The Fallacy of More

It is an odd twist of capitalism that is breeds the idea that more is better.  More money, more possessions, more of everything, but is this fundamental theory holding up in practice over time?

Has the more mentality of capitalism and the push to acquire and the systemic inherent judgment of others and judgment of ourselves led us to a happier place?  I believe it has led as most events and systems and judgments to unintended consequences, specifically to a desperate loneliness and isolation of this culture of greed.

I offer as one illustration the fact that the American culture has become so ill-defined.  In fact it has become a bit of a joke that we Americans don’t have a culture.  Our culture is work most of the time, spend and accumulate the rest of the time; no time for each other, our children, our neighbors or meaningful friendships.  No time for meaningful music, art, or creating expressions of who we are beyond grand multi-story glass and steel structures.  Is that who we have become?  So many of us have glommed on to other cultures and we have embraced multi-cultural philosophies as if other cultures have some intrinsic value that ours does not have, or did have at one time.

But if one thinks about what it is that we enjoy about other cultures it is that the outward evidence of them that we enjoy so much, that time spent in an outpouring of joy celebrated together, in spending time doing something shared, in family time, in dance, in music, in collaborative cooking, in creating art.  We are not glomming on to the way that other cultures vacuum their floors or make their beds.  We desperately desire the bond of coming together, the welding together of spirits that occurs in a time and place of common joyful purpose.

So we take some time off from working and spending to become a voyeur to a culture that appeals to us because it speaks to our spirit and its desire to connect with other joyful spirits. 

 

I recall a wonderful party in Mexico where a bunch of plastic chairs and a cooler full of beer were dragged out of a pickup truck into the dirt front yard.  A band showed up with amps and instruments and a party was born and the neighbors came with their chairs, and joyful dancing and singing ensued and even the neighborhood drunk was allowed to grab a few beers.  I recall a similar party in Greece where people came from all over the mountains to share in a spit roasted lamb and beer and the party with festive clarinets and recorded music went into the wee hours of the morning by firelight. 

 

In both cases, the spirit was joyful and made magic and powerful by expense of time and the communal willingness of all to relax, and to laugh, and to pass time in celebration of each other and themselves.

It is an unintended consequence of buying into the fallacy of more is better that leads us to isolation by labor, isolation by shopping, and isolation by judgment that somehow we haven’t acquired enough yet to be confident in spending time with our neighbors.  Perhaps the couch is worn or the car backfires when started; so in the capitalistic mentality of more, we do not measure up and our spirits are suppressed.  Surely a “successful” neighbor with a cleaner house and newer car wouldn’t want to socialize with a worn couch and old car?  Surely they must have better spirits to share with; but the trouble is they don’t, they simply drive a nicer car to the fiesta or to the Greek festival and like a spiritual parasite they draw some small sap of joy from it that allows them to go back to work the next day.  When all that was really needed was some joyous time with the people around them, it wasn’t necessary to rent a crowd, they live in one.

In America, so many of us separate from our families and friends and potential friends by believing that more is better.  We move away so we won’t be distracted by each other.  We look down at the sidewalk when we pass each other in the street because even asmile, a hello or a good morning might infer some commitment that would take away from time for earning and shopping.  I see the “more is better” men coming into a room of people and quickly scanning it, and me, to see where the advantage is.  They’re hunting for the people where this time will benefit them, who’s worth talking to and who should they cast no more than a quick glance downward at on passing by to bigger and better?

Where did the American culture go that I was taught about into which everyone was “melting” when I was in elementary school?  We were proud of our culture back then. The rest of the world wanted a piece of the action.  But somewhere along the line the people coming here, and the people living here, began to figure out that something vital was missing in the midst of plenty.  People time is missing and the American culture is rarely about spending time with people long enough for it to go more than skin deep, more than a handshake and a contract, or grabbing a receipt on the way to the next sale.

A woman I knew lived in Spain for years, she married a Spanish man and had children and then she and her family moved back to the US.  She told me that she was less happy here because in Spain people were so intrinsically social.  Shoe missed the fact that in Spain one never needed an invitation to come and visit, you just showed up and you stayed for hours and you talked and talked and talked.  My Dad told me that it was like that when he was a kid in Canada. 

 

My friend told me that even though she grew up in the US, she was amazed at her loneliness when she returned because everyone in her neighborhood simply stayed in their houses and nobody dropped in and if they did it was always planned for and always a brief interlude on the way somewhere more important.  I heard that she and her family eventually moved back to Spain, I wondered if it was the dreary loneliness of living without a functioning culture that drove them back.

