life

Happy Birthday Dear Void.

Every January 18, as soon as I wake up, I’m immediately aware that it’s my dad’s birthday.  My bleary, sleep-encrusted eyes glance at his joyful face, smiling at me from the photo atop my chest of drawers.

“I miss you,” I say, sometimes as a whisper aloud, sometimes as just a thought in my head,  “Happy Birthday.”

At some point in the day every January 26, usually when I’m writing a check or have some other cause to glance at the date, I remember that it is Dan R’s birthday.

I have only seen Dan a handful of times in the last 30 years – at a couple of high school reunions, at his dad’s funeral, during an overnight visit to his home in upstate New York on my way home from a biking vacation in Vermont…

But I’ve remembered his birthday every year since we met on the Bob-lo boat in 9th grade.

I remembered it even before facebook started reminding me.  I sometimes interact with his wife on facebook, but I have absolutely no interaction with him except to write, “Happy Birthday old friend,” (double entendre) on his wall every January 26.

Every February 2 I wish my childhood friend, Patty Holden, a happy birthday.  “Happy Birthday Patty,” I say into the void.  Haven’t seen her in at least 28 years but I remember her day without fail.

This morning, as I was doing the dishes I should have done last night, I thought of the guy I dated in college.  I think of him every July 31.

I understand why I always remember my dad, who’s been celebrating his birthdays in heaven these last 20 years, but I wonder why it is that I remember the other three.

Of course I always remember the birthdays of my sisters and my mom, and I think of my daughter and the hub all day long on their birthdays.

And I occasionally remember the birthdays of other old friends and boyfriends whom I haven’t seen in many years, but why is it that I remember those three every year without fail?

Anyway, Happy Birthday Ron Sobel.

 

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faith, life

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

There’s not much to do when the heat index is 105 degrees so we went to a movie, a documentary, actually, about Fred Rogers.  

I loved Mr. Rogers when I was a kid, I watched him everyday.  I credit him for shaping me into the kindhearted individual I am – or at least was. 

To quote Ouiser Boudreaux (Steel Magnolias), “I’m not as sweet as I used to be.”

I loved Mr. Rogers as a kid, but I didn’t realize his brilliance until I sat in that air conditioned movie theater on Saturday.

Mr. Rogers planted a seed deep in my heart which sprouted into a belief that God loves me,  even though he never mentioned God.  In fact, I didn’t know that he was an ordained minister until I was an adult.

All I knew as a kid was that a kind man who cared about kids, who cared about me, was out there and my little-kid brain extrapolated that into believing a kind God, who cares about kids, who cares about me, is out there, too.

We evangelicals of the 80’s and 90’s had it wrong.

Back when I was a fully indoctrinated evangelical, I was taught that God’s name had to be blatantly emblazoned upon a thing in order for it to be “Christian.”

Christian music had to mention His name, repeatedly.

Christian authors were suspect if their writings didn’t include doctrinally approved Christianese.

But then I started to listen to God more closely.  He said He is Love.  He said He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  My adult brain began to extrapolate that to all that is loving, true and life-giving.

A song about forgiveness is a song about God.

A writing that is noble, pure and true is a writing about God.

A movie that spurs me on toward love and good deeds is a movie about God.

On the way home my daughter said, “My favorite part of the movie was when the minister said Fred’s show preached a better sermon than anything you hear from a pulpit.”

Amen.

“Fred’s work,” he said, “was love your neighbor and love yourself. It was a communication right into their hearts.”

Right into my heart.

Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

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life

Masculinist Fiasco

The four-year-olds sat on the floor in a quiet, orderly cluster.  They each raised a hopeful hand in response to their teacher’s questions and then waited patiently to be called upon.

My three-soon-to-be-four-year-old sat at the outer edge.  She didn’t raise her hand.  We were only there to observe.

I hadn’t planned to send her to pre-school, figured 13 years of the five-day-a-week educational grind was years enough.

But the September before she was to begin kindergarten she suddenly wanted to go.  She WANTED to go.  Because her friends were going.

