Thoughts for a Wednesday Morning

hd-nebula-wallpaperAll of us go through periods when the light seems to be far off and obscured. We spend time in introspection wondering what ever happened to the joy and innocence that existed so very long ago. Anger, frustration, hurt and shame seem to be constant companions. How in the world did my life turn out like this? This question is one that I’ve been asking myself. Why have I taken every opportunity to shoot myself in the foot? I look in the mirror and really don’t like the person staring back at me.

I approached God about this. “Why,” I asked, “haven’t things ‘worked together’ for my good?” Now, I know that some will ask me why I’m counting lemons when there are so many cherries around. So, yes, I’ll concede that not all things are a downer. But, those things are external. What I’m talking about here are the internal things. The feelings and emotions, thoughts and dreams that make us human seem to have fallen in the desert where they shrivel and die.

Then God began to show me the flaws and imperfections, some deadly, that existed throughout the Cosmos.

Tectonic shifts, volcanic activity, super-novas, meteors and asteroids crashing into planets and each other. The universe is a very dangerous place. Yet, look at the beauty that can spring forth from these ashes. Beautiful islands and majestic mountains are created by the natural ebb and flow of the earth’s molten core. Great nebulae expanding out from some great cosmic explosion. From these new stars or planets may even be birthed.

Then God said, “I love all of this! The forces, great and small, that work together to create and recreate reveal the life that I have shared with all things. Yes, some of the forces destroy. Yet, even in death there is the seed for new life. You are no different. With the darkness and struggle you find yourself in is a spark that promises creation of new things.”

Has this changed how I feel? No. It has, however, given me something to consider. Perhaps, in time I’ll be able to fully embrace who I have become and not mourn the loss of innocence. Perhaps, not. That’s tomorrow’s concern. I’m having enough difficulty dealing with here and now.

I really don’t know if any of this makes sense. Or, if it’s just more ramblings of a mad man. But, I suspect that I’m not alone in all of this.

Relationships…What if?

CreationI started to write this post a few days after we buried Dad. It’s taken a little longer to write than I had originally thought.

I’ve just gone back to work after Dad’s passing. I have mixed feelings about going back. Part of me really would like to take a few more days to recover from the emotional stress of watching Dad during his final hours. Lack of sleep and good nutrition has left me physically drained. Another part of me feels the need to get back in the saddle. Work can be a good diversion, focusing the mind on tasks other than funerals and mourning.
The outpouring of support from extended family and friends has been amazing. I’m not sure that I would be of much use to anyone if not for their encouragement and presence. Yeah, I still like books, but all of these people made the last week not only bearable, but in many ways, pleasant. What can I say? We’re all connected in some way. There is something more than just our common humanity at play here. We all share in the brevity and frailty of life. Love given and received binds us with others as we form communities.
But, there is something more. The connection between us as humans is vast and wide. Why would a person in one part of the world care about the needs of someone 14,000 miles away on the other side of the world? Especially, when that one person has more than enough cares and troubles of her or his own? How can I travel to another culture, not knowing the language, and actually communicate with someone? Perhaps, there is an affinity between us because we are the same species. You know, ‘birds of a feather.’ That could be part of it, I suppose. However, those birds simply flock together. They don’t go out of their way to care for the needs of others. Some birds don’t even care for their own young! No, I don’t see that being the common thread that binds us. I think that there is something other than our physical reality at play here.
What that something is has been speculated about ever since humans began to think. (Although, there are some folks today that I wonder about.) I’m not going to join in that philosophical discussion. I’m woefully under qualified for that.
However, I might speculate on something else… relationship. What if that common characteristic is buried deep within humanity? And, what if it is empowered by an outside source? (I’m just musing.) Could it be that what we call God, or Creator, or any number of names is responsible for touching each of us? Perhaps there is a relationship between this God and the Good Creation that acts as a catalyst causing humans to care. Not only caring for other humans, but for the Good Creation as well. That would explain why there are organizations such as Green Peace and Doctors Without Borders. There are thousands of shelters for battered and beaten people. Environmental and human rights organizations flourish. All of this in a world that seems bent on self destruction. Why? I have no pat answer. Nor, does anyone else.
Maybe, the relationship between the Creator and the Good Creation has been damaged. This has been the position of the Christian Church. They accept that sometime in the distant past, between 6 & 10 thousand years ago, God created all things and declared them ‘good.’ The entire created universe was pristine, if not ‘perfect.’ Humankind was innocent and enjoyed relationships with God and the creation. However, these humans were somehow enticed to disobey God and suffered a ‘fall’ of some sort that affected all of creation. The good relationships with God and the cosmos were damaged. Yet, there was still something within them, a broken shard of God’s image that continued to allow some people to do good things. This idea was first articulated by Augustine of Hippo in the late 4th to early 5th centuries. Personally, I don’t agree with him about the ‘fall.’ But, more on that at another time.
What if, about 14 billion years ago, the known universe erupted and began to form into the wondrous environment that we now live in? Then, somewhere around 4.5 billion years ago this system of planets and asteroids and other matter began to form around a larger mass that became our Sun. Over time changes occurred due to any number of causes and effects. On the third rock from this sun these changes caused organisms to develop that contained within them the potential for what we call ‘life.’ Eventually, millions more years passed until a certain small segment of these organisms developed and matured until humanity emerged…upright and aware of itself within this Great and Good Creation. Now, I hear the voices saying, “Whoa! Where is God in this? Isn’t this just a rehash of some Darwinian theory?” Well, yeah it is…kind of. But, what if God has been a part of this entire process? Perhaps not in an entirely active way. Nor, as the deists would say, as a passive observer. Maybe, God breathed God’s life into that original bit of matter and imbued it with God’s own presence. I’m not going to go into panentheism. I don’t think that the universe is part of God nor that the universe is synonymous with God. I’m saying that, perhaps, God is the One who animated and gave ‘life’ to the process. That God has carefully watched over the cosmos, not as an ‘intelligent designer,’ but as a caring and loving parent who knew and trusted that things would develop a certain way.
In the beginning, the breath of God…Ruach Elohim, who hovered over the formless void…was God the Spirit. The Word of God, spoken, brought order out of chaos. God, present from the beginning, shared part of God’s self with what became the Cosmos. Humans, aware of time, space and self also had the capacity to ‘know’ God. Far from being a separate entity at the top of some cosmic hierarchy, humans have derived their essence from that which erupted all those billions of years earlier. We are ‘part and parcel’ with all of the Good Creation. Relationships…they are built into us…from the beginning.

