“Writing…an often painful task”

Michael Eric Dyson’s brilliance with many things glows in this and other paragraphs as he writes about the fractures in his relationship with Cornel West. In this quote, he’s talking writing. If you’re interested in what else he says, visit here. Among our other impressions of his overall critique, we should pray for the folks mentioned here. They are part of an intellectual community that shapes and influences the opinions of our best practitioners. My point is to underline what Dyson says of the work of writing.

The ecstasies of the spoken word, when scholarship is at stake, leave the deep reader and the long listener hungry for more. Writing is an often-painful task that can feel like the death of one’s past. Equally discomfiting is seeing one’s present commitments to truths crumble once one begins to tap away at the keyboard or scar the page with ink. Writing demands a different sort of apprenticeship to ideas than does speaking. It beckons one to revisit over an extended, or at least delayed, period the same material and to revise what one thinks. Revision is reading again and again what one writes so that one can think again and again about what one wants to say and in turn determine if better and deeper things can be said.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The year we got married we made a lot of decisions. We purchased a fixer-upper. We had to get a car. We built a garage and searched for a lawn mower at the hardware store my father sent me to over in the Back of the Yards.

We also completed a budget together, elected an executor of our estate, little estate that we had as twenty-three year olds, and chose agents to make healthcare decisions for us if and when we couldn’t make those decisions for ourselves.

I selected my brother Mark, both because I trust my brother and because I didn’t want my wife to be in that situation. Mark will answer his phone and talk through the implications with a medical team, with my wife, with a cool demeanor. Mark will make sure I’m cared for.

I wanted to plan ahead and put that responsibility on my brother’s shoulders. That advance directive is still in place. Mark decides for me if I can’t decide for myself. He communicates for me if I can’t communicate for myself.

At a recent family dinner I reminded everyone of this. We were actually celebrating my mother’s birthday last fall, and I took the moment to nudge my loved ones to plan in advance. I told them that I didn’t want to live in a prolonged state if I had been oxygen-deprived for longer than 10 minutes. I gave specific instructions, in the presence of my family, to my brother and to the others. Mark’s the agent but they all heard about my decision. Again and again, I will remind them that there are wishes I have regarding my medical care. I will refine those as I go and certainly the longer I’m in healthcare as a chaplain.

Today is national healthcare decisions day. I went to a program about it here at the hospital. Randi Belisomo spoke about her organization, Life Matters Media, and talked about the simple and important process of choosing an agent. Of course, as a chaplain, I walk through the steps of this simple process with people. I witness their completion of the healthcare power of attorney form. And sometimes I get to tell people how vital it is to do this simple thing.

If you don’t choose a person to speak for you, the law has answered your lack of choice. The law puts surrogates in place when you have not chosen. Someone always speaks for those who don’t speak for themselves. So, today, if you haven’t chosen a person to stand in your place, to communicate for you what your medical care should look like, and how aggressive those interventions should or shouldn’t be, consider it. If you need to update your form, the form generally opens with something like, “This Power of Attorney Revokes All Previous Powers.” You can change it at any time.

Consider your feelings and thoughts on these matters, taking the opportunity to involve your family in your thinking, in your care, and in your planning. Communicate your wishes to your loved ones and to your agent, and realize that this is a good way to communicate what you want so that that doesn’t have to be decided for you. Document it on your state’s version of the healthcare power of attorney, and these don’t have to be notarized or done by an attorney, as long as you have a witness who isn’t named as the agent. You’ll want to consult your state’s version because every state is different, but they should be similar from one to another.

If you’re in Chicago today, Life Matters Media is working with the Chicago Public Library at two locations this afternoon to explain these advance directives and to help people fill these documents out. For more information, look here at Life Matters Media.

For the Illinois form, you can visit my hospital’s page and print off a copy.

A Spiritual Hero

Michael and Gardner C. TaylorYesterday afternoon, the afternoon of Easter, Dr. Gardner C. Taylor died. I will reflect more on his passing, particularly as I said to Dawn on the poetic nature of him dying on Easter. It was fitting in many ways. But here is a quote from our interview with him in 2011, when his voice was as strong as a few months ago when he and Mrs. Taylor wished us a Happy New Year.

I’m literally numbering my days. I’m approaching what in my childhood we would have called my “commencement day.” My stage of life means to be aware that we all are just strangers and pilgrims. We can make this place home sometimes. Our danger is the false notion that it is home.

All in all, life’s a great experience. But by faith we believe there’s a better one. It’s hard to imagine what it can be like. At the point I have reached, one ponders more and more what it’s like. It does not yet appear. But this we know, the Bible says, that “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Those are tremendous things to wrestle with. Not too much for the human mind to ponder, but too much for it to have. I cannot picture this. The best I can do is try and understand the crude symbolism that we’re given. Our home will be far richer, far finer than anything we can think of. The maker of that home is God.

 

Jesus Went to Hell

This article refers to the early and often used Apostles Creed; it is so worth preaching:

…but before his resurrection, Jesus “descended to the dead.” The Athanasian Creed of at least a century later is more explicit, Christ “descended into hell.” Depending on context and translation Jesus either journeyed to Sheol, Hades, or Hell. But allowing for differences in language Christianity held—and technically still holds as a central tenet—the view that Jesus spent the gap between his death and resurrection “harrowing” Hell, that is journeying to the underworld to liberate the imprisoned souls of the Hebrew patriarchs who had been imprisoned there since their deaths.

Contemporary congregations will often translate “hell” into a more palatable “death” or “the grave.” There is something unseemly in the idea of Jesus among the murders, rapists, fornicators and heretics of Hell. And yet it was central to Christological accounts of salvation for two millennia that God Himself be present in the lowest rung of creation  to justify redemption for all mankind.

Holy Saturday was a day in which God was not in His heaven, but rather in his Hell.

From “Jesus Went to Hell” in the RD here.

Martese Johnson and the Unimpressive Work of Justice

Michael:

Thank you, David, for this post and for the life, experience, and effort you’ve put into living under and around these words. You are a remarkable person, a brother from another mother, my Mama’s “white child” as she says, which is the highest compliment giveable. I’m sure giveable is not a word.

Originally posted on signs of life:

Martese Johnson was bloodied by the police on Wednesday. The UVA student is a graduate of Kenwood Academy, our neighborhood high school and the school my boys may very well attend a few years down the road. You’ll not be surprised to know that Johnson is Black. Hopefully you’ll also not be surprised to know that he is double-majoring in Italian and media studies, has no criminal record, and is on the university’s honor committee.

Martese JohnsonBlack Lives Matter. And yes, this still needs to be made plain.

I was thinking the other day about some of the emails and comments I’ve received since our church participated in a Black Lives Matter protest in our neighborhood. People have seemed impressed by that protest. (Others, I’m sure, had other opinions but they’ve mostly been polite enough to keep those to themselves.) I’m glad we protested. It was the right thing to do. But…

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“Valuable Spiritual Possessions”

Oddly enough the paradox is one of our most valuable spiritual possessions, while uniformity of meaning is a sign of weakness. Hence a religion becomes inwardly impoverished when it loses or waters down its paradoxes; but their multiplication enriches because only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life. Non-ambiguity and non-contradiction are one-sided and thus unsuited to express the incomprehensible.

Carl Jung (From Jung on Christianity, p. 192)