August 27, 2014

The Talk We Need to Have, Part 1

By Richard L. Morgan |
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Richard Morgan

I went to a Quaker school in Philadelphia, and the Friends taught me about “having a concern.” I have a concern that all too often end-of-life decisions are not made or put off until the end of life.

As parents we planned and saved for our children’s college education. When the retirement age approached, we planned for financial and housing situations. Yet only 1 in 5 Americans plans for end-of-life issues.

As Carrie Madren writes, “End-of-life conversations can stir up a range of emotions from relief to fear.”1 Talking about these grave matters remains the “elephant in the room.” Older people often ignore it, and adult children are in denial and shun any talk of it. Many are like the woman who said to her husband, “I don’t care which one of us dies first, I’m going to Florida!”

I realize talking about end-of-life issues is a scary subject, a topic so volatile and threatening that people avoid it. However, it’s much better to talk about it in the light of day rather than in the heat of the moment. The sad reality is that even when older people have advance directives, their families often disregard their wishes and opt for “heroic measures” to keep their loved ones alive when there is no quality of life. It is time to end this conspiracy of silence and talk openly about these matters.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, NIV).

In my next post, I will suggest two places to start this neglected conversation.

1. Carrie Madren, “The Talk You Have to Have,” page 37, Interpreter magazine, May–June 2014.

This article originally appeared on Richard Morgan’s blog “View from 80” (posted July 28, 2014) at http://richardmorgandr.wordpress.com/. Morgan, a retired Presbyterian (USA) pastor, stays busy writing and serving as a hospice volunteer in pastoral care at the Redstone Highlands retirement community near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Morgan is the author of At the Edge of Life: Conversations When Death Is Near and many other books.
 
August 25, 2014

Setting Our Minds

By Michelle Hargrave |
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Open door with light
The Upper Room Disciplines is a best-selling book of daily devotions published annually by Upper Room Books. Each week’s readings are reflections on scripture passages from the lectionary for that period. On Mondays the first reading for the week will be posted. We’d love to hear what you think about the week’s readings and prayers. Just sign in and add your comment in the Comments section following this post.

 

Read Matthew 16:21-23

“You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Jesus responds sharply to Peter’s insistence that Jesus stop talking about his coming death. Yet Peter’s outburst reveals the concerns anyone would have in this situation: we all prefer life over death, safety over danger, the continuation of Jesus’ powerful ministry instead of its end. We want to protect the things we value and cherish.

In setting his mind on human things, Peter sees the only possibility he can imagine. His best possible future involves the Jesus he currently knows and understands. Suffering and death lie beyond the scope of his vision, and he cannot hold them in tension with the hope and healing of Jesus’ teachings. He cannot see a path that includes both death and Jesus.

In setting his mind on human things, Peter does not listen to what God says through Jesus. He does not hear the hint of resurrection in Jesus’ words. In refusing to hear Jesus, Peter also misses a chance to support him—a very human behavior. We foster this attitude when a loved one who is sick asks to talk about dying, and we insist on recovery. We do this when a friend expresses concerns about work performance, and we play the cheerleader instead of replying, “Tell me more about that.” Refusing to hear, we refuse to let God move into death, pain, and heartache and work something new.

We cannot easily set aside our perspectives to make space for what God has in mind. Jesus tells us that God sees differently from us, that God’s intent comes from a vision larger than ours. God imagines possibilities humans cannot fathom. In Jesus’ words God prepares the disciples and cracks open their minds just a bit to ready them for what is coming.

God, help me to see and to hear the possibilities your mind holds for me. Amen.

Michelle M. Hargrave is senior pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church, Mankato, Minnesota. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary in the Twin Cities, a Bachelor of Arts from Hamline University, and has served as a pastor for more than 22 years. Hargrave is married and has two sons.

 

 
August 21, 2014

Who’s on the Journey?

By Tom Steagald |
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Faith Journey (2)

For more information on A House of Prayer, click here.

 

 
August 18, 2014

I Choose You

By Steve Garnaas-Holmes |
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Steve Garnaas-Holmes
The Upper Room Disciplines is a best-selling book of daily devotions published annually by Upper Room Books. Each week’s readings are reflections on scripture passages from the lectionary for that period. On Mondays the first reading for the week will be posted. We’d love to hear what you think about the week’s readings and prayers. Just sign in and add your comment in the Comments section following this post.

 

Read Psalm 124

As you prepare for the white-water rafting trip, the guide hands you your life vest. “This is for when you get dumped in the drink,” she says and smiles.

God does not promise that life will be smooth, that we will never have to navigate raging waters. God promises that we have been set free. “The snare is broken, and we have escaped.” We have been set free not only from all past dangers and difficulties but future ones as well. The snare is broken; it will never work again. It’s not because we are especially good or lucky. It’s because God chooses to save us. God is “on our side”; not against other people but against all that diminishes life.

Notice the psalmist’s intriguing choice of words. He opens with two if statements and moves on to three thens. The water imagery overwhelms: the flood, the torrent, the raging waters. And then we encounter the trap—escape, snare, snare, escape. On either side of the trap is escape, rescue, freedom.

God does not promise a happy ending every time; but no matter how circumstances end, by God’s loving grace we will be free. We may suffer, but it can’t entrap us. Bad times will happen. Enemies will attack; people will be angry. We will get dumped. But we will not be swallowed up alive.

Troubling waters will sweep over us, but they can’t hold us. Disaster and disappointment may come, but they can’t contain us. All the evil that we suffer, even death itself, cannot define us. Only God will hold us forever, tenderly, faithfully.

Trust this hope, even as you hear the rushing of the torrent and especially when you hear the raging of the waters.

O Lord who made heaven and earth, for the many ways you have rescued me and set me free, I give thanks. Help me to trust your grace. Amen.

 

Steve Garnaas-Holmes is a poet, composer, grandfather, and pastor of St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Acton, Massachusetts.  He writes “Unfolding Light” daily reflections at unfoldinglight.net.
 
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