Sunday, July 15, 2012

Someday You'll Be Dead

Big, messy, unedited unloading of thoughts ahead.

The sermon this morning was about the second book of John in the new testament.  The whole book was read.  The idea was about how we should, as Christians, be known for love.  Love, love, love.  When the world hears the word Christian, they should think: love.  This is not really so true right now.  This is a problem.  We should fix it.  We should know that we are loved and then go love others out there in the world.  

I sat there agreeing with everything the pastor was saying.  About half-way through, I was itching for him to tell us some examples of how we should love.  Is it just about being nicer to people?  He  began repeating himself.  Love.  Go outside these doors and love people.  Ted and I started passing notes back and forth about how he needs to give concrete examples of people who have lived selflesslessly and how we can imitate them.  Give us ideas.  We are dumb sheep who like our comfort, and we need to be inspired by people who love well.  At least for me, I need this.  I suspect others might too since Ted overheard someone say that what he got out of the sermon was that he should "pray more." 

The last five minutes of the sermon was devoted to how we need to really understand that God loves us.  The whole thing imploded in on itself.  The navel-gazing began.  

The pastor prayed for us, that we would know God's love and then go out and love.   A song began, and I couldn't help feeling really cynical as I watched people in the crowd lifting their hands receiving God's love, having not been really encouraged in any tangible, concrete way to go out and live any differently than they had been before walking into the building.

Jesus taught by telling stories.  He didn't give us rhetoric the way we got this morning (admittedly, I do agree to every bit of the rhetoric I heard today).  My complaint right now isn't about what was said but about what wasn't said.

I kept wishing for a story about someone like Rich Mullins, the Christian songwriter who, as a multimillionaire, lived in a mobile home on a reservation as he worked towards getting his degree in education so he could teach music to the Native American kids living there.  Every year he told his accountant to set his yearly salary as the median blue-color worker's and then give the rest away.  He never knew how much money his talents ever really brought in.  He died in a car crash in 1997 before he finished his degree.

Or he could have told a story like this one, something that happened to one of Ted's students:

"I watched the man from across the street.  He looked like he was in his early 40’s.  His skin was light brown, but I couldn’t determine exactly which ethnicity he was.  He had thick, black curly hair.  His legs were in the street, but his torso was on the sidewalk, and his head was hanging at an odd angle.  And he was barely breathing. He wasn’t just sleeping; he was unconscious.
I got out of my car and went over to him.  I said, “Sir, can you hear me?”  He didn’t move.  I raised my voice and said, “Sir, please wake up!”  But he didn’t respond.  He had snoring respirations, the sound people make when their tongue is blocking their airway.  I rolled him onto his side, and his respirations became easier.  I grabbed his wrist and checked his radial pulse, which was steady and strong.
Once I had assessed him, I called 911, and asked them to send an ambulance.  When I hung up with the 911 operator, I realized that the man’s head was still not well supported, so I knelt down and put his head in my lap.  He started to wake up, and he was crying, sobbing, before his eyes were fully opened.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
“Jessie,” he slurred, and I could smell the alcohol on his breath.
“Jessie, are you okay?”
He shook his head.
“What do you need?” I asked.
“I need love,” he sobbed.
I gave him my hand, and he held it in a vice grip.
“I need love.  I need love,” he said, over and over again, as we waited for the rescue squad to come."

How many of us have ever been willing to do what she did?  I never have.

What about telling us the amazing story of those nine women in Tennessee who delivered care packages to people in need for thirty years, all in total secret?  How about encouraging us to secretly give to people in need?

What about having a foster parent get up on the stage to tell us about what it's like to love kids who've been pulled from their homes?  

What about giving people a list of nonprofits that could use volunteers?  Nonprofits like SMART (Start Making a Reader Today) where you simply read for an hour every week with a kid who needs some extra attention at school?  I did this for a year before we had kids and ended up assigned to a little boy whose mother was in prison.  Every week, he'd pull some tiny object out of his pocket, usually something like a sequin or rock, and tell me about how he was going to mail it to his mom.  

How about encouraging us all to simply invite someone out to lunch after church?
As Ted said at lunch, why have we in the American church set the bar so low?  If Christ's sacrifice in death is the standard by which we are to love, then few of us have ever come anywhere close to this level of selflessness.

