Where is Home?

A few years ago, I sat with a father of a 17 year old young woman who had been an in-patient for over a year fighting cancer.  When I walked into her room the first time, I was amazed at the transformation of the room and how it signaled a will to kick cancer’s butt and get on with life.  She had her eye on going home even as she knew it would be a while before that happened.

Though her immune system would not allow her to be in class with other kids, this tenacious woman was tending to her high school home work in between chemo treatments so she would not get behind.   Later I would learn of her plans to attend college after graduation.

Her institutional hospital room now had bold colored curtains from home (I think they were purple).  The family never used the harsh overhead florescent lights but, had brought table lamps to cast a homey, welcoming, soft glow in the room. She had put up typical teenage themed posters alongside the big ‘get well’ card posters signed by her friends back home in New Jersey.  Her friends could not visit her, but their spirit and enthusiastic love were felt in the room.

I learned that this young woman was a Christian and an active leader in her church, including serving as communion steward with the pastor in her small congregation.  I could imagine the hope rising in the hearts of older people in her congregation when they saw a young person joyfully leading in church.  Everyone would want this teenager to be back home.

She went home. I remember the excitement in her eyes when she told me the news! Indeed, it seemed as though she could have walked out that very day, but at that time, she only had the promise of leaving soon.

Within two weeks she was back in the hospital, her young body was not able to keep up with the immunological demands of the outside world.  She slipped further and further away from the picture of health.

I sat with her father; her mother wouldn’t speak to me because it indicated to her that she’d given up hope.  Her father and I had spoken several times in the preceding hospitalization as he grasped for something positive, something to feel good about, some good news.  This time he cried that he just wanted her to be home, that she said she just wanted to go home.  I asked him where he thought home was, and he looked aback with no answer.

I reminded him that his daughter professed faith in Christ and the promise of heaven after death.  I wondered if she might have a different idea of where home was.  His expression softened, “I hadn’t thought of it that way. I just thought she meant New Jersey”, he said. And, then after a moment, “huh”.

After her death, we talked once more and he told me how she kept looking up into the corner ceiling of her hospital bed.  Tied up with tubes and lines and an oxygen mask, she kept trying to move her head over to get a look at something past her dad’s shoulder, so much so that at one time, he too looked up to see what she was looking at.  We wondered if she’d seen an angel waiting for her to take her home. 

Homily on Family Violence – You are seen. You are heard.

This is my final project, a five minute homily, for the weeklong intensive class at Lancaster Theological Seminary: Family Violence and the Theological and Sociological Response, with Dr. Elizabeth Soto.  After hearing about family violence, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, psychological, financial, spiritual and emotional abuse as well as visiting a Domestic Violence shelter, I decided to speak to the anonymity that  church communities often give abusers and their victims.  

Anonymity or normalizing violence is not helpful and goes against our Christian mandate to take care of all in the family.  It goes against the sacred acts of setting the oppressed free, releasing captives,  helping the blinded to see, bringing words of hope to the poor and declaring a year of the Lord’s favor.  I taught my classmates the opening lines of a simple song by Karen Drucker, “I Am Loved”, from her CD, Songs of the Spirit III. I think the song can sing hope into the hearts of all of us who have doubts about our own value and role, but particularly to the woman or man (men too can be victims of abuse), child or elder who is in the dark and lonesome hole of abuse or neglect.

Here are my thoughts titled You Are Seen. You Are Heard.

I’d like to teach you a new song today, a few lines from a song that you can teach to others. You know the power of music, the power to inspire, the power to plumb the depths of human emotions. You know the power of music to help in memorizing Bible stories, like “Father Abraham had Seven Sons”.  We know the power of song to teach and reinforce theological statements, that takes theology from our head to our heart like, “Jesus Loves Me”.
The opening lines of the song by Karen Drucker goes like this:
You are seen. You are heard. You are loved for who you are.

You are enough. You are complete.  You are loved.

There was a pop song in the 70s called, “We are Family” (I got all my sisters with me.) by Sisters Sledge. It gives us a great image of a family unit.

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun
To get our share of the world’s delights
High hopes we have for the future
And our goal’s in sight

They convince us that families like to have fun together; they share in the world’s wonder as well as having shared family goals. But in some families the high hopes of the future are clouded with worry, frustration, abandonment, fear and violence. Someone who is crying can’t sing.

