Should we fear death?

death blessing2

After posting the blog yesterday I have been thinking about death. None of wants to die. It is the unknown and we don’t like the unknown. So far as I know no one (except Jesus–if you are Christian) has ever come back from the dead and no one has told us what is there. Most Christians believe in a heaven although I don’t know if anyone has ever defined it. Some religions think of the afterlife as becoming part of God/cosmos/whatever. Some believe that we are reincarnated and come back as other people. Some of my friends want to come back as one of my husband’s dogs—he spoils them terribly. The point is none of us really knows the answer.

I have seen things worse than death. Some medical problems are so awful that death would be preferable. I think that is obvious since some states allow euthanasia. I am not going to get into the moral issues with that. I just want us to realize that sometimes death is a friend.  And really, even though I fear illness I am not sure that I fear death. After all either there is something or there is nothing.

As a nurse I have been with people when they died and I never saw anything except a peaceful death. It’s getting to that point that we fight against it and do our best to ignore and avoid it but when death comes most people are peaceful.

In our culture we try to push death away. We go to the funeral home and look at a body that has been preserved and people say “doesn’t sh/he look wonderful?” I am glad that many people opt for cremation and my best friend’s daughter asked for her ashes to be planted with a young tree. She wanted to be at the root of new life.

I know this has seemed like a morbid subject and I hope you can see beyond that. I am including one of my favorite poems by black poet and preacher James Weldon Johnson. If you have never read his poetry (and sermons in verse) you are missing out.

Go Down, Death

James Weldon Johnson1871 – 1938

 (A Funeral Sermon)

Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband--weep no more;
Grief-stricken son--weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter --weep no more;
She only just gone home.

Day before yesterday morning,
God was looking down from his great, high heaven,
Looking down on all his children,
And his eye fell on Sister Caroline,
Tossing on her bed of pain.
And God’s big heart was touched with pity,
With the everlasting pity.

And God sat back on his throne,
And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:
Call me Death!
And that tall, bright angel cried in a voice
That broke like a clap of thunder:
Call Death!--Call Death!
And the echo sounded down the streets of heaven
Till it reached away back to that shadowy place,
Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.

And Death heard the summons,
And he leaped on his fastest horse,
Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.
Up the golden street Death galloped,
And the hooves of his horses struck fire from the gold,
But they didn’t make no sound.
Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,
And waited for God’s command.

And God said: Go down, Death, go down,
Go down to Savannah, Georgia,
Down in Yamacraw,
And find Sister Caroline.
She’s borne the burden and heat of the day,
She’s labored long in my vineyard,
And she’s tired--
She’s weary--
Go down, Death, and bring her to me.

And Death didn’t say a word,
But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,
And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,
And out and down he rode,
Through heaven’s pearly gates,
Past suns and moons and stars;
on Death rode,
Leaving the lightning’s flash behind;
Straight down he came.

While we were watching round her bed,
She turned her eyes and looked away,
She saw what we couldn’t see;
She saw Old Death.  She saw Old Death
Coming like a falling star.
But Death didn’t frighten Sister Caroline;
He looked to her like a welcome friend.
And she whispered to us: I’m going home,
And she smiled and closed her eyes.

And Death took her up like a baby,
And she lay in his icy arms,
But she didn’t feel no chill.
And death began to ride again--
Up beyond the evening star,
Into the glittering light of glory,
On to the Great White Throne.
And there he laid Sister Caroline
On the loving breast of Jesus.

And Jesus took his own hand and wiped away her tears,
And he smoothed the furrows from her face,
And the angels sang a little song,
And Jesus rocked her in his arms,
And kept a-saying: Take your rest,
Take your rest.

Weep not--weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.

From God’s Trombones by James Weldon Johnson. Copyright © 1927 The Viking Press, Inc., renewed 1955 by Grace Nail Johnson.

I want this read at my funeral.

Do we have the answers?

superstitionI don’t think we pay enough attention to the things we see and hear each day. I like to find meaningful quotes wherever I am, whatever I am watching or doing. Sometimes things just jump out at me. I was watching a random episode of Grey’s Anatomy (TV show–not something I routinely watch) and someone made this comment.

“We rely on superstition because we are smart enough to know we don’t know all the answers.”

answersThat is so true. My mother always threw salt over her shoulder if it was spilled. She was shooing away bad luck. I had a friend who gave me an amazing set of rely pearls because her mother always said they were bad luck. How many of us have heard about not walking under a ladder or about a black cat running across your path being bad luck.

I don’t know how much we rely on such things but we all have our own quirks. The problem begins when we let them rule our lives. This is the issue with people who are caught in major OCD. It is terrible to be trapped by our superstitions.

sunshine-for-your-week-25The truth is we don’t have all the answers and we never will. We have to find ways to live with that truth. Many people in science feel that they have the answers. I don’t. The thing that helps me is my belief in God. I don’t have to have all the answers. I can let it go.

 

Do you have a superstition you feel compelled to follow?

 

A big question ?????

bad thingsFor those of us who are Christians the question is often asked “if God is so good why do bad things happen?” Unfortunately, this is the unanswerable question. I wish I could say that I know how to explain this. I don’t

Over the years many theologians have written about this question and some have attempted to answer it…. none to my satisfaction. Many people who question there being a God jump on this problem. If there is a God why doesn’t he/she do something about the many tragedies in the world? It always puts us up against a hard spot. To them, it seems trivial for us to say that we don’t know. It seems that we can’t defend our belief.

