Daughter Grief

Today’s post is the first from our submission request for posts on loss.  Seanna Tucker, is a freelance writer and blogger living in St. Louis. Here she shares a poem on her personal loss, which was originally posted on her tumblr. Enjoy and don’t forget  to submit your thoughts, words and pictures about loss.

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You always told me
It would be your 50’s
And something toxic
Like cancer

You either prepared me
Or jinxed me

Grief comes in spurts
Like geisers
From your home state

Huge shuttering sobs
I seek shelter
Find temporary salvation
In occasional laughter
And old pictures

Then I’m Mt. St. Helens
Bound to burst again
Long overdue

When I find old ticket stubs
Father-Daughter Movie Dates
Things you saved

Things I saved
Old voicemails starting
“Hey Baby Girl” or “Darlin’”
In that southern and yet Californian
Drawl that could only be yours

Things I didn’t know
You saved
old Wedding pictures
From a failed marriage
With your daughter’s Mother

Handwritten notes from a
10-year-old one-time
step-daughter
My sister

I could fill
The Library at Alexandria
with what I didn’t – don’t – know

It’d be filled with
things that are lost
And I would sit on top

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Requesting Your Words!

Dear Readers,

Today we are starting our call for submissions on the topic of  loss. We would love for you to tell us about how you have experienced and overcome loss in your life. What have you lost? Who have you lost? How have your experiences with loss affected your spirituality, your life and your ability to love? Send your thoughts to sophiaspockets@gmail.com! We can’t wait to be blessed with the opportunity to read your words and share them with the world!

With wisdom, love …and lint,
Autumn and Jenni

In Defense of Prayer

Today’s guest post comes from Hailey Kaufman. Hailey is a student at Webster University, and her poignant post today is about prayer, grief and confusion and is dedicated to her friends Leo and Morgan.

Even having been non-religious for several years, I still have the impulse to pray on rare occasions. It’s always when I want something deeply, but know I can’t do anything about it, and it usually has to do with other people. The impulse to reach out for something powerful and immortal hits me today, as I learn of the death of two young people in my community. It always throws my identity for a loop, and I search to understand why it happens.

The last time I remember praying was when my grandpa was in the hospital for two months, on and off a ventilator, as he picked up one infection after another. It was extremely hard on my family and me, causing tension, confusion, and a dash of insanity in all of us. I remember busting down into tears upon hearing for the fourth or fifth time that his condition was deteriorating, that he’d be on a ventilator again. I was alone screaming obscenities and fury-crying as I punched whatever cushions I could find. Every day, we all just wanted it to be over. We never expected him to recover fully, which he remarkably did.

At that point in my life, I had decided I no longer subscribed to any faith in God, calling myself an agnostic. I thought it more likely than not that there wasn’t anyone in charge of it all, but when Poppy was lying in that bed every day, growing thinner and less recognizable, while simultaneously untying my whole family from their wits, I didn’t know what else to do but pray. At least then, I would feel like I was doing something.

Recently I was sitting in a car pondering the troubles of someone I know. Despite all my thinking, I know there’s very little, if anything, I can do. It’s a helpless feeling, being aware of a problem that is meaningful to you, and not being able to reach out and fix it with your own hands.

I caught myself in a nanosecond epiphany that faded as quickly as it came: I could pray about it. This is why I have mixed feelings about prayer, even as irrational as it seems to me. If God has a plan for everything, then all the imploring in the world won’t change it; and even if he had no path laid out, what would my opinions and ideas mean compared to his? Besides, if he leaves a person’s fate in the hands of those who may or may not ask for that person’s well-being, I’m not sure I’d want anything to do with such a guy.

But I understand that feeling of helplessness, that itch in the stomach to do something, anything to alter a crappy situation. In that moment when you’re either not coming up with creative solutions or discovering that you’re truly irrelevant to the situation, there’s a panic that arises, a restlessness, and even far-fetched ideas seem worth considering. As Ze Frank said:

…When I get that feeling in my stomach – you know the feeling when all of a sudden you get a
ball of energy and it shoots down into your legs, and up into your arms, and it tells you to get up
and stand up and go to the refrigerator and get a cheese sandwich? That’s my Cheese Monster
talking. And my Cheese Monster will never be satisfied by cheddar…only the cheese of accomplishment.