A fellow volunteer at the pregnancy center recommended the pre-school housed within the church at 11 Mile and Woodward.  The son of one of the center’s board members attends there, she said.

So I arranged for us to check it out before I signed on the dotted line, to make sure I liked it, and, more importantly, to make sure my daughter liked it.

The grandmotherly teacher asked a question.

All the clustered hands went up.

She called on a boy in the front.

The teacher asked another question.

All hands went up.

She called on a boy in the middle.

The teacher asked another question, and another and then another.

All hands went up, up, up.

She called on a boy, and then on another and then another.

On and on it went, one boy after another.

My spirit started to feel a little sick.

Those hopeful female hands kept going up, and those hopeful female hands kept coming silently back down.

The class moved on to their next activity, the same pattern developed.

“Would you like to stay all morning?,” the teacher asked.

I glanced toward my daughter.  Her heart did not appear set on staying.

“No thank you,” I smiled back.

And with that I took my daughter’s smart, sweet little hand and led us the heck out of there.

I had to drive quite a distance to get there, but I found an excellent pre-school – one where all the children were allowed to speak.  All of them were given a turn, all were allowed to know things. And since one of her best friends from church was in the class, my daughter, oblivious to the masculism she had witnessed at the corner of 11 Mile and Woodward, was happy with my choice – my Monday, Wednesday and Friday choice because a three-almost-four-year-old and her mama needed one more year of some sleeping in days.

I wondered, as we made our bee-line out of there, what would become of the girls in that unfortunate pre-school. I wondered what would become of the boys. I wondered what effect the subliminal message etched daily upon their young brains would have upon their futures.

That little class came to mind this morning as I sent my husband this text:

He’s not following our layout even after I asked him to follow the numbers. I’m not going to fight with him anymore. He just does what he wants no matter what I say.

We are remodeling our master bath.  It’s been a fiasco, but I’m not here to gripe.

I’ll just say it’s been one disappointment after another.

On the first day the tile guy came, he said he’d lay out the tile for my husband’s approval.

I just looked at him.

My husband reminded the project manager that the approval that’s needed is mine, not his.

I was concerned that first day about the measurements.  I had spent considerable time pre-project going over them in my genius head, knowing the placement of the shower tiles was going to have to be precise in order to get the look I was after.

So I kept bringing it up.  I brought it up to the project manager and he brushed me off.

Each time I tried to discuss it with the tile guy he’d grab his measuring tape, extend the little silver tab, waive the erect tape in the air and throw out numbers that were proof positive he hadn’t thought it through.

The project manager assured me that the tile guy has thirty years of experience.

I chose to shut up and trust.

Even though I knew better.

Needless to say, his measurements were off and my shower tile will forever have the look of an amateur.

At professional prices.

The hub had a talk with the project manager, said we weren’t confident in the tile guy’s ability.  The hub told him if we were to proceed I was to be included in all problem-solving discussions and I was to sign off on the decisions.

“Did you tell him I’m good at problem solving?,” I asked the hub. “Did you tell him I’m a genius?”

“No, but I could have,” the hub replied.

The PM assured the hub I would have a say.  He talked to the tile guy and assured me the rest of the bathroom would be done properly.

Gave me his word.

The hub and I didn’t want to leave it to chance.  So last night, at midnight, after discovering that the marble floor tiles appear to be mismatched (as I said, disappointments at every turn and at every opening of a box) we stayed up and laid them out in a pattern that minimized the problem.  I know the beauty of natural stone is the variations, and I love variations, but this looked like leftovers of the three different types of tile the tile shop sells were all bundled up and unloaded on us.  I’m not saying that’s what happened, I’m just saying that’s how it looked.

So the hub and I stayed up beyond tired and laid them out, closed the door and went to bed.

This morning I got up early and numbered them in such a way that the tile guy would know the order and orientation of each one.

When he arrived I pointed it out and asked him to follow the numbers.

“Got it,” he said in his typically friendly voice.

Late night, early morning time well spent, I thought, as I went about my chores.

Mid-morning I peeked in to see how it was coming.

The stickers were off the tiles and stuck to the subfloor. Half the tiles had already been cemented down in no where near the pattern we had laid out.

