes of the world
From folks no one knew
(With a bit of scandal to boot).
They were from a town of no consequence
Good only for their taxes and labor;
Forgotten by the senators and priests
Except when it was time for taxes and rituals.

A nobody can change the world?
It isn’t just for the big names in history—
Those who wield the money and power
Or who sit at the right hand of the king.
An itinerant preacher set the world ablaze with love and mercy
In a way that few saw coming—
Coming to a heart near you!
That is, if it hasn’t already rushed into you,
Consuming with unquenchable fire helped by a gust of wind!
But starting with the still, small, tired voice of Mary,
Who sang her child to sleep
Amidst the very few who were more lowly than they that evening.

Mary labored one night,
But Heaven labored much longer with the question:
How to penetrate the hearts of a troubled mankind…
When the answer came it was quite unexpected;
A marvel to be sure!
A baby who was born, lived, and died as a person of no consequence,
Except for the magic he wrought when he dared show us how to love—
First because he was innocent by the standards of the world,
And later because he was guilty by the standards of the world.

Where in the world tonight will that baby be born anew?
In that forgotten place?
Under the boot of the mighty empire?
Into slavery to the desires of the rich and well connected?

Nobody can change the world?
—One thought that must itself be changed!

What the Lectionary Doesn’t Say This Advent

Advent in Scotland. I think that Scotland is a country made for Advent: the outside temperatures—and I mean the outside low temperatures—the lack of sunshine or simply blue skies, the rain, the mist: everything is on hold, waiting for better times. Reflecting a bit on my Advent in Scotland, I set out to reading the readings that the Catholic Church has for today: a reading from the Book of Isaiah (Is 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25), followed by Psalm 85:9a, 10, 11-12, 13-14 and the Gospel reading from Luke 7:18b-23. And I could not help it, but I started to laugh.

Why? Well, I noticed immediately the pick-and-choose mentality of the lectionary. Not only are the lectures picked so that they fit with each other, comment on each other or elaborate on each other (and I have to admit the choices are sometimes good), but they also cut up the text into pieces of verses and then present a new whole. In other words, the lectionary does what I always try to avoid: namely hopping from one verse to another, skipping others, and just dealing with the nice verses. After all, we want a smooth reading in the lectionary. But that is not how texts work. Imagine reading Harry Potter’s Deadly Hallows without having read the earlier volumes. One plunges in the story not knowing about horcruxes or not knowing that Dumbledore has died. The story just would not make sense.

So, curious as I am, I checked which verses were deleted. Which dark powers were at work and why? In Isaiah 45, the lectionary has skipped the verses about Cyrus, the Persian king who is portrayed as the rescuer, saviour of the Jews… of course, we don’t want to hear that in our Christian churches. We usually do not consider outsiders to be our saviours, right? Next, the questioning of God the creator who chose Cyrus is deleted. We do not question God, nor God’s choice, right? So why would we incorporate in our readings a Biblical text in which that is said. Last but not least, the reference to other nations that pray to a god that cannot save, that verse as well is deleted from the lectionary. And note that a god that cannot save does not deserve a capital G. In other words, with advent, when listening to the beautiful text of Isaiah, we cannot be reminded of good foreigners, of foreign saviours, of gods that cannot save, and certainly not of dissenting voices questioning the so-called one and only God, with capital G.

Similarly in the Psalm: the beautiful verses in which it is described how God restored the fortunes of Jacob/Israel and how God forgives Israel are not taken up, the somewhat strange verses in which the people again ask to be forgiven—these verses seem strange as they people seem to ask for something that they already received—they too are not read in the liturgies.

