Monday, March 29, 2010

Big Love

Love is hard to accept sometimes. It's hard for me to completely accept and receive it when I feel and look so very flawed. I was imperfect before, to be sure, but forging a confident sense of self, of beauty, of love-ability is even more challenging post-double mastectomy. I don't bring as much to the party of intimacy, so I sometimes wonder why my husband wants to stick around. "I love you--the whole person, not just the package," he says to me.

I am amazed at this kind of love. In some ways it easier to isolate myself and reject love--I don't have to then face my insecurities and survivor-demons. I don't have to risk vulnerability, or feeling out of control, or admitting my fear. But then not much love can be offered or received by either one of us if that's where I remain. Such love invites me to begin to love myself anew in a body that knows how to survive cancer. Wow, why would I want to trade it in for a newer or younger model? It was a gift when I received it; and it still is a gift.

Genesis promises that we are made in the image and likeness and God. I now see this not in terms of the body only, as I once did, but simply in the ability to give and receive divine love in all our human relationships. That's an image I still carry, scars and all. It's an image I can see in every person. That's big love.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Grump Dump 2

Over the weekend I wrote a post about grumpy church members that I did not publish. I don't care for it when others do a grump dump on me--whether they are just having a bad day; whether they hope I can meet their needs even when they are not communicated; or whether they assume I do not care about them because I inadvertently overlooked something they believed I should have paid attention to.

We just got back from a week in Texas for Spring Break with my whole family. It was a great gathering with pictures, family dinners, fun, 6 Flags, museums and a 75th birthday party for my parents. But it was also a formula for a grump dump in several directions. I am not sure why I am worried about who is dumping on me when I can also be a master dumper. Even when I make a concerted effort not to, I crab at my sisters, my husband, my kids. We all have an underlying anxiety about something--receiving enough love, attention, care, power, hope, recognition, money--something. When we are lacking, we take out it out on someone else--but it's not really about them at all. It's about our own lack of inner peace and acceptance.

Next time I start counting up who is doing a grump dump on me, I will take a look at the load I am carrying. Perhaps I can pray for serenity before I become the next dump truck.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jesus Made It

We served Communion continuously this past Sunday rather than kneeling at the Communion rail. I squatted down to give a blessing to a three-year old girl. When I was done, she dug a cross necklace out of her dress collar to show me. It was white with pink roses on it. "Jesus made it!" she said proudly. I told her how beautiful it was and I finished giving Communion to her dad, blessing her baby sister, and then the rest of the congregation. But I wanted to linger longer in that moment.

To her three- year old mind, Jesus physically crafted her cross (like a good carpenter and craftsman would), but she said so much more, especially at Communion. Jesus did make the cross--he made the sacrifice, he gave his obedience, he offered his life. Jesus made the empty tomb, the cup of salvation, the bread of new life, the victory over death possible. Jesus made it!

I seek to grow spiritually every day--today I am hoping for age 3 and for the eyes that see that Jesus made it--Jesus made it all.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reclaiming Mardi Gras Spirituality

The last Sunday before Lent we celebrated Mardi Gras in worship. When I pitched this idea to the Worship Committee, they looked at me strangely--perhaps they thought I had suggested we all parade half naked and drunk down the church aisle. While this might improve attendance, I reminded them that Mardi Gras is a church festival and something we can celebrate appropriately and with joy in the sanctuary. I could tell by their faces that they wondered how I would pull this off. Our youth traveled to New Orleans for our National Youth Gathering last summer, so this seemed to be the year to try.

The children passed out beads; we recalled the history of the Mardi Gras festival dating back as far as 1000 C.E. as a way to prepare for the fasting of Lent; we learned that the King cake came from the Epiphany celebration of the three Kings who came and brought gifts to Jesus; we enjoyed a power-point of our youth in New Orleans; we paraded around as we sang, "Oh When the Saints..." while the drums kept the beat and the trombones helped us all, the "frozen chosen," move just a little bit. Some in the culture may have co-opted our festival into a half- naked drunken parade in downtown St. Louis, but that is no reason for us to abandon our rich history.

It seems we have come full circle. The early church co-opted cultural events by setting the times of Christian festivals around pagan celebrations: the celebration of the birth of Christ at the time of the festival of the winter solstice is a great example. Now the culture today seems to be taking the best of who we are as religious bodies and co-opting it for consumer purposes. I recently saw an ad for Cadillac that concluded with this encouragement to purchase: ignite your soul. Walmart beckons us to buy with these words: Live better. It seems to me that Nike must have gleaned their slogan from Luke 10: 1-4. Jesus sent out the 70 with these words: Go on your way. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals which seem to be the biblical Just do it. I was eating a quick bite with Son#2 at a popular coffee and sandwich chain recently and saw a long narrow banner with these words listed at the top: refresh, renew, re-energize. At the bottom of the banner was a gender-neutral person with their arms and face lifted upward, eyes closed with white swirls above their head. In this setting, the swirls could have been steam from coffee. I asked my son if I could hang the banner in church for a Lenten theme and the swirls could be the Holy Spirit. "Sure," he replied. He got it immediately. There appeared to be no difference between what they are offering and what we are offering- except of course, Jesus Christ.

These ads all reaffirm the message that studies confirm—people are “spiritual, but not religious” and every product they consume whether it is a cup of coffee or a luxury car, can help them feel like they are spiritual. Our Mardi Gras celebration shows me that people hunger to reclaim the deep meaning behind the spiritual words. Isaiah asks, Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? (55.2) We offer the redeeming Christ who is bread and satisfies for eternal life.