The Table

Come to The Table hungry

as if life depends on it

come one come all

chaos in orderly lines

ants to the Picnic Table

 

Come to The Table hungry

manna & wine in the desert

come one come all

feed us, Lord

feed us Thanksgiving every hour

 

Come to The Table hungry

take what’s needed, need what’s taken

come one come all

feed each other

at The Table with dignified desperation

 

Come to The Table hungry

as if life depends on it

come one come all

strength in vulnerability

mouth open wide

 

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Life Considered Through Death

My class took a field trip to a local funeral home today. If you are in need of a funeral home, I recommend OakCrest in Waco. Ask for Dr. Moshinskie. I would like to put the ‘fun’ in funeral, but there is often not much fun in funerals. Even the most upbeat and hopeful funeral includes grief. Grief is loss, not necessarily death. To be honest, I had mixed feelings including a little anxiety about today’s field trip. I am still in the process of processing some grief, and death in general is typically an uncomfortable topic. All the more reason to learn, discuss, and plan! A few observations:

 

As Brené Brown says, leaning into discomfort is part of wholehearted living. My vocation requires that I have some sort of handle on death and grief. The truth is, many clergy are just as concerned about death as anyone else, and they grieve just as much as anyone else. Yet, somehow we are asked to guide others through grief. How is this possible? Only by the Holy Spirit’s strengthening & supplying of wisdom, and Divine channeling of Love. Be patient with your clergy, they love God and you.

 

“No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us… And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. [1 John 4:12-13, 17-18]

 

One of the points that came up many times was the need to talk about death. When death is taboo to discuss, there is a “closed system”. The vast majority of people live in a closed system. Who wants to bring up the often painful topic of death that is full of unknown, grief, loss of control, mystery, regret, etc.? When death can be openly discussed, there is an “open system”. Though an open system is less common, it is healthier. When Brené Brown talks about shame, she says that the less you talk about it, the more you have it. Shame is the belief that something is inherently wrong with yourself. Embarrassment is believing that something is wrong about the situation. Shame is deeper & more personal. Perhaps there is some shame in death. There may be shame that I cannot make myself well or shame that I did not make amends with my loved one when I could face to face. Is it possible that shame is a kind of death in that shame kills security and a sense of wholeness?

 

Very little in the world is absolute. There is nothing more final than death. Laws can be overturned, criminal sentences appealed, cars repaired, marriages annulled, mulligans in golf. But death.

 

Death is final. Done. Death must be dealt with immediately. The body begins to decay almost immediately. People need to be notified, the death certificate signed, travel arrangements made, planning a burial. Death must be dealt with over time. Allowing church community to help, speaking the deceased’s name, maybe join a support group, remember the annual anniversary of death.

 

When Ecclesiastes 1:9 says that there is nothing new under the sun, perhaps it means that the human condition is not new. People are people- for better or worse- temporary lives on earth to be received & enjoyed. Later, Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 says “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest…” Summer is a season. Winter is a season. Anxiety or panic about either benefits no one. Time for birth and death in every life. Embrace it. 

 

A Response to Recent Comments About My Weight

I have received many comments about my weight lately. Most comments have been positive and encouraging, but there have been many concerned questions, too. The time and place have not always been appropriate for me to offer a detailed response, so this blog begins. Yes, I have lost quite a bit of weight since November 2011. I cannot say precisely how much because I have not been monitoring or paying attention to that number. Losing this weight has come as a result of a few changes. Let me explain.

 

1)    Over a year ago I noticed that I often felt tired. I went to the doctor without many specific conclusions, so I became more conscientious about my sugar intake thinking that if I had a steadier blood sugar, then my energy level would be steadier. I have noticed improved energy and stamina since I have significantly reduced the amount of sugar I take in, including high glycemic white potatoes, processed white grains, bananas, pineapple, etc. Regular desserts, especially processed bakery goods, are not enjoyable or tasty to me anymore, and make me not feel well. An internal concern pushed me to make external changes.   

