Lent is here again. I was smudged with ashes last night, preached a sermon, felt inadequate. I didn't feel inadequate because of the day, though maybe I should. Rather, last night I felt inadequate to my task as priest/pastor/preacher. That doesn't happen to me very often anymore. I love my work and it seems to love me. Once in a rare while, though, it all feels a little foreign and I feel ill-at-ease. Last night was one of those insecure nights.
One of my most beloved parishioners is in the hospital. She is 73 years young and a tap dancer. I believe she is dying. I hate this. Today, looking at her bloated, ventilated, overly hydrated body, I cried. Her vitals were a little more stable than they have been but they cannot wean her from the ventilator and she is still unconscious. She went in with a bowel problem and was diagnosed with a giant case of pneumonia in the ER. One whole lung is full of the disease. Next thing we know she's unconscious and hanging by a thread, a beautiful silken thread, but a tiny thread all the same.
Larry is on a tear again. He's manic and struggling hard. He is having significant urology problems and has managed to offend nearly every urologist who takes Medicare in this area. He needs help so badly. I keep trying to intervene and he keeps spewing his colorful, angry vitriol everywhere. The worse his problem gets, the more angry he is.... it is a vicious cycle. I am not sure what to do to help. But I want to so badly. Today I called around to doctors begging them to take him as a patient.
I just hung up from one of those calls. They didn't want to see him because he was so rude to their office staff the last time. I can only imagine how he treated them. I wasn't there. But if he actually said half of what he told me he said, it was ugly. Really ugly. I want him to get better... to be more comfortable. Everybody deserves that, no matter how unpleasant or rude or mentally ill they are. For some reason, no matter how rude Larry is or how much his mental illness gets in the way, I love him. It hardly makes sense. It just is.
As the economy falls apart and people lose jobs and homes, somehow my church community grows stronger. This community of grace is trying hard to function from faith rather than fear. Together, we are trying to remember that we share vital ties, strong bonds of love which will sustain us when we find ourselves in need. We are really at our best right now. For this, I am deeply thankful.
Also, I know that I am loved and that I love fully in so many ways. I am thankful for this, too. My world is rich and complex--like full bodied coffee or excellent wine. Really, it is more of a feast or a banquet with a variety of flavors and carefully prepared, incredibly tasty dishes. Every day is a little bit hard and a little bit good.
Lenten ashes, daily dust.... maybe even stardust.... It's all here. Laughter, pain... beauty.
I did a wedding for a friend two weeks ago. The 'for' line of the check she gave me read "eternal bliss." Yes, friends, eternal bliss for $150.00 and a few words.
The real truth is that it's free.