Midpoint Musings

Midpoint Musings

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Please Don't Preach at My Funeral

Although I turned 60 this past August, I have no intention of dying anytime soon. I am not aware of a dread disease or pending accident coming my way, but when I do pass away, please don't preach at my funeral. 

In my short lifetime, I have attended too many Christian funerals where preachers take advantage of the situation to preach a sermon; one on salvation and what the deceased did right or did wrong, and how to avoid going to hell; not to mention sermons that use raised voices and animated body movements and pacing. It is especially distressing when, in reality, the very presence of loving friends and family, their kind words, countenances, and their testimonies of the deceased already clearly express the essence of the true meaning of the gospel. 

At my funeral, I want music--lots of it; music for reflection, remembrance, and hope. Music to soothe souls and spirits, music to make people cry, or laugh, or rejoice . . . or whatever emotion grips them.

At my graveside, please share poetry, readings, or scriptures, anything that was planned ahead of time and is devoid of slang and informal off-the-cuff verbal meanderings masquerading as eloquence.

Not everything about my funeral needs to be religious or gospel-sanctioned, because, frankly, if God is unable to speak to the heart of an individual in the presence of great love for the deceased, there is very little chance a "well-meaning" preacher is going to accomplish it either. 

When people leave my funeral, I want them to feel uplifted and grateful. I want them to have a renewed sense of purpose that their lives matter, that God loves them just as they are, that they need not fear the grave because God is bigger than their fears.

     Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness 
     be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but 
     in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your                requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all under- 
     standing will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

     Finally, brothers (& sisters), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever  
     is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if              anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever            you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it 
     into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

                                                          --The Apostle Paul: Philippians 4:4-9

This is what I would like for my funeral. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Midwinter: Part II

I recall that "spring" arrived three days ago, even though it's 19 degrees F. in my neighborhood today and was blowing snow when I emerged from church. So it seemed fitting to blog about midwinter: part II. 

A wonderful benefit to this long, cold winter is that my husband and I have had more time for conversation. This winter we have discussed topics ranging from finances and paying high heating bills, to the household function of living with an adult son and three granddaughters, to living out our faith. Yesterday as we discussed the latter, we mused about the importance of moderation.

In our conversation, my husband, Bob, said that if we claim that we want to earnestly seek peace and understanding and some degree of religious unity, we must at some point moderate our thinking and our approach. He confirmed what I have felt so strongly for so long: that conversation and interaction with others helps in our understanding and our finding commonality. He remarked that if we were to sit over coffee with our worst enemy we would find how many things we have in common. Everyone wants to provide for family, everyone wants to be accepted and loved, everyone has past hurts that they carry, everyone has dreams and desires to achieve, and everyone wants to live in peace. 

My husband is a counseling therapist and he often reminds me when we have rough days due to a budding teenager in the house that teens have difficulty predicting outcomes, and that it's important to teach them how to self-monitor their thoughts and actions.

Isn't accomplishing this a sign of maturity? Shouldn't it be a goal to thoughtfully consider our own long-held assumptions, rhetoric, and attitudes toward ourselves and others?

"All things in moderation" is an oft quoted cliche. It is often used in reference to drinking too much or overeating, but I feel strongly that we need to apply it across the board in our lives. We may stand firmly on our convictions; we may have values about which we don't feel we can compromise; but if we do so at the expense of being able to live together in community, or family, or friendship, we are just fooling ourselves.

I would rather have a friend than have made my point. I would rather have a marriage than to have had my way. I would rather honor my mother than live with the emotions of our vastly different opinions. I would rather love my granddaughter than remind her of her shortcomings every time she does something troubling. I would rather worship respectfully than disrupt the worship of my brother or sister in Christ. 

These kinds of things are also values. Seeking moderation is a conviction worth striving for. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Midwinter: Part I

Today I am revisiting the title of my blog, "Midpoint Musings." I maintain that it truly is at the midpoint of most things where we can see most clearly, find common ground, and come together as a culture and as humanity.

Yesterday, creationist, Ken Ham, and Bill Nye, the Science Guy, debated Creationism versus Evolution. Although I did not listen to the entire debate, the tenants of the opposing positions are generally well-known. 

In January, the annual March for Life was held in Washington, DC, an event I've actually attended twice. The opposing arguments are also generally well-known.

Our politicians in Washington and in our respective states have had policy debates that are well-covered in the media, and we, the populations of our country and states generally understand the arguments on both sides of health care, immigration, aging, foreign policy, etc.

It is midwinter and I am a bit weary of the weather, and consequently the debates, because there really is very little that is going to convince one side to come over the other side, very little, indeed; unless of course both sides of any given position make conscious decisions and effort to seek common ground. 

