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.