Perhaps a great lesson could be learned in the current economic crisis that more is less, and that expressing love toward others through the joy of time spent with people is the more we really seek.

On Odd Vagaries of Human Behavior

A story caught my ear today on the news.  It was about a group of young students who travelled from Oregon to China for a vacation study trip.  It seems that some of the students carried the H1N1 virus – swine flu – and the entire group was quarantined two separate times during their stay in China.

It made me think again about the whole global warming issue.  Why, I have been thinking, are we ready to take immediate and concrete steps toward protecting our lives from a known threat in the form of a flu virus, yet be so slow to respond to what we are told could be the end of mankind in global warming?

It is puzzling to me as I sit here within earshot of the still busy freeway (at 10PM) and with jets from the local airport blasting overhead on their way to all four corners of the globe.

I wonder what I am missing in the debate, I am wondering what the debate is all about and why some people would choose to side with inertia.  Would these people likewise choose not to take the vaccine for the flu? Will anyone mount a bike as quickly as they’d don a mask?

It’s a puzzlement to me.  If global warming is real, and if it is caused by man, and if it is going to cause many people and species to die, then by comparison these extreme reactions to the flu almost seem a bit penny wise and pound foolish, do they not?

Greener Than Thou

In walking around the neighborhood, I don’t see much evidence that anyone is particularly concerned about global warming, drought conditions, or living green.  I see the same lawns being sprinkled by the same sprinklers in the middle of the day.  I see the same wires running all over the place feeding electricity to air conditioners; no rooftop solar panels are evident.  I see the same large trucks and cars, nobody out walking, few people riding bikes.  I was even told recently by a woman in the neighborhood, “You Rock!” because I was walking back from Safeway with my groceries in plastic bags.  She was impressed with my walking green-ness you see.

I don’t see a lot of solar water heaters on roofs around here either.  Now granted, the fashion-conscious may be putting them in the back where nobody can see them.  Next time I’m on a plane leaving Sacramento I am going to look carefully to see what they’re hiding.  I suspect that we’re not doing that great.

Now, if we’re all really convinced that global warming is happening and if it’s truly a threat to our lives as a race, then why aren’t we all doing more?  I don’t see piles of people on the electric train, in fact the local RT district is voting today on cutting the schedule down.  If more people were using it, wouldn’t it pay for itself?  I see few people on those trains when they pass in front of me on my bike.

I don’t see any gas stations closing for lack of business even though I see more hybrids around.  You have to watch out for those vehicles riding a bike because they’re so damned quiet.  They sneak up on you – even a bike can’t do that because it clicks.  I think hybrids should be required to make a sound when they are in electric-mode, they need to click, hiss, or emit some unique noise that lets us walkers and peddlers know they’re lurking.

If we’re so green then why aren’t the gas stations offering free sets of dishes like they did during the gas wars when I was a kid in the 60’s?  Why aren’t they hiring people to pump our gas, you know, stepping up the customer service to get more business?  It simply ain’t happening because we’re still sucking it down faster than a Rotarian drinks martinis at an open bar.

I’ll tell you why, because most of you simply aren’t green.  You like the idea and maybe you’ll even wear a t-shirt that extols recycled knick-knacks but you aren’t thinking green.  Let’s face it, there seems to be no face of leadership to the whole thing, no Carl Sagan who everyone knows and trusts, hell there’s not even a colored ribbon or rubber wrist band to wear yet!

All we’ve got is Rush Limbaugh on one side who’s anti-warming and Al Gore on the other side who is pro-warming.  But there isn’t anyone in the middle just talking sense that everyone understands.  Where is our ongoing dialogue and where is the “Cosmos”-style TV series with a recognized expert we all know and trust?  Where is the Walter Cronkite of Global warming?

Because the experts aren’t in agreement on global warming everyone has an excuse in either the front or in the back of their mind for not doing more.  If this is really the emergency Al Gore and others claim, then why isn’t there more drastic action being taken at the micro level, like by my neighbors?  Everyone would do more if they believed it.

I’m so green I may get deported to Ireland.  I park my gas sipping car three days a week now, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday and if I decide to start going to a church closer to home I can probably park it on Sunday too.

