deep ponderings

“I have so much to do! And there’s so little time!”
– John Gunther, Death Be Not Proud
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(image of a grave marker in the historic Colonial Park Cemetery/ Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2013)

I don’t know if it was yesterday’s post about the poor dead mole, the fact that I just finished reading Priestblock 25487 A Memoir of Dachau by and about Father Jean Bernard or that I’m currently reading “Forget Not Love” The Passion of Maximilian Kolbe by Andre Frossard…or it could simply be that Fall of the year is upon us which ushers in a time of life silently fading away…no matter the reason I’ve just had the this whole idea of death and dying on the brain.

No, as my students would say, I’m not trying to be a “debbie downer” nor am I trying to sound the death knell—rather I am simply wishing that I was a braver soul. Not that I consider myself a chicken or the one who runs from danger. My former principal who is former military, use to tell us, his instructional coordinators and leadership team of the school, to run toward the noise or fire, not away from it. Meaning if we saw or heard something not so good, hightail it to the source, pronto!

I’d be the first one on the scene, never afraid to break up a fight or quell the first signs of trouble. Not the wisest thing to do given the troubling times in which we live, but I’ve never been one to back down in the face of danger.

I am however, I think, afraid to die, or maybe it’s more that I’m afraid of dying….I don’t know if it’s the process or the final act—I’m not quite certain. And well there, I’ve said it. But wait a minute you say, aren’t you some big time Christian? Yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I embrace death and dying by any means.

I’m not a fan of pain, I don’t think I bear up under it very well and I’m afraid of the unknown. This coming form Miss plot out her entire life form A to Z with a detailed course description as a guide. Maybe it’s the control thing—Miss Control freak who will have no control or say in the whole ordeal. I admit it scares me.

The story goes that St Francis, upon his deathbed, is said to have sung over and over “Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death.” He sang Psalm 141, and at the end he asked for permission from his superior to have his clothes removed so when the last hour came he could expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.

Now that’s someone who doesn’t flinch and get’s it right.

Or maybe like Joan of Arc who was sentenced to be burned at a stake by the English as a heretic. As she was tied to the stake and the fire lit, Joan asked the priests present if they would hold up a crucifix in order that she may gaze upon Christ as she died.

Hard Core

Maximilian Kolbe, as a prisoner of Auschwitz, sacrificed himself for another prisoner who was sentenced to die in a starvation chamber. He lived much longer than they ever imagined he would and he ministered the entire time to his fellow death-mates being the last of the group to die.

Angelic

I know that none of us know how we will react when our time comes, be it quickly or slowly due to a ravaging illness, but it just troubles me a bit that I fret about it. Maybe I’m afraid that when it happens God will say, No, turn around you just didn’t get it right. Maybe He won’t want me. Maybe that’s that whole abandonment issue established with the whole adoption business..see how that keeps coming back?!
I want to be with my family–what will that be like? Oh there are just so many questions and caveats that are simply not up to me….

I want to be more brave, more serene, more confident. I want to know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus, or St Michael, or whomever will take me by the hand….We all recall the final weeks of Pope John Paul’s life. The once most energetic, athletic, globe trotting vicar of Christ who slowly, painfully, frustrated as he was, serenely allowed all of us to witness his relinquishment on and to this world.

I feel as if I’d be belly aching, oh woe is meing, grousing in frustration, anguishing….but not so for so many brave souls. But who knows, maybe I’ll surprise myself. Maybe I’ll be like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life who got a second chance to get it right. But I doubt that……

Maybe that’s it—maybe it’s as simple as learning to let go…letting go of self, of the control, of relinquishing my power and yielding to a Greater power. Less of me and more of Him.

And then there is the issue of sin… those things that impede our relationship with God. I once heard it described that God, the Creator, who is without sin cannot even look upon sin as He is that pure (which goes well beyond our mere attempts of comprehension)…so Jesus had the bridge the gap, so to speak, between sin and that which is without sin—all so God could reestablish a relationship with us. That is indeed very powerful.

Sometimes I think that I’m just not ready because I’ve got to continue working on getting it right…but when will that be…when will I finally know that I get it right? Maybe I just need to take heed of the expression ….”I ain’t got time for dying cause I’ve got a whole lot of living left to do…” or however that saying goes— it is all just a matter of how we live that is most important, and that is what I must remember-it is how I live, not merely that I live….

Mother Teresa so aptly taught us all how to live by her own simple yet determined example of living life for Jesus and in turn for others— it is this small Albanian woman who teaches us that living with purpose for our fellow man is what truly matters. She taught us the simple truth of life and she offered us a wonderful creed to call our own……
“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”

No, no time for dying—just living, and living well…..

Dusty and Dry

I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought.
Hosea 13:5

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(Photograph: a dusty and dry country road Troup County, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2013)

We all find ourselves, at some point or another, in the proverbial desert. A lonely, dry, dusty, barren land. On this particular day however, when I took the picture, it was more of the literal dusty and dry land. Difficult to see and even more difficult to breathe. The heat of the day gave way to sweating which just compounded the misery as the red dust coated us from head to toe–sticking to any exposed skin turning each and all red as a brick.

It always seems that a time of spiritual euphoria eventually gives way to a spiritual desert. One minute you’re on top of your game, then bam, the next thing you know… you’re in the bottom of the bucket. A kin to living life on a bit of a roller coaster I suppose, just, thankfully, not at the same speed.

There are times I often feel out of step with the world as my faith seems to run counter to the world’s appetite for that of, quoting both Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, “a culture of death.” There is so much that I find to be morally and ethically wrong which in turn the world embraces as right and admonishes me for not accepting and being on board. I begin to question myself, my faith. I begin to wonder what’s wrong with me rather than what’s wrong with the world.

But then I think I hear the insidious whispers of our ancient adversary and I am reminded that the battle is still raging…it is the war that is already won. I do grow weary. I, like the psalmist, often wail and lament as there is great gnashing of teeth. Giving-in seems just easier, accept you say, you might as well because the world accepts, it’s just a matter of time, it will wear you down eventually.

I recently read a wonderful quote by Cardinal Sean O’Malley regarding the real life story of Father Jean Bernard–a prisoner and survivor of the infamous death camp Dachau …“In the darkest times of history the Lord has raised up Saints to be a beacon of Christ’s redemptive love.”
No one promised it would be easy. Living life in a fallen world is often like walking through a mine field–tiptoeing at spots, dashing along at others and then oddly feeling entirely safe at other places. Thank God for the “Beacons.”

No, life is not easy…be it our own little world’s dramas or the dramas that play out on the much larger and grander stage of the world—either way however, there is a Promise, there is an eventual Victory and there is always HOPE. Here is to the Hope that is promised us as I continue reading and hearing of the heartaches and needless violence playing out locally as well as world wide. Take heart and be of good courage….hear now the words of Paul…..

….. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
(NIV Ephesians 6:10-20)