<begin soapbox and mild theological reflection – please feel free to ignore>
I normally try to remain silent on most political issues, but having now read SB1062 from AZ, I’m actually more concerned about the bill and its ramifications. The wording of it is far too vague, leaving numerous openings for the state to *have* to come in to define religious practice. I really don’t want the state to define those practices.
Waking up at 6am isn’t all bad. After all, most mornings, it’s because this little life in me is hungry or squirmy.
This morning, though, it was raw and a bit rough.
You see, last night I had a really beautiful dream that leaves me with this dull, empty ache inside my heart. In the dream, I had finished a huge accomplishment – whether it was a degree, or the launch of my project, I just don’t know. But at the end of this project, there was a house. Filled with light and love, and food and warmth. It’s the house that I grew up loving to go to, the house where my uncle lived.
It was located on Canyon View Drive in Brentwood, a pricey neighborhood. The driveway was long and a bit jungle-ish. There was a treehouse in that jungle that he helped me build and where he let me hide out when things got scary or hard growing up. I can still remember conversations in that treehouse about character while he taught me how to paint things like walls and mailboxes. Then there was the pool where I remember learning to swim. I can still see him laughing with my parents – back before the divorce – and always compassionate to me. I remember halls filled with laughter at the holidays – Christmas with parties and singing, and Easter with the huge egg hunt filled with candy and cash and amazing gifts. I remember the hidden nooks of that home, the places where it felt real, and robust, and human.
I remember going to dinner at <fancy expensive Beverly Hills restaurant> with <big important people> and spitting out my meatballs into my napkin. And I remember his grace towards me, even then. I remember the dress I wore at his wedding to my new aunt, and the light and the magic of the event. I remember the troubling years when I believed in him, no matter what newspapers said.
When I was at my worst, it always felt like he wanted to pull my best out of me. When I doubted my own ability to see things through, he would always encourage me to believe in myself.
I remember his 70th birthday, as he introduced me to all of his friends and colleagues, and he was *proud* of me. I can remember feeling bewildered, and a bit overwhelmed – because I certainly didn’t think I had done anything to earn it.
But there it was.
Grace. Acceptance. Love. Pride.
There are dozens of articles you can read either about him or by him. And they all tell a story of a driven man. I know that at times he was task-oriented, focused, and absent from his family and friends. But for me, he was always a presence I could count on. When I needed him, I could always count on him.
He guided my academic decisions and mentored my process – albeit in an emotional fashion rather than an academic one. And during my first year at Westmont, when the loneliness seemed more than I could bear, he sat with me week after week, continuing to stimulate my mind and encourage me to see the world from a larger point of view. He is the reason I eventually decided to move to Ireland – although he’ll never know that. It was a decision over 5 years in the making. He is the reason I now have 2 Masters degrees. He is the reason that I know that my vision will eventually get launched – because he believed that I was born to make a difference, to change the world.
I loved him in a simple, uncomplicated, unambiguous way.
And he’s gone.
And I never got to tell him any of this.
So when I woke up this morning, from a dream all filled with light and love to the stark and sad reality that he’s gone…
Something inside of me broke a little all over again.
This amazing little life inside of me that wiggles and makes me hungry at all hours… she’ll never get to know this incredible man. But every second of her life is already possible because a piece of him lives in my heart and soul.
Rest in Peace, Uncle Bud (Albert D. Wheelon: 1929-2013)Read More
The last post I wrote had to do with dust and ashes.
I sat with friends and family who had to say goodbye. And in that saying goodbye, there were so many different kinds of grief. There was the grief of death – that someone had died. But the lingering grief is the one that most people don’t talk about. It’s the grief that comes in a million little deaths. The death of dreams.
I’ve had to watch people I love desperately have to figure out a whole new way to live. The death of the “first call” – you know the call you always make immediately when you want to share some news? Or the death of the summer plans, when you have to start thinking about new things to do with the time you already had requested off.
So every little death adds up and it’s like grief keeps rippling over you in waves. Like the anti-orgasm. Instead of life and joy and love, it’s just pain and sorrow and doubt.
So you move on. And you keep on keeping on.