I ride my bike where I need to go on those three days.  I am GREE_EEN, I’m an emerald in the rough.  Now I need a solar electrical system and I’ll be so snooty that nobody will be able to stand my green-ness.  I am proud to say that I sort my garbage.  I put the paper and cardboard in one bin, the glass in another bin, and the metal in another bin.  (I suspect that all these bins are tossed together into the dump but that’s not my responsibility now is it?)  That’s me, gree-een.

I am awaiting my medal of green-ness from Al Gore but he hasn’t been in touch yet.  I’d settle for a green schmuck of the year award from Rush but he’s too busy refilling his BIG GULP and gassing up his Hummer, and I’m not talking about fuel.  I’m not sure either of them are paying attention at all to my efforts so I may need to pen letters on some recycled elephant poop paper that my friend in Africa sent to me.  Yes, even my letter-writing is gree-een, greener than thou.

Blissful Day in Sacramento

Days like today are such a blessing.  Beautiful summer weather, little traffic to trifle with a middle-aged man on a bike in Midtown Sacramento.

And so I rode over to the bike shoppe and aired up my tires.  This particular bike shop is so great because I can wheel my bike right through the shoppe where all the white middle classers are buying Lycra shorts and graphite street racers they will use twice and sell on eBay because doing what Lance Armstrong does isn’t as fun as he makes it look.

Anyway, the mechanics at the shop are super friendly and come over to air up the tires for me with such a good attitude.  It’s enough to restore your faith in mankind.

I am free-wheeling now and while the ride is stiffer.  I feel the bumps more but I can glide like a greased pig on ice.  SWOOOOOSH.

I looked at rear view mirrors while at the shoppe to see what they would cost me.  A little pricey actually so I left it for now until the stimulus package starts to increase the income of us average people and not just the bankers.  I might need to continue looking over my shoulder for a while I think.

Next off to Pete’s Coffee for tea which sounds odd but they do serve both.  I had a nice large green ice tea.  At first it tasted like sticks swirled in water but the tattooed girl there assured me it was very healthy so I drank it all and after half of it was gone the ice had melted enough to dilute its bitter taste, or maybe my taste buds were more usd to the flavor.  Of course the bitterness could have come from the newspaper I read as I drank it.

Seems that California’s budget is pleasing to nobody and solving nothing.  I didn’t think that it was surprising, but apparently someone thought that the lawmakers would do something positive so it was news.

Next I walked my bike over to “The Gifted Gardener” a really nice shoppe in Midtown that sells gift items for the gardener.  Interesting shop with lots of good stuff.  I wanted to see if I could market some bulb baskets there – you know, the kind that serious gardeners plant bulbs in to keep gophers and moles from eating them.  I have a connection for free galvanized lathe and thought I could get into the basket business.  The woman there was nice, but said they don’t sell practical items like bulb baskets so they wouldn’t be interested.  Strike one.

Later in the day after more riding and some power-walking and a quick walk through an art exhibit which was really interesting at the Verge Gallery, I ended up at Rubicon Pub drinking the best IPA in Sacramento.  I read the Sacramento News and Review which had a great article about a drunk driving tragedy in which some promising kids were killed after a day of rafting on the river.  It was an interesting take on the incident which has been intensely covered by the local media in lynch mob style.  The kid who drove received nearly 7 years in prison because two kids died and two others were injured.  The kid who wrote the article was one who was injured.

He wrote it from a perspective of forgiveness, not something that was heard in as the media helped lynch the kid who was driving.  I think it will fall on deaf ears.  Everyone wanted to demonize and hang the kid who drove but all the kids were drinking that day and the driver tested to a .09 level which while legally drunk in California isn’t staggering drunk, which is why all the kids in the car agreed to allow to him to drive in the first place.

It’s a tragedy multiplied a thousand-fold by lack of forgiveness.  It’s a tragedy compounded by anger.  It’s a tragedy in which the terrible sadness of the families led to more destruction than was necessary according to the young man who wrote the article.  He lamented the fact that instead of coming together and becoming closer, the families were torn apart by the tragedy.

I felt like I was listening to a letter from God about it.  It was so sad to hear this young man talk about his friend who drove and his friends who died and the terrible gaps that were left in his life and in the lives the families involved.

No doubt the kid should not have gotten behind the wheel, no doubt the families suffered beyond measure.  But how sad that love didn’t prevail for all the survivors.  How much better would everyone’s lives be if they had been able to come together and heal as the group he described that existed before the accident.

And this was the young man’s point in writing the article, it was an accident.  What happened was not murder.   In the end, lives were lost and other lives were wrecked and I sincerely doubt that anyone gained anything from the vengeance. 

