According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cometh the End-of-Days ... Too Soon Lived, Too Shortly Over ...

Tonquin Valley, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Sometimes a picture, or a song, seems to fit us. Today's picture and song seems to fit me by their emotional moodiness and abject honesty before God as to our fit-and-frame, our wonder-and-encouragement, against each day's sometimes too heavy challenges. It is not often we find ourselves so alone with God as at the times in our lives when momentous change comes.... The kind of change you have been prepared for all your life and must now cross over to its withdrawn boundaries. Boundaries of mortality and death; of health and good keep; of bright pasts fading into the dimming lights of lengthening futures marking finality's end; of beginning and start.
These past many weeks I have been making peace with my dad's steady decline held within Parkinson's unfeeling grip. It began late one Thursday afternoon when called home by an aged mother unable to stand him up and move him to the bathroom. Arriving I saw immediately the heavy grip of pneumonia raging through his body, his fever, shakiness, and delirium having lain too long unrecognized. Unable to do no other, I picked dad's painful body up and carried him through the house's too-narrow hallways and doorways. First undressing, than cleaning, and finally re-dressing him in preparation to leave the home he loved and wished to stay. Then giving him some few minutes to say goodbye as we packed to all that he once knew - to his past and to his even more distant memories - before driving both dad and mom to the hospital many long miles away. This same trip had been made many years ago when dad had had two separate heart attacks on the same night. But this illness was different. It held a finality to it that I couldn't shake nor wished its interminable end.

Even so, that night proved to be the watershed in a life that clung bravely to health even as his body wore away through loss of muscle control, weakness, and failing health. Dad's self-imposed dignity was lost years ago as he fell down hard repeatedly when become unbalanced in motion, standing, or stooping. Through hot tears he stubbornly clung to life as he remembered it - even through the dark dismay of knowing that with each fall the disease within his body increased its unholy presence. First came my brother's purchase of a Kawasaki Mule for dad to run around the property as he lost the ability to operate safely his tractor, car, and truck. The lawn mower was the next to go because of the pain that jarred his pain-whacked body over the bumps of the uneven ground. Then came the lift chairs, canes, and walkers; the wheelchairs, medicines, diets, and strengthening therapies. And with each event came more loss and a greater personal conviction to endure bravely under God's presence and love what 'ere may come. As it surely would.
So that even now, as my dad continues his steady decline within Parkinson's unfeeling grip, he bravely lives each passing day in the hope of God's sustaining mercy for a finality no one ever seeks until, at the last, it can no longer be refused. To this has come my family's deep sense of loss and inability to do anything but face with dad his own resolve knowing life has passed and that eternal life will shortly begin. It is a common ending all know and are faced with - some with a greater degree of loss and fate than others less blessed by challenge, suffering, and struggle. For myself, it is working with an institutionalized medical system to help make dad comfortable until the end. Nor to give up too soon despite his languishing spirit. And yet, even this does little to comfort me as I watch dad's unending pain-and-loss mount against a pneumonia that comes-and-goes, filling his lungs with unwanted fluids unable to swallow properly, while watching other parts of his body cease in their functioning, and knowing that at some point even I must let go my stubborn hope of dad's comfortable survival.
At some point we each must rethink our life, its accomplishments and failures, its disappointments and steady challenges, knowing that all we are, and have done, is in our Lord's faithful hands to do with as He will. Mine is to let go of a father who always had my best interests at heart. And to visit an area hospice agency this week seeking answers to medical ethics questions I felt too guilty to admit... realizing that dad's time is drawing to a close. Asking the question, at what point does one reframe the present so that a love one's life can be accepted as worn out, and coming to its end. That it is no longer able to be lived out to the satisfaction of its owner. To tenderly speak to a father's heart and not his head. To speak words of assurance, of comfort and love, of truth and loss. of life and death. Words which might not be heard in the weeks or months that lie ahead. To prepare a soul even as he had prepared mine own many years earlier for life's hardships and joys.
Worse for me, is to watch my family work through their various emotions of grief and loss, meaning and well-being, as I contemplate how to negotiate and coordinate dad's care from sub-acute nursing services to in-home care and palliative services. Or when to bring in hospice once all curative hope has ended so that we might prepare for the tough times ahead without feeling as though we were giving up. Part of the solution has been in allowing dad's growing medical instability to be shared and known to the family from the doctors and nursing staff. By sharing the finality of his medical tests. And by admitting the sheer volume of tell-tale signs lying everywhere present except within the hearts of those who would deny their harsh realities. By sharing medical findings, temporary solutions, paperwork, and financial considerations. And in allowing quiet, timely conversations, to unfold with a sister or brother, a mother and relatives, one's own son and daughter, nieces and nephews, as they can be bourne within weary hearts and minds coming to similar conclusions in their own separate ways.