There ARE things that can be agreed upon, but in our human frailty, we prefer to take some proverbial stand and miss the opportunity to make it a better world for everyone.

We really need to focus less on bolstering the debate, and more on finding the midpoint for discussion purposes and for progress.

So here are some suggestions. Maybe creationists could begin by agreeing that God also created/made possible science; maybe evolutionists could agree that we do have to take many of the unknowns in science on "faith," at least for the time being.

Maybe, people on both sides of the birth control/abortion issue could agree that women REALLY need supported before, during, and after, an unplanned pregnancy. Can we take a position that does not punish women? In other words, can pro-lifers/anti-abortionists and pro-choicers/pro-abortionists agree that it is counter-productive to withhold birth-control, that it is critical to provide pregnancy support, that it is important to face the reality of the need to provide for the children we want them to have, and ridiculous to throw a woman in jail for having an abortion (should the day come when abortion is once again illegal)?

Could our legislators put their power-drives aside and think about all the ramifications of the extreme-ness of many of their arguments? 

Debate is a wonderful thing if we do it in a spirit of finding the areas where we can agree. The lack of skill in finding middle ground damages our future and our children's future.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life

This morning, I am pondering all the first days of ones life. Birth, first day of school/college and graduations from the same, marriage and first child, first career, second career, third career . . . well, I need not continue. 

Today is another first. The dream job for which I worked so diligently and which I loved has ended. Mind you, it actually ended two and a half years ago when I was "demoted" from full-time to one-quarter time. I suppose it could be said that I actually still had it--after a fashion, but it was not the same and I fought in my spirit tooth and nail, so to speak, to convince myself it was okay. Yesterday, I surrendered, and so today is the first day of the rest of my life. Am I fearful? A little, truthfully. 

But I recall that a little over 10 years ago, I and two other Seton Catholic School teachers attended a"New Teacher Retreat" sponsored by the Erie Catholic Diocese (during what was another first day of my life). Our presenter, the headmaster at Cathedral Prep in Erie, PA, a certified Steven Covey "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" workshops (based on the book of the same title), instructed us to write our life mission statement. My mission statement was that I was first, a nurturer/minister and that I was second, a musician. I said that music would always be my vehicle for nurturing and ministry no matter what form it took. That mission is still true whether I am teaching, singing songs to grandchildren, teaching them lessons, playing music for church or sharing it with my family here at home.

                     I don't know about tomorrow. I just live from day to day. 
                     I don't borrow from the sunshine, for the skies may turn to gray. 
                     I don't worry o'er the future, for I know what Jesus said, 
                     And today I'll walk beside Him, for He knows what is ahead. 

                     Many things about tomorrow, I don't seem to understand,      
                     But I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand. 

                     I don't know about tomorrow, It may bring me poverty; 
                     But the one who feeds the sparrow, is the one who stands by me. 
                     And the path that be my portion, may be through the flame or flood, 
                     But His presence goes before me, And I'm covered with His blood. 

                     Many things about tomorrow, I don't seem to understand,      
                     But I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand. 

                                                  "I Know Who Holds Tomorrow" by Ira Stanphill,    
                                                   Copyright 1950, Singspiration Music

Here's to all of your first days. Feel free to join me in my journey and offer your thoughts.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Difference is the Reason

People often say, "There is a reason for everything." It's a helpful little philosophy when confronted with the unexpected, or things or events that are unacceptable, hurtful, impossible, or a sudden loss or injustice. If we say, "There is a reason," it makes things feel better. We don't have to look it in the face today, we can postpone the awful reality a little while longer, at least until we can come up with a more meaningful philosophy.

Lately, I have wondered if many times there is no reason, that some things do not happen for a reason. Some things are ridiculous, ill-timed, shocking, and completely unsettling. This is reality, after all. We of faith would say it is evidence of living in a sinful world, after all, how else can we even fathom the nonsense, the discord, the plotting, the attacks and even killing.

Lately, I have also wondered how hollow it must sound to offer sympathy or condolences to someone who has just lost a loved one by saying, I am praying God's comfort for you, because many people would question why God didn't just spare them in the first place. Is He some kind of torturer? 

In spite of a lifetime of faith, quite often I find myself at a loss for explanation. And in such times, I often say that the difference between people of faith and people without faith is that we have our heavenly father to comfort us and help us through the bad stuff. But even that sounds silly to the hurting individual. There are tears and anguish this side of glory, that seems to be a fact.

Some recent events in my personal life are undermining my good nature and optimism right now. I feel as if I am being hurled into stormy waters. I am questioning whether or not I'm worthy of anything, a career, people's trust, financial stability . . . People of faith would say that's where God wants you, depending on Him totally, that without Him and without His Savior, Christ, we aren't worthy. 