Does a person’s anger lessen when someone who did harm to them is harmed?  I think that probably they feel emptiness and they sit quietly at their kitchen table each morning over coffee wondering what happened to the fulfillment they were expecting to feel.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Now what about Obama’s comment about the way the police acted in Cambridge with that Harvard Professor?  Well I am of two minds about this and it’s partly out of my experience and partly out of my prejudices.  First I must say that his comment about minorities being pulled over is probably true and unjust and backed up by the facts.  But it’s also true – and he as a lawyer should have understood this – that this Professor was not pulled over, he was in a house that someone reported seeing a burglar breaking into, that’s a horse of a different color entirely.

To say that the cops over-reacted to the situation is self-evident; after all, if they didn’t, why were the charges immediately dropped against the Professor?  So I would say that in this situation, the people paid to keep their cool lost it.  Their bad, but was it stupid?  Maybe so, but surprising? Probably not.

I have been in a heated race-driven situation a time or two myself as a white Principal of a school where the majority of the school children were African American.  I know that pulling out the race card comes fast and it comes with heat.  No doubt that a cop in this situation is going to feel indignant at being accused of being racially biased.  Perhaps this policeman doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.  Perhaps he’s a paragon of racial virtue like the newspapers and his own Department asserts. 

But how much experience does this guy really have in dealing with heated racial incidents and strife?  I heard that he tried to revive a black basketball player who suffered a heart attack but this hardly rates with negotiating with the Office of Civil Rights now does it? 

 Well, let’s look at the demographics of Cambridge, MA.  The most recent census showed that only 12% of the residents are African American and 65% of residents are White. This tells me that Cambridge isn’t Philly or Chicago or LA where these officers would experience a much higher level of racial pressure than in Cambridge.  This is not exactly a training ground for the kind of racial anger that it sounds like this officer encountered with the good Professor.

 

I found when I moved to the inner city to work that I held prejudices that simply didn’t matter until they were challenged by real people and real problems.  I was indignant when I was called a racist for disciplining a child, because I didn’t feel like a racist.  But I did have to come to terms with my own racial attitudes and bias because in the face of real people, they simply couldn’t hold up.  But my attitudes got challenged both internally and externally.

I bet that this police officer reverted into the “I got the badge, so shut the hell up” mentality that I’ve observed in law enforcement at times.  The officer’s job is to keep things cool to keep themselves and others safe and my guess is that this Professor blew his cork at being challenged in his own home.  So the Officer sensed danger and the need to control the situation, hence the over-reaction.

Was the Professor right to blow a cork?  Well maybe, or perhaps his racial attitudes rose white hot and blinded him to the job that these officers were trying to do which was actually safeguarding his property.  Perhaps this Black Professor lost his perspective the same way that the Officer did who puffed up his indignant chest in that “you don’t screw with the cops” manner.

It sounds like perhaps they both acted a little stupidly.  Cops are going to act like cops, they were called to a burglary after all.  African American Professors who teach in a Department about African American culture and who are challenged about being in their own house by white cops are going to react badly to what they perceive as unfair treatment by authority.  Perhaps they both needed to count to ten and then sit down to tea and talk it over.

Perhaps instead of teaching a class about racial profiling, the Officer needs to take a class from officers who work the inner city every day and learn a little about understanding the racial divide.  It’s filled with dry brush and it doesn’t take more than a spark to light it.

Perhaps the Professor needs to get the big picture on an officer’s job and why they asked him for his ID in a house where a reported burglar was sighted and where a door was busted open. 

I mean come on people, can’t we stop for a second and think this through?  It didn’t have to be more than a story for old men to chuckle over during a game of checkers.  In my opinion, the stupidity on display did not have to rise to the level of a Martin Luther King rally or to an arrest of a man who was pissed off about being asked for his ID.

A Great Sermon

A remarkable preacher visited us in Church today, he has come before.  His ability to communicate is impressive and I have greatly enjoyed his familiar/evangelistic style from the pulpit.  His name is Chris Brown and he’s a pastor at the North Coast Church in Southern California.

Pastor Brown spoke about Jonah and the Whale which he prefaced by artful storytelling about Jonah sitting on a wharf waiting for his ship to Tarshsish while sipping coffee.  The amazing thing about the two sermons I’ve seen Pastor Brown deliver is his ability to connect the audience to the place and the time, he is a storyteller of the first order.