For it is to the Lord's mercies we are driven at such times. To whom we pray mercy for a father once too busy for family because of work and bills when raising a young family. For a dad whom my brother and I would wade out through the morning clovered dews to watch plow up fallow ground bowed over a chilly, steel tractor's frame. Whom we'd listen to on harsh blizzard mornings held within the rusted, unyielding whines of a decaying tractor pushing its plow through high snowy drifts into heaps while we played and tumbled underneath it all. Who raced across the fields to a fire siren's call or answered the pleas for help as a duty-bound police officer. Who taught us to handle a gun safely even as he was instructed by his father and uncles. And to hunt sure-footedly in the tangle of undergrowth and viney fencelines that we trampled across even as he learned it soldering along the Korean DMZ. All the while telling us to follow alertly the trace of our German Shorthair with his nose to the ground before setting into point. To enjoy the art of travel and adventure as we explored all parts of North America from its southern Texan borders to furthers Canadian reaches each summer for the four to five weeks that we would spend on the road camping along the nation's infant highways and lonesome, wild byways. To listen to his patient coaching and instruction on the ball fields. And to love the time we spent in playing catch with dad in the backyard. Or out in the nearby mown fields of the family's farm as we hit his lofting pitches. To be at his side at large family reunions meeting distant relatives he knew well. Or at marital celebrations. Or in church. Or the too many family burials we seemed to endlessly attend. And sadly, to bury a torn brother ripped apart by the angry delusions of bi-polarism - whose untimely death tolled upon the heart of his beloved father consumed in grief.

Life has its cycles of despairs and happiness. And it is to each of these that we must pass as best we can, relying on God's wisdom and judgment against our own frailties, emotional upheavals, failures, and wandering hearts. It is at such times that I wish to feel intensely the losses and gains, the miseries and successes, even the very heart of God during life's untimely storms and griefs. To not abandon these very difficult times but to listen, watch, and live through them as they were meant to be under sin's penalty and life's enduring hardships. To find within death the beating heart of life's redemption knowing that nothing is lost to a God who sovereignly reigns and wishes to recreate. Who loves with a burning heart of passion even as we would. Who by His Spirit tells us of His risen Son's victory against death's greedy hand. Who raises the dead to life even within the very sallow lives we live thinking ourselves beyond God's mercies and kindnesses, His grace and compassion. Ignoring all but the vanity around us thinking these only compose a life made for the grave when they were really made for eternity's unfurling eons of renewal and reclamation. Nay to life's cycles of despairs and happiness we each must look into the heart of God to see its truer end and everlasting promise.

For it is in this Almighty God that we rest and find our peace to the hard questions we cannot discover. Nor to the deep answers that would elude us as we helplessly watch the hot, living agonies experienced by a loved one suffering so tragically within the strengthening grip of consuming disease. At the last - even as in its beginning - our hope ever rests in Jesus' resurrection and all that His atonement means to living life fully and completely. Jesus is our Rock. He is the sure ground upon which we tread. Whom we must abandon ourselves unto, and to nothing less. Both now as always. For it is to God's wisdom and faithfulness that we rely - and not upon our own feeble devices. We live in God's creation as His own rebirthed creation. It is how He has made us. Even as we would hold onto a temporality meant only to slip into eternality's permanence by His guiding, all-suffering heart of compassion and mercy. For such a one who knows these things, and believes with his heart, will come the blessing of God's steady assurance and all-consuming Spirit. A Spirit far larger than any disease we may bear - even that of sin's curse. So then we are to be at peace, and know that our end-of-days are held within Him who is, and has become to us, even our own End-of-Days. Forever and always. Life without end.
R.E. Slater
May 23, 2013
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
 Published on May 10, 2013
Music video by Lana Del Rey performing "Young and Beautiful"
from the Great Gatsby soundtrack:

Produced by Daniel Heath
Video Director: Chris Sweeney
Shot By Sophie Muller
Video Producer: Adam Smith, Jacob Swan-Hyam

(C) 2013 Lana Del Rey, under exclusive license to Polydor Ltd.
(UK). Under exclusive license to Interscope Records in the USA

My Father's Final Passage and Continuing Voyage


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