The whole sermon, I kept thinking about the east African widow I met a month ago.  She has a high-energy five-year-old son and a year old baby girl.  They have been here less than a year.  Her husband, the sole breadwinner in the family, was diagnosed with stage four cancer a few months after their arrival as refugees, and he soon after passed away.  She was left destitute and then homeless.  She and her two children ended up in a women's shelter until a nonprofit got her into temporary housing.  I have been to her apartment.  As her son played outside with an adult neighbor on one of the busiest and loudest streets in Portland, she offered me food and wept in front of the large framed photo of her deceased husband.  She breastfed her beautiful baby and wiped tears from her face.

Her son looks like my son.  They were homeless.  Her son and infant daughter.  Homeless.  Here as refugees.  Deceased husband.  Shelter and temporary housing and shut-off notices from the light company, and how the hell are they going to make it?

I can't get her out of my brain.  If I were in her position, I would be wracked with fear every waking minute.  

So couldn't the pastor have told us about the people like this in our city who could use the helping hand of the church?  Maybe people just don't know there are people like the African widow out there.  But they're here.  THEY ARE HERE.  And what the hell are we going to do about them?

Will they know we are Christians by our love, by our love, just the way the song says?  I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.  Christ set a high standard.  I long to hear a pastor stand up in front of a church and say, "You have one life. It is short, and soon you will be dead.  What are you going to do with it?"

Dead, dead, dead, one day we'll all be dead.  Even the writers of Southpark know it.  Maybe what the church needs most is a healthy reminder of our impending death, not of how much God loves us.  I don't mean to diminish the importance of the message of God's love.  It's everything.  God's love is what sustains us and makes us who we are.  But if we aren't picking up the homeless drunks on the filthy streets, reading books to kids whose parents are in prison, and providing food and shelter to the widows and orphans, then what is the point? 

 I refuse to be a "navel-gazer."  I prefer to be a doer.  So far, I fail at it.  I am not holding myself up as the example of how we should show love.  I just want pastors to stand up on Sunday mornings and start shining the light on the needy in our communities so that we, in our comfortable and tidy lives, know. 

Dead, Dead, Dead, someday you'll be dead
Dead, Dead, Dead, someday we'll all be dead.
The minute we're born, we start dying,
We die a little more every day..
Young or old, rich or poor,
There's nothing we can do to stop it..
So look long at that Christmas tree,
It may be the last one that you see..
Decorate your house in green and red,
'cos someday you'll be dead..

--Trey Parker and Matt Stone

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do no break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” 
--Jesus of Nazareth

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Saturday, July 7, 2012

End of the road?

When does one stop an ongoing project that started five years ago?  What is the ultimate goal of this little blog?  At one point, it was to be a source of information and encouragement for others in the process of adoption.  I hope it did that to some degree.  Now that we have no more plans to add to this family, writing here feels more self-indulgent and a potential invasion of my kids' privacy than it already did.  

My opinions have changed so much since starting this five years ago.  Even the name of this blog is not something I would choose if I were starting out right now.  I'm much less touchy about semantics than I was in the beginning.  I somehow feel like there are now bigger fish to fry.  

This blog has been a wonderful creative outlet for me.  I have used it as a dumping ground for the things I want to catalog in life, a good example of which were the daily New York City moments from the winter of 2009.  I was conflicted as I wrote down those moments in this forum.  Was this the right place for it?  I mean, this was an adoption-blog, not a travel-blog.  This is an example of feeling that I was becoming self-indulgent.

So what to do?  Should I write a final chapter to this story here about the formation of this family, only to reopen if some dramatic change happens (and maybe not even then)?  

If I started a new blog, what would be the purpose of it?  Would it be completely anonymous?  Is that even possible?  There is a plethora of creative and informative "mommy blogs" out there, so I feel no need to add my voice to that lovely chorus. 

I spent some time last night reading the blog of one of my husband's acting students.  Her words and her spirit inspired me and even made me a little jealous. She's a beautiful person, and if it's possible to be jealous of a cancer patient, I am.  It's called Tropic of Cancer, and you should spend some time there.

It just took me fifteen minutes to write that last paragraph because the kids are now up, and we're having a conversation about how it's not fair that daddy is always the one to take the puppy out to poop every day.  So we're knee-deep here in the minutia of how to get a farting dog to relieve his bowels in the morning.

Sigh.  Where to go from here?  I mean, besides taking the dog out for healthy shit.