But if he could only tell stories and spin visual images of the Bible he would not be the effective Pastor he is.  He looks deeper into the Bible and delivers the message in a meaningful way.  Chris Brown is quite a remarkable preacher.

Pastor Brown explained how Jonah got into the whale and why.  He explained how God had directed Jonah – a renowned prophet – to go to the Assyrians and denounce them in the name of God.  Jonah knew that the Assyrians were vile, vicious people who were unlikely to well receive such a message. So Jonah, fearing for his life, prepared to go 2000 miles to the west instead of the 500 miles east as Goad had directed him.  Jonah was in full retreat from God’s command.

As the story goes, the ship is tossed by a violent storm.  The sailors are fearful and cast lots to decide who among them was responsible for the storm, the person who God was angry at.  When the lots indicated Jonah, he admitted that he was fleeing from God and that they should cast him overboard to save themselves and their ship. After a time, they did indeed throw Jonah overboard and immediately the storm ceased.  Jonah was swallowed by a whale as we all know.

Pastor Chris explained to us that as we flee from God – as we disobey – we endanger everyone in our boat.  He also explained that it is difficult to call out to a God you’re running from.  He also explained that the storms in our life may or may not be brought upon us by God but that the possibility is real and that a father would go to any length to bring us back to Him, even inflicting hardship.

One final note from the sermon today was that not all open doors are presented by God.  Jonah probably thought that finding a ship going to Tarshish was great luck, that a door had opened for him to escape from doing God’s will.  After all this was not a plumb assignment, Pastor Brown likened God’s command to Jonah as similar to someone being told they were to march into Berlin in 1932 and publicly denounce the Nazi regime.

I doubt that I’ve done any justice to the impact of Chris Brown’s sermon today but I hope the main points are clear.  It is remarkable to me that all of this great thinking came out of what is commonly believed to be a children’s story, it points out the importance of understanding the Bible’s context as well as its content.

Arizona Gun Law, A New Spaghetti Western

·         Arizona is going to allow people to carried concealed weapons into its bars.  Hmmm…I’ve seen enough cowboy films to know this is a bad idea.  Perhaps the legislature and governor in Arizona need to be given a collection of Clint Eastwood movies.

·         Mexico is blaming the US for the guns being used to kill people in their drug war/government culture of corruption.  We get blamed for everything!  The Mexican government spent so many years keeping the flow of people moving across their border I guess they thought nothing would ever come back in through the same gateways?  Morons.

·         Anyone who has been held up by a Mexican cop for a “mordida”, or bribe over some trumped up charge knew that the corruption was eating away at the fabric of the society for many years now.  I think that the threadbare culture is pulling loose.

·         It makes me wonder about our own threadbare moral culture in this country.  We are constantly amazed at the seemingly unending array of politician sex scandals.  Regular breaches of marriage vows and cultural mores by people who stand at the podium braying about family values.  But I wonder what the next generation will bring to public office?  Will it be more corrupt and will the scandals grow in severity beyond an out-of-wedlock tryst?  A wide stance in a bathroom, a quickie in Venezuela?  I think we’re seeing the opening of the floodgates.  The moths are eating at our cultural fabric while we sleep and we better watch out or the war in Mexico could land here one day too.

·         Small examples like these freaks who killed the mother and father of all those children, in their house, coming in like commandos.  How bizarre is that?  Or is it more like foreshadowing?

·         Home invasion robberies are becoming regular occurrences here in California.  Last night two people were shot during one not far from where I live.  Bizarre and frightening things are happening.

·         So maybe the new law in Arizona is going to lead Arizonans down the path to safety?  I doubt it.  Perhaps it will lead them down the road leading back to the Wild West where criminals were also worried about people with guns.

·         Maybe these backlashes against criminals will lead to vigilantes.  But it’s a slippery slope, discarding the justice system for rule by pistol is what’s happening in Mexico now and it’s a dangerous, ugly business.

·         Better we should work on teaching morals to our kids and do better and setting an example, working to keep families strong and schools effective.  Maybe it’s time we all went back to Church on Sunday and listened up before we all need to carry a pistol again.

More Fully Conscious

It is an amazing truth that once I am made aware of something, I tend to encounter it unexpectedly.  A simple example is learning a new word.  It seems that often when I’ve expanded my vocabulary that throughout the next week or two I see the word or I hear it in conversation.  At these times, I often wonder what I’ve done without this knowledge prior to learning this word?   What on earth did my brain do with it before I was aware of its’ meaning?  Did the word simply blend into the text or the conversation?  Did I make an unconscious guess at its meaning based on the context?  Or was the word simply transparent in my consciousness because it wasn’t recognized?