The Curse of Dementia…or is it?

For the past couple of years my family has been watching as my dad slowly slips away from us. He has dementia. This condition has reduced a once strong and independent man to a shadow; a wispy wraith trapped within a failing mind and body. I cannot think of a more insidious jailer than this. It has robbed him, and us, of life and liberty and locked him in a cell that is growing darker and smaller with each passing day.

A Bit about Dementia

For those unfamiliar with this condition, let me share a bit of what I’ve been able to learn. Dementia, according to one source, is not a true ‘disease,’ but rather the symptoms of various kinds of brain disorders. There are several underlying causes for dementia. The one that, I believe, effects dad is a type of Vascular Dementia. I had the opportunity to speak with a neurologist who had done an MRI on dad. He explained that the scans revealed evidence of many small strokes. This, coupled with his coronary disease and other risk factors, had ultimately led to his present condition. However, in our day when medical science can ‘fix’ many things, dementia is not one of them.

Back Story

Without going into a detailed, biographical sketch, I’d like to share a bit about events that have led us to this place. As I stated above, dad was predisposed to this condition. Eventually, it was destined to overtake him. But, I believe, there were life events that occurred which caused the disease to grow and flourish. This process has not been proven clinically. It is simply the fruit of my observations.

My parents were married a long time. 62 years. My mom was dad’s life. He adored her. He was the faithful vassal to his Queen. When she became ill, he doted on her. You could not find a more devoted care giver. Ultimately, though, she became too frail for him. We had to find a place where she could receive the skilled treatment and watchful attendance that she required. While this was a difficult adjustment for dad, he adapted. He spent every available moment with her. He sat at her bedside. When she was able, he would take her for rides in the car. His life and hers developed a kind of symbiosis. Maybe, that’s what the Scripture meant when the writer inscribed the words, “and they shall become one flesh.”

In 2010 mom passed. Her weak body, wracked by many infirmities, simply could not carry the life within her any longer. For dad…he lost his Beloved. Many prayers and hugs and tears were shared in those days. Dad slipped into a deep depression that lasted for months. We took him to counselors. His doctor prescribed anti-depressants. We spent more time with him, trying to console him. No, to distract him. But, the only thing that we witnessed was the dementia driving an ever increasing distance between him and reality.