Often the church looks off to the side when they suspect there might be violence or abuse in a family.  They say, “Oh, Let the police take care of it.” or “I have my own family to look out for.” or “I don’t want to get involved with that”.

But a church that reads the Gospels can’t do that without looking hypocritical.  We can find a narrative in Matthew where Jesus was speaking to the crowds and his mom and brothers showed up looking for him. In chapter 12:46-50 (NRSV), Jesus gives us a new and enlarged image of family by saying, as he pointed to those around him: “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

You know that Jesus proclaimed that his ministry was to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blinded, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor. Anyone who desires to follow him in ministry, whether clergy or layperson, is responsible for the same.

So, when we see an adult, a child or an elder whom we think may be living in a violent situation, we are required to speak to that, to ask after them. But Rev. Marie Fortune, in Family Violence and Religion, cautions us to judge the violent behavior, not the person. In this regard, Matthew 12 verses 36-37 are helpful. “I tell you, on the Day of Judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Likewise, we will be judged by our words which can cause further harm victims of intimate violence, if we aren’t educated in how to respond to family violence.

Perhaps a simple song, sung in church at the closing of a prayer time can open a door for them and replace the lies they’ve heard about themselves. Lies such as “You’re invisible, no one cares about you. No one will listen to you or believe you. No one could love such a wretched, ugly, person like you.”  Or, the abuser might be saying “Only I can love truly love you. Everyone else is just pretending to like you”. “They don’t love you; I do.”

We can use the power of this simple song and teach it to others so that they know that they are seen and heard and loved. They are enough just as God made them. They are complete with all their faults and foibles. They are loved by God.

Let’s sing it until the victims of family violence are able to sing it and believe it for themselves.
You are seen. You are heard. You are loved for who you are.

You are enough. You are complete.  You are loved.   

 

Ashe, Amen.

Studying the Book of Daniel

In Old Testament class we were studying the book of Daniel.  What a confusing text to follow!

The book of Daniel needs some visual aids

I ended up ‘graphing’ it so I could keep things straight. I pulled out material from the closet, markers and the stapler and set to  work.

 

 

 

First, let’s put in the chapter numbers and show which ones are Babylonian stories as opposed to revelations.

Book of Daniel first graphic

 

The final product shows more detail of sources, court stories or visions, languages used and extraneous materials, like Bel and the Dragon.

Final Daniel

 

 

 

 

 

Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) Section 3 Day 18

Howard Thurman says “there’s magic all around us”.  It’s strange to hear a theologian give credence to magic. A lot of religious Christians keep magic at the end of a 10 foot pole.  But, Thurman doesn’t fear the word or concept.  He seems to liken it to a level of awareness that makes one see meaning in commonplace things.

Stone on the piano Commonplace things that take on uncommon meaning or poignancy for me are the small stones  with a handwritten word on each which I received in the opening circle of a perennial retreat.  The  stones lie around my place rather haphazard and I come upon them from time to time. They arrest  me for a moment as I recall the message they whispered to me from their silent earthy form.

Another commonplace thing that captures my attention are the small birds that visit the feeder I’ve
placed just outside my window.  It was meant to be some entertainment for my poor cat, cooped up  all day inside.  But, I find myself watching them flit and maneuver onto the feeder and the Tufted Titmousewindow  sill waiting in queue. I especially enjoy the tufted titmouse and the chickadee  who bring a me a smile, especially when the chickadee sings “chickadee-dee-dee” to the world. They way they all suddenly flock away with a noisy whirrrr,  together-on cue- and going in the same direction.  How does that happen?  It’s like the hocus pocus of magic, isn’t it? Inexplicable and fascinating at the same time.

Noticing the meaning of the commonplace at new levels of awareness.  That’s how Thurman seems to define magic.  It’s also the purpose of meditation – seeking new levels of awareness of common things.  hmmmmm?

birds in formation with sunset

Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) Day 16

Its-Not-My-Fault in quotes Thurman basically says we’re all deflecting responsibility for ‘negative deeds’.  We all have some excuses, some extenuating circumstance with a ready alibi. (37-38)

Rarely is one willing to face the fact that the negative deed was what was really intended. Ooopsy!

But, If I’m on the receiving end of a negative deed though, I tend to regard it as a deliberate move against me.

Therefore: Practice charity toward others. Other than that, remember that judgement is for God to do.  Every judgement that I pass upon my fellows is a self-judgment.

Ohhhh, caught me!