In light of this example of vocabulary, I wonder at times how much am I missing in the world around me because I do not recognize what I am seeing or hearing.  I have to ask myself how conscious am I?  I’ve always assumed that I am fully conscious from the time I wake up, at least when I am paying attention.  But vocabulary is only a razor thin piece of my consciousness so what about shapes and processes and machines and people’ body language, a whole world of things I haven’t learned yet and perhaps therefore do not even see.

I was reminded again at church today about being conscious of God and therefore recognizing His efforts to speak to me.  I never used to “hear” God the way I do these days.  And no I’m not delusional and hearing voices so put down those butterfly nets.  But I can name several occasions when I have been in need of hearing a message about something specific and voila, there is the precise message I needed in a sermon.  I am reminded of an old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will come”.

Today’s example of God giving me a message was dead on target for my mood over the past while.  It was about being stuck.  The kind of stuck the Pastor talked about was that of looking backward instead of dreaming forward.  The message was structured using the Book of Haggai in the Old Testament.  The Jews were to rebuild the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem but they were discouraged in doing so by their memories of the glory of the previous temple.  Looking back with regrets caused them to stop building the new temple.

If I look back on my life, I can appreciate a lot of good things, strong relationships, career successes, and so forth.  But lingering there is a waste of time and it makes me discouraged about my present.  I heard today that I need to look forward, accept forgiveness, reject guilt over mistakes and appreciate today, and most of all act positively on my dreams for tomorrow.

What a gift it is to have my eyes opened and my ears awakened to the reality of God’s presence so I am more fully conscious.

On Dying

I am at that point in my life when some of the significant older people in my family are beginning to pass away. Grandparents have all passed away decades ago, but now parents, aunts and uncles are getting older and some are dying.

I’ve been thinking about this time of life when the natural course of things is to experience loss.  I think that perhaps the only significant difference in each person’s death is that some had a strong faith in God, and in the hereafter, and some did not.  My experience with death thus far is that those with a strong faith are much more at peace with dying than those who have no faith.  If granted the time before death, even the faithful grieve the leaving, but those with faith are able to dwell within certain serenity about death that those without faith tend to lack.

My dear Uncle, lying in a hospital bed, shared with me his need for faith after learning of his cancer diagnosis.  He was desperate to grasp on to faith, and he did.  My uncle was a strong man, a good, moral man, a family man, but staring death in the face brought him to his knees.  But then he tapped into the faith he had but had not always leaned on so much.  His faith enabled him to stand up straight and tall again and in the end he helped everyone else through the process of his own departure.  Much more so than we helped him.  My uncle fed his faith through prayer and reading of the word, through music and solitary time.  He did this throughout the process of his death and it was apparent that he felt the peace of God that only faith can provide at the end of his life.  His faith gave strength to the rest of us.

Extremes of life help us to realize that forces are in play rendering us all but insignificant.  Whether or not we seek to strengthen our faith in these times is the key.  As the Bible says, even a mustard seed can move a mountain and so it is with the faith that blooms within a person facing eternity. 

I’ve found that people who are dying become introspective, reviewing their lives for the gaps, the omissions, the sins, the lost loves and the transgressions that they fear to leave behind them un-mended when they’ve breathed out their last.  Faith enables us to understand that something greater than ourselves oversees all, not necessarily controlling all but nonetheless using each opportunity to help us grow and change and improve.  If only we will humble ourselves to reach out to God.

I can see in the deaths of my family members with faith that God is present and caring and loving and good.  He will wrap His arms around anyone who reaches out to him and He strengthens us in those most difficult times; if we only ask Him to do so.  We all know that dying is inevitable, but only people with faith accept that the dying is a passage to greater realms of being and consciousness.  Only the faithful can pass with the peace of God to ease their journey.

Perhaps the greatest gift we can give the dying, and the living around them, is to uphold their faith.  Faith soothes the dying and charges knowledge of their forgiveness.  Faith allows each of us to enter death with limitless hope.  Perhaps the greatest desire of the dying is to be forgiven for the hurts they’ve left on those they’ve loved.   They want to know that in spite of their transgressions that they are still loved.  The dying want to bask in the golden light of certainty that their sins were never greater than their souls, nor were their sins more important to God than were their requests for forgiveness. 

To die in peace is to embrace the truth of God’s grace: to die without such peace must surely be hell.