“You didn’t like our layout?,” I asked when he returned from the garage and came up behind me.

“It was fine,” he replied.

“You didn’t follow it.”

He said he did.

“That tile was there,” I said, pointing out one example.

That’s when I texted to the hub.

He just does what he wants no matter what I say.

As I loaded the dishwasher, my thoughts drifted back to that unfortunate little pre-school class and to the little boys in the cluster.

And I knew what had become of them.

I was going to end the post with that sentence, I was just putting the period on it when friendly tile guy told me he was done for the day.

I left my laptop and ran upstairs while he was cleaning up in the garage.

There was a whole monochromatic section that looked horrible.

I knew the hub and my eye-for-such-things daughter would think so, too.

I rushed outside to catch him before he left.

“Is it too late to move some tiles?,” I asked.

“Why, which one?,” he asked, with a slight exasperation in his voice.

“There’s a whole monochromatic section and monochromatic is the look we were trying to avoid.”

The look we stayed up past midnight to avoid, I didn’t say out loud.

We went up stairs.  I showed him where. He replaced a tile.  Then another. Then there was one he thought looked out of place, so he scraped that one up, too.  In all we rearranged four or five tiles.  He’ll cement them down tomorrow.

“Good thing we got that resolved,” he said as he was heading back downstairs, “tomorrow they would have come out in pieces.”

“I thought it might already be too late,” I said, “but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.”

“We were right on the edge,” he said, “it was almost dry.”

I’m kind of proud of myself for speaking up after having been brushed off so many times.

For hopefully raising my hand once more.

The hub and I were discussing the previous fiasco on the way to church last week.

“When a man speaks up,” I remarked, “he’s just being a man. But when a woman speaks up she’s being a b-i-t-c-h.”

“Speak up anyway,” he said.

Thank God for the pre-school we chose, where when a little boy speaks up he’s just being a boy and when a little girl speaks up she’s just being a girl.  And that’s what’s being etched into their young brains.

And thank God I didn’t go to pre-school.

P.S.  As the tile guy and I were rearranging, I said, “It looks like leftovers of the three types of marble the shop sells were all bundled together, it doesn’t match, which is why making the the layout look good is so difficult.

“It was on backorder and then it wasn’t?,” he asked.  “The boxes had plastic straps around them?”

“Yes,” I said.

“When I’m doing a job from start to finish and not the subcontractor,” he said, “I reject the boxes with the white straps and wait for a new shipment. When guys return leftover tiles to the shop, the shop has them bundle them together to resell.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that before you laid it?,” I asked.  “Before it was too late.  I would have waited.”

“I didn’t want to get in the middle. The PM won’t be happy that I’m telling a customer this.” (Confirming it ‘cuz I already knew.  It doesn’t take a genius.)

I wish he had gotten in the middle.

“I’ve learned something today,” I told the tile guy.  “Never accept boxes of tiles wrapped in straps.”

I wish I’d known it yesterday.

Wish I’d known it before it was too late.

At least it’s not too late for you, dear reader.

Now, should I raise my hand again and ask for a refund on the tile I actually ordered and have them charge me instead for three boxes of mismatched leftovers?

Should I try not to be bummed?

#theblogismightierthanthesword

 

 

 

 

 

 

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faith, Jesus, Light

Alignments

Apparently I blew some minds Sunday morning; completely blew the doors off the place.

That’s what one of the congregants texted our out-of-town pastor after the service:

Well…the way the preacher completely blew the doors off the place talking about todays reading in Genesis is firm proof women should be preaching.

Another commented:

She blew minds.

I don’t know whether he received any negative feedback, but it’s real nice that he shared the positive.  It’s kind of a relief after you’ve blown some minds.

One of the members, who was late to church, told me he was sorry he missed my sermon.  I told him I’d post it for him.

So here it is:

The Lessons Appointed for Use on the Sunday closest to June 8 (track 2):

Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Whenever I walked past my parents’ library as a kid – the room off the front entrance that had shelves and shelves of books – a certain spine would always catch my eye:  Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm.