 

2)    One of my assignments in fall 2011 for a Practical Theology course was to choose a topic to reflect on individually and as a class theologically and practically. I, as you may also, often see articles online about food ethics, ‘healthy’ eating, etc. The large volume of these secular articles and some conversations with friends led me to my topic for the semester– food ethics. As this was a 1 semester, 10 page assignment, I narrowed down to focus mainly on a relationship between Christianity and factory farming. Factory farming refers to mass production of food, especially meat and animal-derived food. I watched Food Inc. [which I have mixed feelings about], read specifically Christian sources and not specifically faith-based sources, made observations as I shopped each week, and had many conversations with friends and professors. I am especially thankful for Dr. Jacober’s [and Dr. Tran’s!] guidance during this project. One conclusion that I came to is that current factory farming methods, as I understand them, have evolved [or devolved] as demand has increased, into conflict with my understanding and application of Christian stewardship.

 

I do not think there is a mass evil conspiracy in the food production industry as some alarmists suggest. Rather, over time cheaper and more efficient methods became possible, then were implemented with thoughtlessness or no way of knowing how the changes would affect the food industry and people’s long term wellness. Technology now has capabilities, such as hormone manipulation or abusive poultry practices, to alter animals from their God-given creature-liness by forcing a cow to produce entirely more milk than she was intended to, for example. I believe God made animals to use and to eat, and God calls for humans to be responsible as Adam and Eve tended to the plants and animals in The Garden. As the Amish proverb goes– take what you need and need what you take. I desire to live more responsibly and thoughtfully which includes changing my eating habits.

 

I slowly phased out meat. During the months of phasing out meant, I once bought meat from Homestead Heritage [similar to an Old Order Mennonite community], but found that I did not enjoy it. Even though I knew their community uses responsible agriculture practices, I found that I do not enjoy meat anymore. Another conclusion I came to was to make the best choices with what is available. The Desert Fathers would set aside some spiritual convictions to be good recipients of hospitality, so I thought I should do the same. However, I felt sick after receiving hospitality that included meat. I now try to politely and non-judgmentally respond to my hosts that I would not like any meat, thank you. It is difficult for me to feel like I am being difficult, so thank you for your graciousness if we share a meal together.

 

3)    Also last fall, I began playing intramural flag football. [Go Truett Ngan-inators!] We had fun and won most of our games. However, it quickly became clear to me that I was not able to keep up with the other ladies as much as I would have liked. After the season ended, I committed to going for walks, bicycling, stretching, etc. in order to be more fit. I am thankful to live in a neighborhood and home that safely facilitates outdoor [and sometimes indoor!] physical activity. I typically do yoga style stretches and a few weight reps each day to keep loose and take a breather. On a good day, I enjoy an after dinner walk [sometimes more of a stroll, and other times more of a trot] or a morning bike ride. Overall, I feel good, but I am uncomfortable if I don’t at least stretch each day. My body has changed toward communicating its need for physical activity more clearly. These times of walks, stretching, and so on have also doubled as stress-evaluation and prayer time! Bonus!

 

All of these semi-unrelated changes– sugar, meat, and physical activity– formed a perfect storm of pushing toward a deeper sense of wellness [physically, spiritually, mentally, socially]. All of my doctors say I am in good overall health. [even my dentist and hairdresser say those areas look better, too!] There is no reason to assume that I am ill. Truly, my focus was so much on the internal changes [conviction, attitude, etc.] leading to these external changes that I found myself surprised that I was losing weight, and I certainly never expected to lose this much! I don’t know how long these changes will stay as I take 1 day at a time, or if lost weight will return. I am unsure when I will re-level out and hit a new normal weight. However, I will continue pursuing thoughtful and responsible holistic wellness. I appreciate the well-meaning comments and questions from supportive/concerned dear ones about my external appearance, but I am more interested in internally focused comments and questions such as– what does it mean to be healthy and whole?