Why is one person’s cancer healed and another’s not? Why did a friend’s child die in a car accident? Why does a pastor friend’s grandson have brain cancer? How I wish I could come up with an answer that made sense.

To those in pain the statement that God/Jesus will be with us in our pain and suffering doesn’t help. The fact that Jesus also suffered is little consolation. So if we can’t answer the question what can we do?

fixedI long ago learned that I can’t fix everything but I can be there. I call it a ministry of presence. I can’t take away the pain but I can let them know that they do not have to go through it alone.  Not only does God promise to be with them but the community of faith is called to love, comfort, and sustain them through the pain. The caveat is that we have to be in a community of faith that companions those in need.

 

We need to search until we find that place. We have to keep looking and keep in mind that only if we offer ourselves to be part of that will it work. To just appear in church during the week and go home does not make you part of the community. You must open yourself to become a caring member. This may not be easy and it won’t work until you find your place but don’t give up.

Christian loveRemember, churches are made up of people and people have flaws. No church is perfect. No church has all the answers. Just find one that fills your soul in some way. It won’t be everything that you want it to be but it can still be home. After all, our families are also flawed and imperfect and yet still family. Find a church family with all that implies.

 

see more on this topic on https://wordpress.com/post/heargodinothervoices.blog/1028

Let it go

I weepSometimes you just want to cry for others. Someone you know has so much on their shoulders with no change in sight and you want to help. Sadly there is nothing you can do but be there. I know that being there is the important thing but it doesn’t seem like it’s enough.

Sometimes what you feel is more than compassion….you can physically feel their pain. I have a friend who is going through so much and I am doing what I can but there should be more. If you hive children you can understand this feeling. It’s when you would willingly take their place if you could. The only  solace that you can find is in turning it over to God.

The trouble is that we don’t always expect God to fix it. We want the solution to be ours. God’s answer could be painful and hard. It is so hard to turn loose of our wish to be in control. We like that. Wanting to be in control is wanting to take the place of God. That is not what we are here for. We are here to offer solace, compassion, love and any other help that we can. Those are the tasks that God has called us to.

letting-goWe can’t fix everything. It would be nice if we could. I learned early on while nursing that there were things that we can do nothing about. It is just hard to let it go. I have seen children die and families devastated. I could do nothing. I have to remember that God can help. He can heal the wounds of their hearts and bring them peace. We just have to let it go and pray.

New day, new creation!

wallowToday is a new day. Today I pulled up my socks and decided to stop wallowing. Today I took some steps to move forward and it feels so good. I made some appointments that I need to do and made the decision to get on with it.

Doing this made me feel better. Now the idea is to keep it up. My experience shows me that I will have down days when I don’t want to keep moving. My prayer life has been perfunctory and an obligation except for the last prayer of the night from the New Zealand Prayer Book which is:

 

Lord, it is night.

The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done; let it be.

The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.

The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.

This prayer brings me peace and prepares me for sleep.  Now I need to find a way to make this same kind of connection during the day. I will do this by setting aside a time for prayer and meditation in the morning before the day gets in my way.

Prayer is so important. No matter what God you believe in prayer is the connection. You may just call it something else but it will involve silence and freeing your mind to acceptance, to wait upon God. We always need to expand our prayer life and learn to experience God. This is different from talking to God. This is immersing yourself in the creator and letting all else go. This is not easy and like anything good requires work and consistency. I plan to do the work. Pray for me!

What have we passed on?

Verse page

” data-hasqtip=”18″>John 9:2

And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”

Do we visit our sins upon our children? Or we can ask “what traits of ours are passed on to our children and their children?

Case in point: My father had multiple kidney stones. The doctors called him a stone maker. I’ll be he had a least 50 or more in his lifetime. In college I developed kidney stones. You can inherit the tendency but not the actual thing. I guess I go the tendency. Fortunately I didn’t have the same problem as my father and had only a few stones.

None of my children have shown that tendency nor my grandchildren so I hope that is gone. These kinds of things we pass on are not under our control unless they are a major problem such as Tay Sachs disease and we can have genetic testing to make decisions about those things.

mistakes

There are other things, however, that we do pass on. Sometimes without realizing it. At one point in our marriage my husband was switching jobs and money was tight.My stress over this was passed on to my daughter. The bad news is she worries about money. The good news is she is careful but not obsessive and always willing to help others when needs arise.

In raising children we sometimes find ourselves repeating the things said to us by our parents. Some things good, some bad.

It is a known fact that abuse and addiction put children at risk for the same problems.  I know that I passed on my anxiety to some of my grandchildren.

leagacy

The thing I have learned is we need to be aware that we can teach coping skills to our children and hope that they can learn from our mistakes and issues. Our own ability to cope can be a positive example to them and others. They can fine hope in the fact that we have struggled with problems and conquered them. This is the legacy we can give them.

Share your experiences with your loved ones. Pass down your struggles and how you coped. It will help them.

There was no sin that caused the man to be born blind. Just a natural event. Our children will not be afflicted because of our mistakes. God doesn’t work that way.