Why would anyone want to escape from freedom?, my inquisitive young mind would wonder.  

I finally asked my mom about it.  She explained that the author – a psychologist – theorized that people don’t really want to be free.  It’s too scary for them.  So they escape freedom by putting themselves under the authority of another. That way they no longer have to take responsibility for their lives.  Fromm said individuals do it and whole nations do it.

Ancient Israel did it.

Israel had always been led by prophets and judges.  Samuel, who was both a prophet and a judge, was getting old and ready to retire.  His sons, who would inherit his leadership position, were lame.  So the elders of Israel came to Samuel and said, “You are old and your sons don’t follow your ways; we want you to appoint a king to govern us, like other nations have.” 

Samuel was bummed and a little hurt, but even so he took their request to God.  “Listen to what the people want and don’t be bummed,” God said, “they haven’t rejected you, they’ve rejected me from being king over them, just as they have from the day I brought them up out of Egypt. Listen to them and let them have what they want, but solemnly warn them. Tell them what it will be like to live under an earthly king.”

So Samuel told them they could have a king if they really wanted one, but, he warned, “He will reign over you and make you do his bidding: he will make your sons run in front of his chariots and many of them will be crushed; he will force some to be commanders, he will use some to work his fields and make his weapons. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his cronies. He’ll take one-tenth of your grain and wine and give that to his cronies, too. Basically, he’ll make you his slaves. And when he does, you’ll cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord is not going to listen to you. You will have to lie in the bed you made.”

The people didn’t care, they wanted what they wanted. They were determined to be like other nations – with a king to govern them and fight their battles.

So Saul was appointed king.

And all that Samuel warned would happen, did happen.

The lesson:  Be careful what you wish for.  Be careful what you stubbornly insist upon. And trust God to fight your battles.

That passage from 1 Samuel 8 was the track 1 lectionary reading for today.  I thought it was the one we were doing until the June schedule showed up in my inbox last week.  But it’s okay because the story in 1 Samuel 8 ties in nicely with Genesis 3, especially if we read to the end of the chapter.

Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the evening and they hid. The Lord called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; so I hid.” 

The knowledge they thought they wanted, the knowledge they thought was going to make them more like God, the knowledge they had to disobey God to get, didn’t turn out to be so great.  All it did was make them afraid – an emotion they had never felt before.

“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 

Now listen carefully to what the man said in reply, “The woman you gave me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 

Did you hear how Adam blamed God for his sin and threw Eve under the bus?

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”

Eve blamed the serpent. 

And because Eve called the serpent out, there is – to this day – enmity between the him and the woman, just as God said there would be.

“The Lord God said to the serpent,
‘Because you have done this, (God and Eve were in agreement on who was to blame)
upon your belly you shall go,
and eat dust
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;’”

The Septuagint uses “hatred” rather than “enmity”.  

“I will put hatred between you and the woman…”

Given the current sex slave industry and the long history of abuses against women, I think hatred is pretty accurate.  The enemy hates women. He is holding an insidiously long and bitter grudge against us. 

Because Eve aligned herself with God by blaming the serpent and Adam aligned himself with the serpent by accusing God, God did something that often gets overlooked:  

(I’m about to blow some minds here. I’m about to say the sort of thing that got Jesus in trouble in today’s gospel reading. Ready?)

He booted Adam from the garden, but He may not have booted Eve.

Listen closely to the rest of the chapter and see if you agree:

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.  After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Let me read that again because the actual reading of Scripture might be challenging what you’ve always been taught:

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (plural pronoun.) And the Lord God said, “The man [singular noun] has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He [singular pronoun – not “they”] must not be allowed to reach out his hand [singular – his hand, not their hands] and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him [singular] from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.  After he drove the man [singular] out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

See what I mean? The man was booted, the woman was not. 

Which means she left voluntarily,

and that sheds light on what God said would be her consequences:

“To the woman He said,
‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

Some use this passage to teach that God commanded man to rule over woman.

But God wasn’t talking to the man, he was talking to the woman.

And He wasn’t giving a command, He was giving a warning.

