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Archive for December, 2011

When Death Comes Unexpectedly

Last week Chad’s dad died. It was sudden and is still quite sad.

I’ve been thinking about what we say to families when a person close to them dies. As a pastor, or in my case a pastor in training, it is hard to feel prepared about what to say to a grieving family.

What do you say? What don’t you say? What if they never believed in God? What if they never got the chance to know God?

I am comforted by the fact that we have no clue what God does in these situations. He might welcome them back to his loving arms and say, “Welcome home my son.” Or he may not. I don’t know what God does in situations where the person was not a believer. Maybe he gives them another chance. Maybe not. I try not to dwell on this mystery because if there is no second chance in death that makes me sad and if there is that it makes me joyful. So I leave this alone. Mainly because my postulation on the subject will bring no comfort to families where faith is in question. I think about it in my down times but try not to bring it up when talking with someone whose family member or friend has just died.

There are many other questions in death. Why this person? Non-believers and believers alike often question God. They often get mad and ask why a God of everything would be so cruel. I have no answers. I have no clue why this person lives and that person dies.

I like to think of God as the all-knowing comforter. When God takes children with cancer I often like to think that he took them before they suffered but sometimes that isn’t true. I like to think that when ever God takes his children home, young or old, he does so for their own benefit. But I really don’t know and I never share this idea with the person who is grieving.

The parent of said child will not be comforted by my ideas. I seriously doubt that Chad can be comforted at this time by my theology of God taking his dad now so that he would no longer suffer the effects of the cancer. This idea of mine will bring no comfort.

The only thing I can say in times where death is unexpected is: that sucks! I can say it sucks. I can say it makes no sense. My own mother had her dad taken from her at a young age and all I can say is that sucks. I’m sorry. I’m sorry Chad is experiencing this loss. I’m sorry friends and family members are having to go on without a parent, grandparent, and friend. That sucks.

As a pastor in training I still have no idea what to say when death comes unexpectedly, not that it gets any easier when death is imminent. There is nothing to say.

My theology, my philosophy will bring no comfort to those grieving. It may bring me comfort but it will do nothing for the person who is grieving.

So I stay quiet and say instead that sucks and I’m sorry.

I’m sorry Chad that your dad died. I’m sorry that you are grieving and even though I haven’t met you yet all I want to do is give you a big hug and hold you while you cry. That’s all I can do. I know it sucks and there is nothing I can say to bring you comfort so  I would like to shut up and give you a hug because I like to think God holds us when we cry so I try to do that for the people I love and I love you because you love my sister.

My trip to KC

On friday I flew from Burbank, CA to Kansas City. During my trip I wrote this entry:

Today I flew to 3 cities on the same plane and I noticed something each time I landed.

Have you ever seen model trains? There are mini trains, railroads, houses, cars, roads, trees, etc.

When the plane starts to make its descent the city below looks like a model. The houses are small, the cars are non-descript. It’s like hot-wheels on a track instead of people moving through their lives.

I have nothing profound to say. Perhaps this is how God views us. Or how we are to remember we are just one small speck. Or God’s sovereignty. Like I said, there is nothing profound coming out of my mouth.

But as I landed in these cities today I saw a mystery, a beauty I rarely get the opportunity to see.

Its amazing how significant we can feel in our own little worlds but how insignificant that can feel in the big scheme of things.

Love in Action

If I learned nothing else in my Faith and Politics class this last term I learned that we all need to love each other a little more.

That’s not to say that love is all you need. You need other things of course. The world needs action and so forth but when did we stop loving each other?

I’m sure we could do some extensive research into the world’s history and come up with an answer.

We have used and abused other people for centuries because of difference.

Because of fear.

We put our faith and our Bible behind every horrible action saying it is God’s divine presence reaching us towards hate.

Really?

Does God hate?

Or does God love?

God is love!

I have a picture in my head. God and I are standing before a few large (giant) TV screens. And playing through these TV screens are people. Women who have had abortions. Men who are gay. Men and women with picket signs. Men and women being blown up.

God is holding my hand and saying, “I love that one” to the gay man in the military.