All I know is that in the midst of some of this I heard from a former student who attended our beloved Christian school years ago. I heard that my teaching made a difference in his life, and I wept. I could not believe the timing of it, a message from God to comfort me, evidence of God's love just for me. 

A couple of weeks ago I said to my mom in regards to the grandchildren living with us and my ministry to my own family, "I just want to get to the end of my life and know that I counted, that I was faithful, that I made a difference, that I 'fought the good fight.'" She assured me I was making a difference. But then, she's my mom. 

What I have concluded is that I don't have the luxury of asking this question right now. I only have this day. I only have the decisions I will make this day. My only option is to walk by faith and not by sight. My only option is to do what is in front of me, what God has put there for me to do. And that's all. So enough of the philosophizing about the unknown. Enough of expecting God to be a magical-make-it-all-better being. It just seems counterproductive, because as I sit here writing, I really have things to do, and one thing I know, I don't want to get to the end of this day and find out I didn't make a difference.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My Baby's Having a Baby     

     My daughter, our "baby" is expecting her first child, a little girl, grandchild number eight and granddaughter number six. This is a brand new experience for me in that my other precious grandchildren came by the way of my three sons. My daughter was born six years after our youngest son, and, it has been six years since we had a little baby grandchild around.       

     I am SO excited and I am proud of  the way she has handled an extremely difficult pregnancy. She apparently was the 1/100 women who suffer from a severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition, according to the American Pregnancy Association "characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance . . . severe cases often require a stay in the hospital . . . (to) receive fluid and nutrition through an intravenous line." Her experience resulted in several hospital emergency room visits and two overnight stays. She had managed for several weeks without intervention, then two kinds of anti-nausea medications, then weekly IV ports inserted by a visiting nurse, and finally, a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) was inserted in her arm. Thankfully, about a month ago, the PICC line was removed and she is finally enjoying a normal life and pregnancy.      

    I have to admit that I was extremely grateful that the part-time status of my job this past school year permitted me to be available to help her get through it. But, I am keenly aware that whatever help I gave, I was not able to take the sickness from her. Most days it felt like emptying puke buckets and begging her to eat and drink was of little consequence. The level of worry accompanying her weight loss and weakening body was something I could not understand, and I still do not understand why she had to suffer like this. She had, after all, lost one baby the year previous and was still in many ways grieving for that little one when the sickness began. I asked myself why she had all of this to contend with. I felt guilty that I had had four "normal" pregnancies, very little sickness, no sonograms, and four normal births. It was not fair and it was all I could do to remain positive and encouraging for my daughter.      

     But, happily, she has reached week 31 and the family is very much anticipating the birth of this little girl, especially the other grandchildren.      

     But there is more to this experience for me than helping to nurse her through the sickness: our relationship is stronger and sweeter than it was before, if that were possible. She is experiencing what I have experienced. She is creating life. She is participating in the unbroken circle of all the generations before her. She has fought for this child while letting go of another. She does not cease to educate herself and sacrifice for the life of this little girl. It truly is a miracle and she and I know it. In the past month I have had the privilege of helping with the nursery, with the baby shower, and with her questions and concerns. Now we wait for the little one's arrival and count our blessings one by one. I am truly thankful.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Writing My Future

     In the spring of 2000, when our sons were 24, 22, and 20, and our daughter, 14, I contemplated all a new century could bring including marriages and the prospect of grandchildren. Little did I know that within two years, all three of our sons would be married, and within one year, our first grandchild would be born! That child, Rebecca Grace, turns eleven years old today, the oldest of seven grandchildren; eight, if we count the one in utero. 
     That first decade of the 21st century brought many, many changes to us. Among them was that we left our lifelong work of establishing and building a viable Christian primary and secondary school where my husband served as principal and I as music teacher. That exit eventually led both my husband and I back to universities to earn master's degrees. 
     He now works as a counseling therapist, and I am pretty sure I am wrapping up my work as a public school music teacher. I say wrapping up because I believe with the depressed economy and our less-than-esteemed governor here in Pennsylvania, cuts to education will again be brutal this year, and as I am already working one-quarter time, I hold out very little hope for the coming school year. 
     So with all of this in mind, I sit here today contemplating what for my intents and purposes, is another new decade and the last quarter of a century of my life, if I am lucky enough to live so long. What do I want to do in these coming years? What type of work will suit an experiened music educator, musician, performer, mother, grandmother, and homemaker? From those with whom I've shared my thoughts, I have received a little advice and some suggestions. But if I could choose I would take care of grandchildren, bask in the art of homemaking, serve in my church and community, and just maybe . . . write. 
     Yes, I think I'll write . . . care for grandchildren, make my home, serve, and did I say, "write?" Yes, I will have to give that a try. More to come.