End Game

Within one year the dementia became problematic. Dad’s memory was failing rapidly. He started to forget to take his meds. He would forget to eat. The fragments of memory that he could retrieve became more disjointed and confused. We were able to get the V.A. to provide some in-home care. My brother and I began to go over daily to see that he ate and took his medication. But, even these efforts could not impede the relentless progress of the dementia. Like a tsunami it pushed further and further, drowning and destroying the person that was our dad.

Ultimately, we had to acquiesce and make arrangements for him to live in a skilled nursing facility. As much as we would like, we simply cannot care for all of his needs. We enlisted a local hospice to oversee his medical needs. We had to face the realization that his sojourn would soon be over.

Blessing in Disguise?

A few days ago I was with dad. In the midst of his semi-coherent ramblings, I noticed he made several references to mom as if she was alive. She was just in another room somewhere. At first I was sad that he was becoming so confused. I was angry that he had been reduced to living in such a broken and fragmented world. One of the hospice nurses had explained to me that people with this condition try to access any pieces of memory, no matter how small or disconnected, in order to make sense of their world. Dad was finding the memories that made his world acceptable. Perhaps, in the small room that is his world, he built a place of solace. His sadness and depression have passed. In this world he has as many experiences available to him as a kaleidoscope has shapes and colors. His broken mind randomly juxtaposes the fragments of his memories to create a world, while unreal to us, is very real to him. In this world he has peace. In this world the pain and loss are whisked away. In this world, his Beloved is just in the next room.

Our Common Human Frailty

This is not the post that I have been planning to write. That one is going to take another couple of days to prepare. But, I’m really having a difficult and emotional moment right now. You see, my dad is getting up in years. He’s 84. That’s ok, I guess. But the real issue is the dementia that has robbed him of his life. I just came from the rehab center that is his current home. He had surgery to remove his gall bladder a couple weeks ago and has not been able to return to his ‘normal life.’ I understand that dementia redefines ‘normal.’ But, I was totally unprepared for what I saw today. I will not go into details, but suffice to say that the light…no, the fire in dad’s eyes has been extinguished. I remember playing tennis with him way back in the day. He never had mercy on me, even though I was some 26 years his junior. He wanted me to learn! Today I looked into his eyes and saw…well…nothing. They are pale blue and lifeless. He even told the nurse present that his wife was gone and I am gone. He knows. The time for exiting this life is ever so near. I am preparing a eulogy. I think that God the Holy Spirit know that Bill’s life is nearing its culmination. I pray that I can do justice to the life of this man. Formed in his mother’s womb, grown up in the sight of Yahweh, and passing in the grace of God through Yeshua Ha Mashiach.

1984 was a very, er, Interesting Year

I’ve got some kind of virus right now. It’s kicking my butt. So, I really am trying to take it easy. But, I was checking some of the posts out there in the blogoshpere and came by one by James F. McGrath. The only reason it jumped out at me is that I am currently reading 1984 by George Orwell. (For the first time. Ok, I’m a little behind, let it go.) Most of the time when I read fiction I find myself transported into the world that the author has created. For C.S. Lewis I find myself in Perelandra, Malacandra or Narnia. Tolkein takes me to Middle Earth. With Orwell, I find myself in Oceania. However, McGrath makes the point that “Orwell has written a book that seems like it ought to change the world.” This I find interesting. More than making a political statement, he was making a critique of society and culture at a very basic level. Classism, racism and any other social construct came under his scrutiny. I appreciate McGrath’s insight on this. I may have to re-read the book with my own worldview placed under the microscope.

Thoughts…

Humanity marches ever onward.
Tho there are no more lands to conquer,
No people to displace,
No new territories to plant our banners,
No fauna to drive to extinction,
No minerals to exploit and deplete,
No place left to spread our disease.
Gone, the proud people of the Land,

Gone, the free Range,
Gone, the mighty Bison stampeding o’er the plain,
Gone, the trees and woodland creatures,
Gone, the innocence of this place.
O, virgin continent!
Lost to the ravishing of the rapist who overpowered you
And took Your virginity.
Exploited for a moment’s gratification…
Left lying in your own blood.