The word translated desire is t@shuwqah (tesh-oo-kaw’), which originally means “to stretch out after” or “to turn to”

God was saying, “If you stretch out your arms after your husband, if you turn to him and away from me, if you align yourself with him, if you make him your king, he will rule over you.

If you make man your king he will rule over you.

It was a prophetic warning, not a punitive command. 

It’s like the prophetic warning Samuel gave the Israelites: If you insist on a king other than God, you’re going to be miserable.

Perhaps Eve wanted a companion with skin on, or perhaps she wanted to escape the responsibility of taking care of herself or perhaps she just wanted a husband.   Whatever the reason, she voluntarily escaped paradise to chase after her man. And she certainly suffered pains in childbearing.

Child-bearing and child-rearing, because her pains extended way beyond labor.

One of her kids took after her and yielded to God and one took after his dad and rebelled against God and in the very next chapter Cain murdered Abel.  

Child-rearing doesn’t get more painful than that.                                                                              

So let’s recap, Adam aligned himself with the serpent and got himself booted, Eve aligned herself with Adam and she was out, too.

The lesson: As long as man tries to rule over woman and woman tries to make man her king, relationships will never be what God intended them to be.

It’s all about alignments.  

Which brings us to our gospel reading:

Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.

When His people heard about the stir He was creating, they went to take custody of Him saying He had lost His senses.

The temple leadership even came from Jerusalem and declared, “He has aligned Himself with Beelzebul.” 

Jesus replied by saying, “That doesn’t even make sense, “How can Satan drive out Satan?”

“Truly I tell you,” He continued, “people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” 

We all know that blaspheme against the Spirit is the only unforgivable sin, but have you ever thought through why?

Strong’s definition of blaspheme is:  “to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, make false and defamatory statements about…”.

When Jesus was on trial, and while he was on the cross, people mocked Him and hurled all kinds of abuse at Him.  And He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34)  

You can hurl insults at Jesus out of ignorance and then, when you come to your senses, you can humbly ask for forgiveness, confessing that you did not know what you were talking about.  And you will be forgiven.

But you can’t make false and defamatory statements against the Holy Spirit and be forgiven.  

Here’s why:  

When Jesus lived among us, He limited Himself to doing only what we can do.  Because He limited His power, it is understandable that people might not have understood who He was.  But, when the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to us, He does so with the full, unlimited power of heaven.  He is quite capable of making Himself clear.  Therefore, anyone who rails against the Holy Spirit knows what they are doing.  Their blaspheme is not out of ignorance, it is out of pride.   And pride is the one sin that cannot be forgiven because forgiveness requires the humility to ask for it and pride won’t ask.

So the religious leaders came and blasphemed the Spirit and then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived on the scene. 

Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.

A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

It’s all about alignments.

You can put your trust in politicians or you can make God your king.

You can continue to walk with God in the cool of the evening and wait for a man after His own heart, or you can flee paradise in pursuit of the only man in sight.

You can align yourself with the religious establishment, keep them happy by toeing the doctrinal line, you can keep your mouth shut about God and keep your family and friends happy, or you can align yourself with those who do God’s will. 

The Israelites aligned themselves with a secular, political king and ended up exploited and enslaved.

Eve aligned herself with the only man in town and ended up living east of Eden, forever unequally yoked.

Jesus aligned Himself with His Father, His mission and with those who are not ashamed of the gospel and saved our sorry souls.

Today’s Scriptures beg some questions we can all ask ourselves:

To what or whom am I looking for security?

Whom/what am I chasing?

With whom am I most closely aligned?

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; 
in his word is my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord,
more than watchmen for the morning, 
more than watchmen for the morning.

Amen.

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the friends

All That Cremains

We placed Maxy gently into the back of my Escape. The hub gave me a long hug, kissed me goodbye and headed to work.

I took Maxy for one last ride.

I chose the scenic route, winding through the quiet, tree-lined streets.

I drove remembering all the mornings he went with me to drive my daughter to school and all the afternoons he rode along to pick her up. It was our Monday through Friday routine – drop her at school by 8:30 a.m., go for our morning walk, pick her up again at 3.