There is less cutting in the gospel text. Actually, there has been no cutting at all in this section. John’s question is not shortened and Jesus’ answer is fully produced. So, why is that that we cut, pick and choose, that we skip verses in our texts? Do we avoid looking at things we don’t like? Are we afraid of strangers and foreigners? Can we not deal with the idea that there is maybe a god that can’t save? Similarly, does the omission of the verses in the Psalm which show God’s (or the author’s) irritation with the idea of questioning God point to our not-willingness to see that there could be questioning of God and/or that God does not like it. And why did the lectionary drop the verses that contain the repeated request to be saved? Can we not understand that we liked to hear the same thing twice, or do people get frustrated with repetition?

I think that precisely the omitted verses should be part of the advent readings. Of course, the rest of the readings are nice and sweet and beautiful: God creator of everything, God, the safe-place to be, God proclaiming peace and salvation, God giving benefits, what more can we ask for. But then again, the other elements belong in here as well: we have to learn to deal with the unexpected, with the questioning, with the idea that a god cannot save—whether it is God or god—, with an irritated God, with a people that repeats its questions. All these elements have an essential part in our process of waiting, for in our waiting time, in our waiting rooms, in our not yet being there, we have to reflect on all the things that obstruct or seem to obstruct our going ahead.

***

by Kristin De Troyer

Divine Partnering

They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.

—Matthew 23:1-12

What drives our actions? Jesus points to the scribes and Pharisees saying (paraphrased) “do what they teach and not what they do.” Jesus says that the teachings may be in the right place, but not their hearts. What compels them to share wisdom? In this text, we are introduced to people who do work for their own desires including taking places of honor and prestige in the community.

There are a number of actions we take to better ourselves. Giving our time, talent, and treasure to important causes feels good. There are also times we take action because it makes us look good or makes us feel better about ourselves.

I entered college and graduate school to strengthen some of my skills and increase my knowledge so that I could make a bigger contribution to the world—but that wasn’t the whole reason. I discovered that deep inside I was hoping that I would somehow attain deeper respect from others and feel better about my place in the world. I was also feeling a bit insecure about being a lesbian woman entering the ministry. My feelings became more apparent when I heard the story of a local college professor who was called an epithet based on his sexual orientation when all he wanted to do was share a drink with friends. I was saddened to hear of the event and realized that even if I had the letters “Rev.” or “Dr.” in front of my name, I would not be shielded from harm. I was going to school, in part, because I thought my education could protect me. The truth is that if I desire to do what is right and honor God, I am choosing a challenging path. The lives of Jesus and the prophets show us all too clearly how those who carry the message of love and peace are not always readily received.

We cannot do this work alone. Because of this, we cannot expect to take all the credit, either. This work of honoring God with our lives requires nothing short of the power of God acting in and through us.

God gives us a glimpse of the peaceable realm when those who wish to store up all the glory for themselves will be humbled and those who are humbled will be celebrated. It is when we are most humble that we are able to truly experience peace and witness the power of God.

Oh God, it is said that I must decrease in order for you to increase within me. I pray that desires for my own will may decrease that I may discover how the unique gifts you have freely given me can be fine tuned to live out your will to bring about the peaceable realm. Amen.

***

Angela Henderson, M.Div. currently serves as the Unitarian Universalist campus minister at UC Davis. She graduated with her Master of Divinity degree from Claremont School of Theology in 2010 and is a candidate for ministry.

Feeding the Beast

Yellowstone Wolf Collaring

Later this month the United States will observe the anniversary of the tragic September 11, 2001 attack that killed almost 3,000 people in New York , Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. in a single day, a horror that continues ten years later because of the resulting PTSD, suicides, wars. It probably isn’t a uniquely American phenomenon, but we sure do like to celebrate violence – Independence Day; Memorial Day, which began as Decoration Day; Veterans’ Day, which was originally known as Armistice Day; and most recently, Patriot Day.

Oh, sure, some people will argue that it isn’t war and violence we’re celebrating: we’re commemorating the end of war, honoring the bravery and sacrifice of our troops, remembering the victims, celebrating our hard-earned freedom as Americans. I recognize some legitimacy in those claims, but I’m not so sure that we’re really doing anything more than feeding the beast when we observe national holidays with fireworks, flags, and parades of people in military uniforms. Of course, it isn’t just holidays that contribute to our culture of violence.