So when I think about Good Friday, and what it is supposed to symbolize, I have to look at grief all over again. How did God grieve? What about Jesus’ grief? The story is saturated with not only pain and suffering and death, but betrayal and fear and hypocrisy. Blood, sweat, tears. A million other authors have written about the pain and humiliation of the crucifixion. I don’t feel like repeating it. Because it doesn’t sit well with me. I’d like to believe that I’m different, that I wouldn’t have abandoned my best friend, my deepest love, the one I would claim to die to follow… I’d like to believe that I would have loved him. That if it had been Aaron on that cross, I wouldn’t have been afraid.
But I’m really weak. I’m so unbelievably fragile and I don’t always have the strength to stand with those I love. I don’t always even REMEMBER to text or call the people I love and tell them so. Would I have been a John or Mary sitting at the foot of the cross, or would I have been a Peter.
I know that in the past, I’ve even been a Judas. Betraying God even while I kiss Him on the cheek.
How does any of this make sense or even translate remotely to good?
What was God thinking? I mean, how does His grief even begin to become imaginable? Looking at the only perfect person, His only Son, and allowing Jesus the choice of moving into self-sacrificial love. Did He cry when he saw the hands pierced? Remembering the tiny fingers that held onto Mary & Joseph’s fingers when he couldn’t even speak? Did it move Him to see the weight of the world – pain, suffering – resting on His only Son’s shoulders? Did He grieve the million tiny little deaths that followed? All the things that Jesus would never experience – like growing old and having grandchildren?
When my friend died, he spent a number of hours on life support. My husband said something that rattled me to my core
Was that what happened on that day? Did the Father see something so glorious that He knew that He had to let go in order to give us the future we deserved?
I can’t imagine what it was like to live before that day. Before GRACE. Before self-sacrificial love set the precedent for who God is.
Because the reality of God is self-sacrificial, tender, world-changing LOVE. It’s the kind of thing that changes the world.
It’s the kind of thing that looks at the grief of the cross, and says…
And because of all of that, today is called “Good Friday.”
And because of all of that, I took the mess of my life, all the disasters, the horrible things I’ve done to people, and the horrible things done to me. And because of all of that, I can let go and say…
It is always worth it.
I’ve spent most of my life trying to make sense of things. Thinking about things, pondering, and getting everything together in my head.
But sometimes things don’t make sense.
Things crash into you like a comet from the sky and all you can feel is pulverized.
What does life look like now?
When the fire and the smoke and the dust and ashes clear, what does life look like now?
And just because they’re clearing for me on the outskirts, what about the people at ground zero?
Covered in dust and ashes, groaning under the weight of loss.
I feel like a roadside gawker, transfixed by the accident.
I can’t look away, but I feel so helpless.
When his three friends saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.
I know that the suffering is too great for words now for some of you.
And there are no words that will make any of this make any sense.
Because sometimes things don’t make sense.
Things crash into you like a comet from the sky and leave you desolate.
So all I can do is journey back to you from where I am, journeying back to join you in the dust and ashes.
No platitudes or empty words or anything else.
But I do promise to sit shiva with you.
To not speak, but to simply be present (in spirit and later in person) and offer the only words I have.
I’m so incredibly sorry.
This is so unfair.
I love you.
Ha-makom yenakhem etkhem b’tokh sh’ar a’vaylay.
May God comfort you among the other mourners.
This letter is primarily addressed to those of my friends who consider themselves biblical Jesus-followers. So if that’s not you, feel free to read or pass this along, but I’m pretty aware that the laws of proper societal etiquette don’t hold you to these statements. That being said, I think that there are some principles in here that apply across the board – “don’t be a jerk” being one of them. But, however, if you do consider yourselves in that category, can I ask you to get to the end before commenting or ranting or otherwise going a bit elemental here?
As a Christian, I am significantly concerned with the way that the Church (big C, universal) in the United States is handling political dialogue. With the election coming up, more and more Christians are beginning to play the world’s game of political dialogue, which is “If I can yell louder and talk nastier about the political candidates, I might make someone angry enough so that they don’t vote for their guy.”*
I’m going to ask some difficult questions, go through some deep thoughts I’ve had recently about what the New Testament text has to say about authority and the way we are to behave, and offer some practical steps for the church in the coming month.
In general, there are about three times as many mentions of the word “love”(or compassion, gentleness, kindness) as there are mentions of concepts regarding “truth.” We as the Church have become far more concerned with loving to speak the truth than we have been with speaking the truth in love.
The next time you question or argue with someone about their political choices (and in this I’m talking to both sides), I encourage you to ask them afterwards “Do you feel loved right now?”
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