I thought about how excited he used to get when we drove him to the dog park – he knew a mile away where we were going and he would spin and cry – louder and louder as we approached the park – unable to contain his excitement.

But this morning he was silent.

My eyes held wells of tears as I pulled up to Faithful Companions.

A gentle man named Jon offered me a seat at a conference table. He needed to take some information.  Name, address, phone number, how long have you had Max?…

“Fifteen years,” stuck in my throat. I reached across the table for a kleenex.

Paperwork completed, I backed my car into a bay.

Together we lifted Maxy into a white cardboard casket that sat upon a metal cart. Jon wheeled the cart into the family witness room while I re-parked my car.

The large room had a comfortable seating area in one corner.

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There was a coffee and water station along one wall and an oven on another.

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I said a final goodbye to my good friend and then watched as Jon closed the lid, wheeled the casket to the open oven door and slid it in.

He adjusted some nobs on the control panel and then asked if I wanted to push the button.

I shook my head, “no.”

The temperature was at 1625 degrees.

“It must remain between 1600 and 1700 degrees at all times,” he later said, “we turn it down to closer to 1600 when a family chooses to witness, otherwise the casket will ignite as soon as it is slid in.”

“How long does the process take?,” I had asked back when we were still in the conference room.

“A little over an hour.  You can wait in the room the whole time, or you can leave after you see me slide him in and then come back.”

The least I could do was wait.

Abide with him one last time.

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So there I sat in the warm room, staring at the oven door.

After about twenty minutes Jon came in to stir the contents. “Do you want to leave the room?,” he asked.

“No, but I’m not going to look.”

Oven door closed again he came and sat on the adjacent sofa and answered my many questions.

“We’re about 85% there,” he said, as he stepped back out of the room.

When he came back to stir a second time he asked me if I wanted to look. I did, since there were only bone fragments and “sparkles” left to see.

“The sparkles,” Jon explained, “are tiny pieces of non-bone.”

He closed the oven door again and left again.  When he returned a few minutes later the sparkles had ceased.

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Nothing but bone and the red glow of hot concrete.

He swept the bones into the bin below and then offered me a look – varying sizes of small fragments.

“Some people want to take them like this,” he said, “but I don’t know why.”

He took them into another room to spread them out, let them cool a little and then grind them into powder.

I waited in the reception area so the oven could be used for someone else’s friend.

Faithful Companions cremated 71 pets yesterday. 73 in one day is their record.  So they need to keep all their ovens operating all day. Every day.  8 am until midnight.

Especially since they promise to return the “ashes” within 24 hours.

Which is exactly what they did when they brought Bebe’s ashes to my door a year ago. Remember? They had picked her up directly from the emergency animal hospital.

But since Maxy died at home, I wanted to drive him there myself.

And stay with him.

It wasn’t long before Jon called me into another conference room. He was carrying a gift bag which contained several thoughtful items.  From the bag he removed a small wooden box engraved with “Maxy” on the lid.

He opened it and pulled out a burlap bag.  Inside the burlap bag was the plastic bag containing Maxy’s ground bones.  He removed it and placed it in my hands.

“They’re still warm,” I said.

“A little bit,” he replied.

They felt good.

Karley, the kind office manager with whom I had corresponded via e-mail in anticipation of this day, gave me a hug goodbye.

Her dog, Sam, who seems like a really good boy, greeted me when I arrived and then rolled over to offer me his belly.

I put the gift bag containing the box of cremains on the passenger seat, took the pleasant, scenic route home and cried.

I have parent packets to assemble for an upcoming presentation, but I think I’ll just sit here awhile with Dixie and Lambchop, listen to the birds chirp

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and rest my sad soul.

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Maximus Aurelius Rodriguez
March 7, 2003 – May 8, 2018
Good, good boy.

 

 

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life

How can my heart not be filled with hope?

Christina was the only black girl in my elementary school.

I didn’t notice that she was the only black girl, I only noticed that she was a nice girl.

So we ran around together at recess – swinging on swings, playing four square and tetherball.