Media violence is frequently cited as the source of the problem. Really? Is it the case that life is imitating art or are movies, television, and music just the mirror that illuminates the ugliness that surrounds us? I don’t have an answer; I’m just asking the question.

War, rape, murder, torture – those are impossible to ignore, but smaller acts of violence swirl around us like a swarm of dust devils and are so common that they frequently go unnoticed, sometimes even by the target. According to Matthew’s gospel, Jesus said:

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell. [1]

It may be a cliché but it’s true nonetheless: words hurt. Rage, gossip, constant criticism, and name-calling are all acts of psychic and spiritual violence. In his 1996 book Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin writes, “Words said about us define our place in the world.” [2] Anything – anything –that degrades or devalues any part of Creation is violence, and any act of violence is sin because it creates (or at the very least widens) a separation between creature and Creator.

There is a Cherokee legend about two wolves, one good and one evil, that battle within each person. Which wolf wins? “The one you feed.” [3] I believe that the only people who want to do harm and those who have, themselves, been harmed in some way. We will only end the cycle of violence and abuse that afflicts the world when we stop feeding the beast.
_____________________________________________________________

[1] Matt. 5:22 Common English Bible.
[2] Telushkin, Joseph. Words that Hurt, Words that Heal. (New York: William Morrow, 1996), 4.
[3] Two versions of this tale can be found on the website First People, http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TwoWolves-Cherokee.html.

Camping, Potter, and the End of the World

Thank you Mr. Camping, No, I’m serious. Keep reading. I would like to take just a moment to put this out there. As much as I am disgusted and (I’ll be honest) a little embarrassed at the moment to be associated with the title ‘Evangelical Christian,’ I have had somewhat of a revelation about myself while pondering the “end of the world” according to Mr. Camping. Mind you, eschatology and apocalyptic literature has never interested me, especially in seminary. I find it somewhat entertaining when people talk with such piety and authority when discussing such matters, especially those of whom share the same faith as I. How ridiculous (and a little frightening to be honest) to hear others when they suggest they speak for God or understand the mind of God. I digress. If anything, for me the more I have studied sacred texts and served as clergy, the deeper my awareness of my own ignorance. The way I see it whatever happens, happens and there is not a damn thing any one of us can do about it. If God did indeed create the world (which I believe God did) God and God alone will draw it to its intended conclusion. For me, Mr. Camping, I do not object to your proclamation of the physical return of Christ, my objection is that you believe to have had some foreknowledge. I too can quote scripture, sir, and with two degrees in religion I can assure you (and any one else who believes to have attained some kind of precise time and date) are indeed liars. I understand how for some the return of Christ is to be anticipated but it has been suggested his return is imminent since the birth of the early church. You sir are another voice singing an old song. Ok, I need to stop here.

For me the present is what I have been gifted and it is in need of my attention. However, in the spirit of the day I took my coffee to the beach early this morning to consider how I might spend my last day. Well, so far it’s coffee and breakfast at the beach, a long drive down the 101, writing this little piece and probably a little later a movie. Now, I know what you are thinking—she’s boring, and I agree with you because it’s what I thought. But as I was driving I had a thought and it made me laugh out loud because it was about Harry Potter. According to some in the religious right (with which I am assuming Mr. Camping is affiliated), Harry Potter is considered witchcraft and sorcery and, of course, evil. Good thing we do not burn at the stake anymore because it is maybe what Mr. Camping would suggest for me. My thought was about the Mirror of Erised. The Mirror of Erised (‘desire’ spelled backwards) is a mirror Harry stumbles upon while roaming around the castle one night. At the top of the mirror are the words “I show not your face but your heart’s desire.” Harry of course saw himself with his deceased parents because more than anything Harry misses his parents. Ron sees himself as Head boy and Quidditch Cup champ because Ron struggles with being the best friend of Harry who is the most famous wizard of their time and has a desire to prove himself. One night when Harry is visiting the mirror Dumbledore appears to him and gives him both advice and warning about the mirror. Dumbledore tells Harry that the mirror shows the “deepest and most desperate desire of our hearts. The happiest person in the whole world would look in the mirror and see a reflection of exactly the way he or she is.” He goes on to tell Harry “Men have wasted away before it, not knowing if what they have seen is real, or even possible.”

