Sunday, April 29, 2007

Take a picture- It'll last longer!

(Rant ahead)

Ahh, Spring!

When a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of...


Well, not exactly. After all, I'm not all that young anymore. And I don't really think of myself as morbid. Still, I just have to say that I do not get the point of viewing the open casket at a funeral.

Another example of how I'm not all that young anymore is borne in the fact that I have shifted from singing at weddings to a much higher concentration of singing at funerals. As such I have found myself at many funerals wherein people file solemnly by a casket holding the lifeless shell of someone who probably would not wish to be remembered as lifeless. Sometimes the singers are spared from going through the line. Other times, including times I just attended but did not sing, I have gotten out of line to leave without viewing the body. I don't mean to make trouble, I just don't get it. Why do people need to see a dead body?

I hear things about closure, but that rings a little hollow to me as well. Is it as if they won't believe the person is really dead if they don't see evidence? Does the mind fail to make the final connection despite all of the grief?

Ok. Here's what brings all of this up. I was looking through some pictures the other day to respond to BST's blog of embarrassing pictures (I found some doozies by the way), when I came across some pictures from my sister's funeral. There were pictures of the street scene showing cars overflowing the church parking lot and extending for blocks. There were pictures of the police called in to control traffic. There were pictures of attendees, of flowers, of the hearse and more. But most upsetting to me was a litany of pictures of the coffin and corpse.

What the- ?

What is the freakin' point?! I had fought a losing battle about the casket being open in the first place (Vicki did not want that) but I had held my ground about not viewing the body of someone who did want to be viewed and been fine. Now suddenly someone had preserved forever a scene I had hoped not to see. And for what?? Am I supposed to flip through those pictures and reminisce? "Oh, what a great time that was! What a wonderful Kodak moment!"

To quote a great theologian named Max, "My big ol' butt!"

Look, I admit that I may be a little sensistive to this for personal reasons. My mom died when I was very young back in the days when kids were not allowed in hospital rooms. Because of this and the fact that she was sick a long time, I do not have many visual memories of her. One I do have, however, is of her laying in a casket at the funeral home. I remember her dress, her necklace, the way her hair looked, the whole thing. Sure, I have photographs of her in more vibrant days, but the image in my head doesn't match up.

I absolutely HATE that.

Long story short (if it's not too late), I think people should be remembered the way they were when they were alive, not dead. I think viewing a dead body emphasizes the temporal nature of someone's existence which I believe is inconsistent with God's emphasis. If you want to try to change my mind, don't waste your time.

Rant complete. Sorry 'bout that.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Come Quickly

Last night I was reading a book wherein the author discussed how people often try to identify themselves through their relationships with others. This is so much more than co-dependency, though this is of course one manifestation of this concept. In fact, many who would not consider themselves to be codependent still go to great lengths to gain the approval of people around them; letting this determine where they live, what they wear, where they go to church, what they eat, whom they associate with, and on and on.

People are not content enough with themselves nor with their relationship with God to survive challenges to their relationships with people.

Though it might seem to some to be exactly the opposite, another horrible example of this occurred today on the campus of Virginia Tech. A sick individual decided that his identity was so wrapped up in another that when the relationship faltered there was no longer a stable reality. It's odd that being so tied up in identifying ourselves through others can lead someone to want to destroy them. However, this absurd result is still an extreme representation of how we can be so consumed with what people think of us rather than what God thinks of us our how we can love others.

Satan's presentation of this message is extremely effective. Sure, we may pride ourselves on how we are able to quickly identify as insane thoughts suc as "if I can't have him/her no one will." But what about when his message is more subtle or perhaps even disguised as something more noble? What if we are satisfying our need to impress others while trying to tell ourselves that we are buying a larger home so we can entertain our small group from church or some other such justification?

The fact is, our role is to love and serve men- not to appease them. It is to love others, not be identified by them. To serve them, not be consumed by them. Missing this mark was a part well-played by the Pharisees, by dominating dictators throughout history, by the shooter today at VT.

May our prayer be for identity in Christ- manifested by loving others in His name, but not seeking their approval. And as we observe this fallen world, may it also be:

Lord, come quickly.

Still Smiling

Something about his smile tells me that Tiger will be okay in spite of Zach Johnson.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Parish Hermitage

About six weeks ago Kendra and I went to the Parish Hermitage. Though it has been a while since we went, I still wanted to share how we felt about our experience. This is the testimonial I just sent to Eddie Parish for his website. It is heartfelt and if any of you are curious, let me know I will be glad to tell you about it.

Admittedly it seemed like a long drive to Parish Hermitage. We were going on the advice of friends, but at the time we felt like things were going well in our family and our marriage. Add to that the fact that we are fairly private home-bodies, we were a little apprehensive about what we were getting ourselves into. In spite of that, we were more calm than usual as we drove up to this little haven on the Black Water Bayou. But even if we were not sure where we were or where we wanted to be, Eddie Parish seemed to intuitively figure out both and spiritually and carefully guide us to the latter.

People probably think I am joking when I say our trip to the Hermitage was the best thing we have ever done for our marriage- including saying “I do.” But the fact is, when we said “I do” we were young, embarrassingly ignorant and making promises that should have been illegal even if they were in the fairy-tale setting of a wedding. Our experience at the Hermitage, however, was one wherein, with the help of the Parish family, we applied a more mature view of the realities of life to the realities of our relationship as husband and wife.

Even looking at our experience through the lens of the several weeks that have passed, I could not more highly recommend a visit for any individual, couple or family to the Parish Hermitage. If your hope is for greater closeness to others or to God, you will surely be pleased when you find both. We were. And our trip home seemed much shorter as we talked and prayed of matters we had previously not shared. We are looking forward to the opportunity to go to Parish Hermitage again soon to visit and learn from a family we quickly grew to respect and love.