I had no inkling that being friends with her was any different than being friends with anyone else.

Until a holiday gathering at my aunt’s house.

I didn’t hear what my grandma said, but I heard my mom reply, “Julie has a friend who is black.”

As if it were unusual.

As if my small, ordinary friendship with Christina was part of a large debate.

As if it were something for which to be proud?

That overheard, twenty-second interaction between my mom and her mom sowed a seed.

A subtle notion that befriending a black person was a charitable thing to do.

I’m listening to the talks from the MLK50 Conference in Memphis held earlier this month, which marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The one I listened to this morning is excellent:

“How could my heart not be filled with hope?”

I thought about the subtle insidiousness of open-hearted seeds sown benignly that are not benign at all.  

I thought about how impossible it would be to root out every pretty weed that springs from them.

Every pretty weed that looks like it could be a flower.

Impossible if not for Christ.

A friend from my distant past – so distant that he didn’t know I am a Christian and it’s been over 35 years – recently sent me a message.  In it he wrote, “…white Christians are done on this planet…they can flail against the wind all they want…no avail regardless or your politics.”

God’s aim is to restore everything back to the way He created it to be. Acts 3

He’s been setting mankind straight ever since He sent Jesus to show us what He’s really like, what He really cares about.

He’s setting us all straight and He’s started with His own house.

For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:17

Christians – no matter our color – are not done on this planet, but we are undergoing a transformation.  So I guess it would be accurate to say white Christianity as it currently thinks and acts is done on this planet. And I hope so.

But Christians aren’t done.

And thank God, because if we were, what hope would there be for my message writing old friend?

#bestow

 

 

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the friends

I’m here for you.

Do you actually only love someone when you love them more than yourself?

I look up from Ann Voskamp’s question on page 140 of The Broken Way and I see Maxy sleeping peacefully on the family room floor.

I’ve been so tired.

Tired of living like a shut-in, as most caregivers do. Tired of changing diapers and wiping piddle trails off the floors. Tired of hoisting a 46 pound bag of bones to feet he can’t find, feet attached to legs that collapse under him, or that never unfold at all.

“Help me out, buddy” I say.

He collapses to the floor again.

“Come on, Maxy,” I say impatiently, “you can manage to find your feet when dinner is ready.  Help me out here!”

“Sorry Bud, I know you’re old and I’m trying to help you, but I’m old, too, so you try and help me.”

Maxy is my 15 year old hound dog, who likely has degenerative myelopathy – the canine version of ALS. His hind legs have grown increasingly weaker over the last year or so and we can expect that as the disease progresses his upper body and breathing muscles will be affected, too.

“When he gets to the point where he can’t stand at all,” the hub said a few months ago, “we’ll have to put him down. Otherwise he’ll have to pee and poop laying on his side and he wouldn’t want that.”

Not a minute before, I thought in reply. Not a minute before.

But now I think about the people who take control of their lives, who would have put him down long before they stopped inviting people over because their blanket-covered family room floor smells like pee; people who would be out chasing their dreams, doing their thing.

I think about me who spends an hour each morning and again each evening preparing ketogenic meals, doling out medications, supplements and chemo to my beagle as I check them off a legal-sized spreadsheet. Me, who spends the hours in between doing laundry and wiping Maxy pee off the kitchen floor.

Sometimes I wish he would hurry up and go.  Sometimes I ask God to hurry up and take him. Peacefully. While he’s sleeping comfortably, with the sleepy background sounds of his family gently cradling him.

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He’s awake now, head up, looking around, looking out the doorwall.  He looks bright, alert, like he’s enjoying the peace and quiet of the afternoon.  There is no way I can schedule his death.  Not while he still looks content. Not while he’s still so enthusiastic about his meals.

Do you actually only love someone when you love them more than yourself?

“I’ll take care of you for as long as it takes,” I whisper.

He looks at me as though he knows my thoughts.

Do I love Maxy more than I love myself?

Or is it that I love being the me who will take care of him more than I would love being a me who wouldn’t?

“Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus said, “that he lay down his life for his friends.”

 

 

 

 

 

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