“I love that one” to the woman who had an abortion

“I love that one”  to the children blown up

“I love that one” to the killer

“I love that one” to everyone no matter what side of the debate they land on.

God loves us all no matter if we are Republican, Democrat, Tea Party or whatever.

God loves us no matter if we are pro-life or pro-choice.

God loves us if we are gay-pride or homophobic.

God loves us no matter our skin color.

God loves us ALL.

When it comes to politics we need to remember this.

When it comes to voting we need to remember this.

I’m not going to run in politics, I am instead going to love everyone.

I’m on the side of love.

I’m on the side of caring for others.

I’m on the side of God.

No one is absolute in their ideas. They think they have the absolute answer because of many reasons but they are not absolutely sure that they do. Absolutes are only good if you are the Creator.

God is the only one who knows how he feels about Abortion, Gay Marriage, Taxes, Slavery, Torture, Death Penalty, Immigration, etc.

We can guess that God is pro-life in all situations. But I can also guess that God doesn’t want us to kill abortionists. God doesn’t want us to torture the women having abortions. God doesn’t want us to torture those who torture. God doesn’t want us to hate the immigrants.

Every time I think about picketers outside of abortion clinics my heart cries out. Don’t you think it would be more effective if you provided counseling services inside Planned Parenthood? Don’t you think it would be more effective if you had conversations instead of shouting that Abortion is wrong? Don’t you think that if you actually talked to the women you would understand them instead of killing all lives because of a bomb in a clinic?

No matter what side of the issue you are on God loves you. Don’t you think that people on the opposite side of the issue deserve the same love?

We are all called to love our neighbor no matter what side of the issues we are on.

I have my own opinion on all of the issues above. I have opinions about all of the hot button issues. But my opinion is not the most important thing.

For this moment in time imagine me sitting in the middle of the issue praying for both sides. I pray that no one on either side takes their own life. I pray that no one on either side kills another.

I pray that all people on all sides feel the love of God. I pray that no one ever feels lonely.

Love is the answer. When you have the choice between fighting and sitting and listening. Sit and listen. And love.

Maybe I am being too simplistic but can you imagine a world where instead of fighting we listened to the issues. Can you imagine a life without love. A childhood without love. Without parents. Without everything. Can you imagine a childhood where your sexuality, a natural thing, is the reason you are hated? Can you imagine not being able to provide for your family and the things that makes you do?

It is hard to imagine ever being okay with the things that we are so violently against but if the tables were turned what would you do?

We can never know for certain what we would do in every instance, in every situation so our only choice is to chose love.

So if you are pro-life think of new ways to change policy, to provide aid, figure out why women have abortions and find them another way out.

If you are anti-gay marriage find a way to love a gay. Take your homophobic notions out of your mind and get to know someone who is gay. Talk to them about why they want marriage and find out, if their marriage would challenge your own.

If you are for lower taxes or higher taxes find out how that affects all sides. What will that actually do to our economy? What are the benefits of your side and what are the risks? Who ends up winning and who ends up losing in your plan? Talk to the other side. Figure out why their standpoint is as such and find a way to love them.

Most people would say that slavery is a thing of the past and it hopefully is in terms of black/white but what about women slavery? What about human trafficking? That is our modern slavery and what are you going to do to stop it? Join groups and websites that track who is trafficking and who is contributing to it. Love the women that get out of human trafficking and support programs that get them women out.

If you are pro-torture imagine that you are the one with information? Torture practices are most often used in the name of “national security.” So imagine yourself as the person with the information that would save the country would you want to be water-boarded? How do we love the people we have tortured? How do we stop the legislation that allows this to happen? How do we have conversations and talk with the people who are pro-torture?

If you are anti-death penalty or the penal system then what do we do differently? How do we love the terrorists? How do we love the McVeigh’s of the world? How do we do that?

If you are anti-immigration then how do you love the immigrants that are here? What do you do to improve the immigrants’ own country so that they no longer feel the need to flee?

To every side of every situation there is someone to love. Instead of imposing our views on others we should be thinking of ways to love everyone and make changes so that bad choices don’t have to be made.

This is my philosophy or theology of Love in Action.

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