1st Nations and White Privilege

Over the years I’ve had numerous occasions to reflect on what the colonial mindset has done to the American continent’s indigenous people. Yeah, I grew up with cowboys and Indians, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, and all of the other evidences of white privilege in this country. But, something never quite sat right in my heart. The First Nations people were human beings. Their world was invaded by outsiders. How were we right? So, like a good little White guy, I started looking at some of the humanitarian and philanthropic ways to “help the poor Red Man.” Little did I know that I would one day run head long into Randy Woodley. Nor, did I anticipate the effects of Dr. William Myer on my worldview. These men, along with Rev. Jennifer Crumpton, Caryn D. Riswold, and the bloggers at Womanist Musings have stretched me to the point of breaking. In fact, I have broken. I’ve broken with the white patristic ideal of America. I’ve broken with the idea that White makes Right. I’ve broken with the idea that God has ordained males for the divine work on Earth. These things make me wish that I was NOT a White Male.
But, I am. I can’t change that. And, for whatever reason, Creator saw fit to make me this way.
However, back to my original thoughts.
Some folks think that humans came to this continent some 10,000 years ago. From these original travelers came the indigenous people that Columbus and the Mayflower, and perhaps the Norse met. I’ve read some blogs and other sources written by Native Americans that indicate that they KNOW that Creator gave them the land. This land. The land that we call ours. In fact, from Columbus to Cortez to the Jamestown community to every White European to set foot on this continent, we have said that God gave US this land. It was God who led the explorers west. It was God who allowed the Conquistadors to triumph. In our arrogance we have interpreted the seeming military successes of our forebears to mean that we were/are right. Everything that we have done in this hemisphere has been god-ordained. This country is God’s country.
Bull.
What if……
The First Nations people are right. Creator gave them this land to live on. To live with. What if those roots were allowed to grow deep and produce much good fruit because Creator Yahweh ordained it so? And, what if God did, in fact, lead the Europeans here? We have been taught that God sent the Europeans to this continent to bring the Gospel. To bring civilization. But, what if Creator brought them here to learn? The indigenes knew the land. They knew Creator. They knew the true reality of life here. What if that’s just what the Europeans needed to learn?

Just for the sake of discussion

Over the years as election time rolls around, a lot of folks, primarily conservative evangelicals, begin to talk about each candidate’s or party’s position on abortion. All of the issues and questions are distilled into that one position. As long as a candidate holds a position that is in favor of repealing Roe v. Wade, she/he gets my vote. It would really be interesting to have all of the candidates on the same side of that issue so that we could actually consider other planks in their platform. But, alas, that’s not the case in 2012. The lines have been etched in stone and for any self-respecting evangelical the question is already answered. As one pastor said a few years ago, “I can’t tell you how to vote, but if you ask me after the service I can help you decide.”
Well, here’s a new wrinkle. What if our concept of being ‘Pro life’ is too narrow? What if this, like any other ethical question, has ramifications far beyond the simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’; ‘black’ or ‘white’ that so many of our evangelical leaders would have us believe? I found an interesting article from the New York Times oped that addresses questions that should be asked by people who truly want to be ‘Pro Life.’
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/opinion/sunday/friedman-why-i-am-pro-life.html

Walking in the light in a dark world

Over the past months one topic has been recurring in my daily prayer. It is the only thing that has brought me to tears. That is humanity’s ability to inflict damage on itself and the world around us.
Awhile back it was human trafficking and slavery. I just cannot understand how people can use and destroy others in the name of greed and profit. Today, as I reflected on the violence and hatred in the world I saw human kind as a virus that has infected the very good creation. I could see Mr. Smith from the Matrix talking to Neo about the ‘smell’ that the human virus caused. A repulsive stench that needed eradication. I wondered, then, why Creator/Yahweh continues to tolerate this ‘infection.’ We utter meaningless crap about ‘original sin’ and ‘total depravity.’ Yet, we sit on our platitudes and do nothing. We simply accept the status quo and rail against liberal politicians. There are a few voices out there trying to alert us to the dangers. Yet, no one listens.
Can anyone answer me?
How can a grown man kill a 6 year old boy and toss his body into the garbage? How can a white community harass and destroy a benevolent community made up of non-whites? How can a society build and stockpile weapons designed to utterly destroy other societies? How can people steal others and sell them into slavery? How can people worship a green guy named George? This idol is made out of paper, but is used to control, or destroy, entire economies? (Don’t believe me, check out Greece and Africa.) How can we value this false god more than real people and real creatures who live and breath?
My prayer was, and is, “Yahweh! I am spent. I don’t know what to do. How long, O Lord, will You allow this? When will You raise Your people up as one to stand in the face of this evil? Let Your Spirit, Ruach Elohim, hover and brood over the face of this chaos as You did in the beginning. Let order come through the speech of Your mouth. Let Your voice be heard once again bringing life out of death.”