Archive for November, 2014


Christmastime Is Here

Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season is thrust upon us once again. I really love this time of the year. Our society shifts a bit towards being other focused.  Lights are beginning to be put and children are giggling over the possibility of what Santa will bring. Commercials are in full force,  I am still waiting to meet someone who actually does the Lexus in the driveway with a bow on it. We’re Americans so we’re over the top, it’s what we do. The ever-present fake culture war pundits are gearing up to make sure folks can say “Merry Christmas”  and the secular minded are just kinda annoyed we acknowledge the birth of Jesus. Families get together,  therapist appointments are made, we gain a few pounds and life moves along.

We have been blessed lately to have found a new church community at St.Thomas Episcopal Church in Overland Park, KS. It is a inter-generational community that is such a modern paradox, I love it.  There is a deep connection to the past at church. For most of our adult life we have attended the mega-church style and made many friends along the way.  It was a connection for years with community, coffee, bar style worship music, and relevant sermons.

St.Thomas is a bit different. The style of worship is the same as it has been for thousands of years.  It is quiet, ritualistic, reverent, liturgical, hymns (that few know the tune :)) from a hymnal are sung, the Eucharist is shared openly, scripture is read and a short sermon is given in line with the readings and season. The church follows the ancient church calendar so the readings (comforting and challenging) and theme are already set.  We sit, kneel, stand, and identify with the Trinity in the sign of the cross. Think open, inclusive, catholic. One could argue that this is not relevant to the modern mind and heart but I would disagree. There is something refreshing about church not selling anything, the focus being God and not us.

Anyway, I am super stoked for the season of Advent. It begins this Sunday. It is the beginning of the church calendar and lasts the four weeks up to Christmas. Advent is the season of waiting and patience. Oh, joy. I am a modern American and waiting is not something I am accustomed to and frankly makes me uncomfortable.  All things that can be “fixed” should be and do it now! My humanity wants a magic wand more often than a God who enters creation as a helpless baby. Nevertheless, waiting is a part of the journey.  I think this is more of an active waiting with a consummation that is known in the heart.  Like the alcoholic waits for the liquor store to open yet knows it will.  Our waiting full of hope.

May you find the time to disconnect from our matrix a bit this season full of pregnant hope and connect with the larger story you are already a part of.  Merry Christmas!

Recently, we have all been reintroduced to the idea of “Death with Dignity” otherwise known as physician assisted suicide. The high-profile case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who ended her life this past Saturday, has brought it back to our minds. First off, I in no way feel as if I have the right to judge or condemn anyone who makes this choice. It is truly heart breaking to have to deal with the questions those folks have had dealt with. I simply only want to ask questions and see where it may lead. Once again, no condemnation!

The difficulty this places within me is how we view suffering. Is suffering just bad and wrong, therefore to be avoided at all cost? Most of our issues in society are the results of pain avoidance. The majority of drug addicts, alcoholics, workaholics, food or sex addicts, t.v. addicts etc., I believe began their journey due to their personal pain and suffering.  These things are not automatically sought by those who a prone to bad choices, the reality is that these things alleviate suffering, even if it simply prolongs it and causes a different kind of suffering.

Our society doesn’t place much value in “suffering well”. Maybe it is our sexy, youth obsessed, ultra vital mentality. Or maybe our individuality being the focus to where we don’t want to bother others with our pain.  Maybe it is because suffering brightly highlights our illusion of control.

A sad thing to me is the slippery slope of suffering lacking value in our culture.  If suffering is inherently bad and wrong and thus must be avoided at all cost “Death with Dignity” is the road we will embrace. But what is the cut off? What if we begin to judge (as humans do) that to end misery is the most compassionate thing to do?

What about the homeless person suffering with sickness, sleeping on concrete?

What about the suffering single parent without enough food to go around?

What about the famines around the world that cause widespread suffering?

What about the suffering of the young women doused with acid across their face, guaranteeing  a lifetime of certain suffering?

What about the poor?

What about the disabled (mental or physical) war veteran?

What about the unemployed, who just can’t catch a break?

What about the hungry, the imprisoned, the sick, the naked?

 

So, does suffering have value? All of us have experienced suffering in our lives and I would say that suffering produces the truest character of our souls.  My challenge is to see that all humanity is suffering, all of us. It is a season we will all share in. Jesus shared it with us. What if His abuse and crucifixion was an act of total solidarity with human suffering? Even if you don’t believe, consider what I believe for a moment. The Creator allowed Himself to experience our deepest pain, He is not distant from us. In my suffering I have found Him to be close, very close.

I know it’s a touchy subject and I subscribe to a consistent ethic of life but my only aspiration is to cause thought and hopeful dialogue so that we can all lean on one another when suffering comes our way.

 

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