Saturday, October 31, 2009


My mother is haunting me.

I say this with my tongue somewhere around the vicinity of the inside of my cheek, recognizing that what is happening to me would hardly be developed into something to go into wide-release on Halloween.


After three and a half years of occasional pleasant dreams about my mother... dreams characterized by their ordinariness and their beauty, the quintessentially encouraging dreams one would hope to have about a deceased loved one... I am having hard dreams about her. Really hard.

In the previous post I spoke of a dream of my mother in which I was crying uncontrollably. It was, as I said, the first time I'd had such a dream about her-- one characterized by sadness and not peace. This week I awakened from the following dream.

I was at a theme park-- probably Disney World or Land-- with my ex and my children and my parents, something that never happened in real life (though the ex and I took the kids several times). The ages of the children was indeterminate... at times they seemed quite young, but at one point Petra was in the back of a car playing guitar next to her boyfriend, something that indicated her age was closer to what it is now.

There were vague visits to rides and attractions, a scene at a tennis court, and finally a scene in a hotel room. The first thing that happened is that I took two Xanax, something I've never done, again, in real life, though I obtained a prescription I ended up tossing. (This was very shortly after my mom died, when it appeared my dad would be going to trial when the children of a former business partner was suing him.) They looked like horse pills, enormous. I lay down in a bed. Then my mother took a pill (don't know what kind) and started choking.

I jumped up and began to perform the Heimlich maneuver on her. I have a powerful sense memory of my arms around her middle, my right hand clasped over my left wrist, pumping and pumping, trying to dislodge the pill. I couldn't do it, so I tried sweeping her mouth with my pinky. Again, couldn't get to the pill. So I continued the Heimlich until, at last, my mom slumped over in my arms, limp, dead. I had a sense I'd stopped too soon, but I knew she was gone.

I wasn't there when my mother died, in real life. It was February of 2006, and my brother and I were taking turns spending time with her and my dad those last 6 weeks or so. My brother had actually gone to have a drink at a friend's house when my mom began to choke. She was in bed, with only days or a week left, according to what the medical people had told us, and the cancer was everywhere. She was too weak to clear her throat. My dad didn't know what to do. Later the hospice nurse took him to task for not calling. He could have turned her, she said. So the family was left indicted, for letting my mom choke to death.

I have just returned home from a day with my dad-- fewer than 24 hours, but he had a doctor's appointment and I needed to take him. All is well with him. If 88, barely walking, spells of dizziness and vertigo of uncertain origin, very poor hearing can be defined as "well." He won't come to my home for a visit. He won't go to my brother's. He still drives, just around the neighborhood (he's promised to sell one of the two cars, as if that will cut down on his driving).

I don't know if my mom is haunting me or if my dad is haunting me. Or if it's just the powerlessness of it all.

"I don't have much longer," my dad said. I'm not sure I believe him. In any case, I feel no more ability to help him than I felt to save my mother.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mark... Our Time is Running Out

I will be preaching on the gospel lesson this coming Sunday, one of only a few Markan texts left to us in in Revised Common Lectionary Year B.

I am in premature mourning.

I love Mark's gospel. I love its leanness, I love its political edge. I love its lack of a resurrection scene, only the strange instruction that Jesus is already in Galilee, so we had better get ourselves there. I love the fragments of Aramaic. Talitha cum. Eloi, eloi, lema sabachtani. The gospel feels so close to the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth, it's almost like being on the trail before it's gone cold, as if the vague scent of nard is still in the room.

I love the so-called messianic secret. There is a Leonardo da Vinci painting of John the Baptist, an unusual one, in that he is neither portrayed already decapitated, nor looking like a wild man in animal skins. In this portrait he looks well, robust, and-- really odd for John-- cheerful. He is shown pointing his right finger over his left shoulder as if to say, Not me, him. And that's Jesus in the gospel of Mark. People keep wanting to pin him down, box him up, label him, and he keeps pointing his finger over his shoulder at God, and insisting, Not me, Him.

But we didn't believe him. We have made it All About Jesus. And... I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I think we needed a convincingly anthropomorphized God. And believe me, for me, Jesus is it. I believe that the divine rests fully in him, mysteriously. I can stand on Sunday and proclaim the Apostle's creed without reservation. But I think the Jesus of the Apostle's creed would make the Jesus of Mark shake his head, and point once more over his shoulder, and say, Not me. Not me.

Mark, I'm going to miss you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We Really, Really Love Her

The Question Has Been Asked....

... has blogging died? Or, at least, gone into a coma? One of my favorites attempts to answer here.

I know that I have little energy for blogging these days, and I don't exactly know why. At the moment I am immersing myself in certain ways of thinking about life in church, as a part of my regularly scheduled study leave. It is something that excites me, especially this foundational principle: nothing will work unless members of the congregation are, individually and collectively gripped by a new sense of devotion to Jesus.

Just typing those words makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I am not interested in being Pastor CEO, or being Pastor Spiritual Guru. But I am VERY interested in being Pastor Let's Go Follow Jesus! That interests me very much indeed.

Here's what I think is going on with Blogging and Me-- only my experience, not generalizable to any other bloggers who might find themselves, at present, in the doldrums. I think at the time of this blog's inception I was in a sort of spiritual crisis about whether I was going to be able to find a ministry, and then I found a ministry. Then I was in a spiritual crisis about being a closeted pastor in ministry, and then I came out of that closet. Then I was in a spiritual crisis about keeping my job, and as it turned out, I was able to keep my job. And now I'm about the work of the church. I am not saying I wasn't about the work of the church during all of the above, but I was very much about how it was affecting me, and blogging being an enterprise which can have its narcissistic side, that worked for my blogging. Now... I'm onto something else, something not so easily bloggable, something perhaps hindered by the constant looking in the mirror blogging entails.

I don't know. I love this online community, I am grateful for your presence and your prayers and your comments. But I don't know if I have enough to say just now, or if this blog will have to go dormant for a while until something else grows.

This week I have been driving around listening to Kathleen Edwards. She is a singer Petra and Beloved and I discovered last October when she opened for the Girls who are Indigo. Oh my goodness, did we fall in love with her! Petra and I occasionally come across singer/ songwriters who make us want to write songs, because they are so extraordinary at the same time they are telling real, recognizably true stories. As the weather is crisping up and I am watching the leaves turn, I am taken back to the first few weeks after having heard her for the first time, when I drove around playing her cd in my car, over and over again. Then, one night, I had a medical event which required surgery. As I've been driving around in this beautiful, somewhat stirring weather, as I've been listening to this singer I love, I've been remembering the days and weeks after my surgery, when it felt sexy just to be alive. Know what I mean?