I know others have been joking and making sarcastic remarks this whole week about the end of the world. I know this because I am one of them and will do so again the next time another prediction is offered. I think often about my life as I work hospice, and being surrounded by death makes one think about life on a regular basis. But it has been interesting to hear others—especially those in the media and other public areas openly process their life and the quality of their lives. It made me think about the mirror in that I planned to do everything on May 21, 2011 the way I normally spend my Saturdays. But…what about the mirror? I wonder what it would reveal. For me, no burning desires to do anything today differently than yesterday (that I know of) and for those hopes/dreams of the “what if’s” I feel as if I have made my peace if they never happen. But I question if I really have. It would be interesting to see what the mirror would reveal but then again I would really have to consider if I would want to know about my ‘hidden desires.” Something to ponder…

So thank you Mr. Camping for this little exercise. Seriously, I appreciate the opportunity to think even though I am sure this was not your intention. So out of my appreciation I would like to offer something for you to ponder, how do you intend to explain May 22, 2011?

The Three Women

I am not a writer, but there are those times when I feel it necessary to write, if only so I don’t forget the significance of events. Today I experienced something that was so refreshing and meaningful I needed to write about it, as it confirmed in a new way something I have known for some time. I am not a ‘spring person,’ but for some reason this spring I have been enjoying all the pastels and flowers in spite of myself. I also feel I experienced Easter differently than in years past. I am still not sure as to all the reasons as to why, but I am willing to think about them for as long as I need to. I think one thing I have paid more attention to this year is the idea of resurrection and the promise of new life that it offers. For me, as many of you know over the past few years I have wavered between mixed emotions regarding my call into ministry. Anger, excitement, disappointment, discontent, and exhilaration are just a few of the vast numbers of emotions I have experienced. It is interesting to note these emotions are and were usually entwined with a church community; not necessarily my idea of God. I continue to work through them and have found my work as a chaplain to be a major part to my healing and integration. For me this year my resurrection was to consider a new way of serving and ministering as a female minister. I have needed for sometime to step out of the old bondage which was negative comments and negative gender roles that were not only oppressive, but unhealthy and damaging.

Today was just another example of how this work ‘heals’ me. I was making an initial visit with a patient who just came onto service. The patient was in his room and I stayed in the living room with the spouse. For almost two hours she talked about their marriage, their children, and their faith. She brought out pictures of them at their wedding and walked me through in pictures almost forty years of marriage and their life together. As the visit was coming to a close I went into the bedroom and found the patient no longer breathing, he had passed during our conversation.

I waited for the mortuary to arrive and to my surprise two women drove up in a van. The two women in the van and myself attended to the body, cleaning and getting ready for transfer. I couldn’t help but think about holy week and resurrection morning when the women came to the tomb. The women brought their spices and perfumes for proper burial. I can’t explain what I experienced in that room, but I know it was healing. I just finished a class in seminary on worship where worship was defined as “any encounter with God.” For me this experience was worship, a sobering realization of life, death, connection with God and humanity. To experience this with women who came there to work and to help create and bring dignity to the deceased and the family was amazing. At one point we all three looked at each other and just smiled one of us saying, “this was really nice, all us girls.” As we were leaving, the spouse of the patient kissed my cheek and said, “How lovely to have such wonderful girls looking after my husband, I know he is in caring hands.”