Sometimes my Cheese Monster tells me to pray. I can’t fault others’ for doing the same. As long as it is recognized that proactive, real-world solutions should always be sought first – rather than having an immediate Jesus-take-the-wheel response to things you can change – my qualms with prayer are few.Whatever sets a troubled mind at ease must be at least somewhat of a positive thing. There’s certainly nothing the living can do about a lost life. What falls to us then is to take care of one another – and ourselves. To those who are mourning a death, I hope you make an extra effort to care for those you love, and I hope you are conscious of keeping yourself safe, healthy and happy.

In the meantime, if it helps rest your pain, this atheist hopes you pray it out.

All are Welcome

All are welcome. These three words are powerful, at least, when they are backed up by actions. These three words drew me to the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) denomination many years ago. When I was left feeling isolated by the Catholic Church due to my gender, my sexual orientation, and my age, I found welcome at a Disciples of Christ congregation. Everyone was welcome at the table, which meant I could bring all my friends and they could partake in communion. I heard “all are welcome” preached from the pulpit and the pews.

Then, I began to find the discrepancies. Non-white members were left to feel isolated, same-sex couples were forced to hide who they were and refused access to church services. All were not welcome it seemed.

After my former partner and I were not allowed to be married at the church I had joined seeking welcome, I was disheartened. If even the denominations that preach welcome aren’t welcoming…where can the rejected go? What would Jesus, who practiced a most radical type on inclusion, have to say about this hypocritical exclusion?

It took me a long time to see that while the Holy Wisdom I have come to understand through Jesus is about divine inclusion, the church is run by humans.  Just like it took me a while to forgive my home church and my denomination for its errors, it took my home church and my denomination a while to figure out the best way to live their creed.

A few days ago, the Disciples of Christ adopted this resolution on inclusion. It is a remarkable step in the right direction.  There is still a long way to go, but as people of faith, people who believe in the wisdom of radical inclusion, we must strive to be living examples of these three powerful words–all are welcome.

Life, Death, and…

My Bible is filled with death. I know there is a lot of death and dying in the Bible in general but all of my favorite passages are bookmarked by funeral prayer cards. Aunts, Uncles, Grandfathers, I even have prayer cards from people who died before I was born. Perhaps this sounds a bit morbid, a bit too depressing, but, for me, it is the best way to keep them in remembrance.

While I do find a great deal of Wisdom in the Bible, often it is within the people I have known that I find the most ardent grace, the most holy faith and the most divine kindness.  So when I seek Wisdom in the Bible, I also find it in the memorial cards of those who helped shape who I am today.

For me, life and death are connected because death is what makes us human. Indeed, death is what made Jesus human too. We are constantly reminded of all the other things that make us human; whether it be our mistakes or our achievements, our joy or our suffering, we cannot neglect death as part of the human experience.

Whatever I believe about that nebulous”…” that lies beyond, through, or around death, I know that like all of the people who have most clearly shown me Holy Wisdom and Divine Grace, I will have to face death.  I do not let that fact frighten me, for in my Bible I see there always life, and death, and…something more.

It’s Still Pretty

By: Jenni Taylor

When I was 15, I went to an “extreme camping” camp for a few weeks. We took our bags and our mosquito nets all over Wisconsin and Michigan until we hit Lake Superior and just stopped. The other girls teased me, for saying “it’s so pretty!” at every turn. It’s hard not to when you are watching the northern lights above the trees or the sun set over the lake. It really truly was pretty.

It’s about 9 years later, and instead of Michigan and Wisconsin, I stayed in the small city of Jiujiang, China. I spent a week with a family, in which two of the six members could speak English. We climbed mountains, sat by waterfalls, and hugged bamboo. The phrase I learned the fastest was, “hen piao liang!”

It’s so pretty. It’s still so pretty.

This motif has played out through my whole life. I take a step back, I look at the world, and everything I see amazes me. This big, beautiful, strong world, that at the same time can be so small, bleeding, and fragile. It’s complex. It’s messy. It’s hen piao liang.

A Chinese friend asked me how to pray. I told her my favorite Anne Lamott quote, that there are three types of prayers: Help, Thanks, and Wow. But you don’t close your eyes, she said. I don’t need to close my eyes, I told her. As Anne Shirley said,

“I just feel a prayer.”

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Jesus and the 4th of July

By: Autumn Elizabeth

This may be God’s country, but this is my country too, move over, Mr. Holiness and let the little people through. –  from”God’s Country” by Ani Difranco 

American independence day has always been a hard holiday for me. Don’t  get me wrong, I love fireworks and most days, I even love America, but when I go to church that raises the American flag, or see 4th of July services, I get a little worried.

I’ve read the bible a good bit and part of the reason I think Jesus is such a radical guy is because he puts the little people in front of government, so much so he was killed for it.

Yet, I see lots of people in America, and other parts of the world, trying to join Christianity and government. I see a lot of the debate about gay rights, reproductive rights, women’s rights from religious perspectives.  But how would Jesus feel about this?

I wonder if Jesus would be comfortable with his followers aligning themselves with any government or political movement. For me, I am a christian first and then an american, but this doesn’t mean i need to make america a christian nation. Quite the opposite actually. I am bound as a follower of Jesus to align myself with those the government has shoved aside, with the folks who are not rich, powerful or seen on T.V.

I had a friend recently post their 4th of July plans to take care of veterans, I and thought “YES”. If Jesus were an american celebrating 4th of July, I think he would be at a soup kitchen, or taking a bunch of orphans to a fireworks show.

My wish for this 4th of July is that more Christians work on creating a nation of Christians instead of a Christian nation.  I for one think Jesus would rather be the leader of a border-less group of people who love everyone, than president of the United States of America.

Something about Sin

In today’s guest post,  E.E. Slinger gives us some thoughts  on sin, wisdom and love.  E.E. Slinger is a student of counseling and theology and lives in Chicago, IL.

During the last lectures of my theology class, we talked about the “riddle of sin”–that is, the mystery of it, and over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading Cornelius Plantinga’s Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin. Once again, a paradigm has shifted.

Last year, I came to the (what I thought to be somewhat-stable) conclusion that God allowed sin to enter the world, because that is the only way we would be able to recognize and know His love. In a sense, I likened His love to light, which I argued can only be seen and understood as such if one also knows darkness. At the time, this answer brought much relief, because I had, in some way, solved the riddle of sin. Sin (and all consequent suffering) is the “price,” per say, of truly knowing the love of God.

Of course, this makes no sense, (and answers to suffering such as “This happened for God’s glory” are rather shallow and shitty). Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I believe, recognized this in The Brothers Karamazov. Here, the atheist Ivan poses a question to his brother, Alyosha, the priest.

Answer me: Imagine that you yourself are building the edifice of human destiny with the object of making people happy in the finale, of giving them peace and rest at last, but for that you must inevitably and unavoidably torture just one tiny creature, that same child who was beating her chest with her little fist, and raise your edifice on the foundation of her unrequited tears–would you agree to be the architect on such conditions? Tell me the truth.

“No, I would not agree,” Alyosha said softly.

The truth is, within God’s will, sin is neither inevitable nor unavoidable, for it is not intrinsic to human nature–to the way God created us. Sin is not necessary, if you will. But it does exist, and that, of course, is the reason we live in constant fear, anxiety, and stress, for we cannot predict sin nor can we understand how or why it happens.
Sin is, by definition, inexplicable.

Yet we try to explain it through a myriad of theories in a sorry, fruitless attempt to mitigate our fear. To explain sin is to understand it, and I’m deeply afraid to understand it is to accept it. Or, we simply avert sin (or at least avert our minds from it) by filling our lives with constant trivial entertainment and leisure (here, I think of the terrifying irony of millions of Americans watching the Superbowl as thousands of women are exploited due to the event). To avert sin is simply to ignore it. Of course, acceptance and ignorance are two equally unacceptable responses.

The only other option is to stand in the tension and to name sin exactly what it is–sin. Of course, to name sin as it truly is leads us to the undeniable, desperate longing and need for redemption. Sometimes, that redemption is difficult (PAINFULLY DIFFICULT) to see, and sometimes there is the temptation to despair. I do not understand sin, and thinking about how there is this insoluble disease that has infected and destroyed every aspect of reality has been overwhelming, to say the least. However, I also know that the inexplicability of sin does not render me hopeless.

God is not raising His edifice on the unrequited tears of His children.

For the tears that flow from every person who experiences every suffering caused by every sin have been requited (and redeemed) by the very tears of Jesus, when He was naked on the cross and cried aloud “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”