The Rev. John Price is an Episcopal priest and one of my instructors in FIND (Formation in Direction, a course for prospective Spiritual Directors, like a Life Coach, only spiritual).My studies have taken me in new directions.
Anyway, Rev. Price had heard stories from people every now and then about how they had experienced death but came back to life–a near-death experience. A skeptic at first, he became more intrigued when a 4-year old described her experience even though there was no plausible reason for her to remember the hospital building where she had “died” as her mother drove past one day. So Rev. Price began listening to these stories with increasing interest, and seeking interviews with people of various faith traditions who had personal knowledge.
He wrote a book about it from the perspective of a priest. Revealing Heaven: The Eyewitness Accounts that Changed How a Pastor Thinks about the Afterlife describes stories from Hindus and Muslims as well as Christians.
There is so much we don’t understand, and so much to discover. I’ve come to believe God (defined for me as Love) is with us in joy, in sorrow, in contentment, in suffering, and in death. That makes me think about atheists. Who is with them? Some ideas floated to my head:
the will to live
the will to love
whatever they hold as sacred or ultimate
What do you think?
One night, of all things, I cleaned out a stopped up bathroom sink. I hadn’t deliberately put gunk in there–except that it is mostly “my” sink. Maybe I was at least partly responsible for it. In any case, it was up to me to clean it out since I wanted it to flow freely. Toothpaste, mouthwash, dirty hands, occasional hair, and who knows what else built up on the sides of the sink stopper. It wasn’t hard to clean–it just needed the right tool.
Many of my friends and I were not happy about the presidential election and now the inauguration is upon us. Maybe I was at least partly responsible for the state of this country’s political and social divides. As Barbara Kingsolver pointed out several weeks ago, each of us can do something within our sphere of influence–write, teach, call, sing, march, smile–that will make a difference in the free flow of human dignity and individual worth. All our efforts are needed; support for one another is much better than finding fault.
Whatever we do, big or small, will determine our future. Don’t stand by and let the gunk build up! Find the right tool for you and let’s keep working together for a brighter tomorrow.
Kristen Cervantes is a Student Pastor at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waco, TX, while she continues her studies at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth. We have weekly conversations that help us both grow in ministry.
When Kris responded to presidential election results, she posted these wise words:
I will not despair. Or rather, I will not only despair.
At times like this I really do wish I believed in a God who is an active agent in the world. But as I think of the gut-wrenching sobs I have heard, felt, held in my body and held in the circle of my arms, in my friends’ bodies, I don’t have that solace.
I have solace in the beauty and wonder of the world we share. I have solace in the deep emotion that means deep commitment to the continued work of building the beloved community for all, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, citizenship status, ability, and all the other boxes we try to fit ourselves and others into. I have solace in the help and strength and brokenness and beauty and potential in every human body and mind and soul.
My church says it wants to ‘create a more just and loving world.’ I take solace in the knowledge that we do not stand, move, and struggle alone in this painful and difficult act of creation.
I will not despair.
The New Year is upon us! May you find your way out of despair and into community.
I wrote this before the horrid news from Orlando. Mass shooting, chaos, emergency responders, blood donors, prayer vigils. Love is Love, I say, but sometimes it is hard to hold on to that.
For the following, I offer credit to Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, In God’s Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 1996)
What is the purpose of prayer?
How could God pay attention to such insignificant creatures?
Are we just talking to ourselves, our inner wise spirit?
How do we know prayer is communication with God?
How do we know that it’s God?
Questions take us deeper into faith
. . . away from belief in our beliefs
. . . to believe in a God who is more than our beliefs can say.
It is possible for a good prayer not to address anyone by name. After yoga classes with Jogi Bhagat, he closes with prayers and we repeat each line after him.
May all be happy.
May all be healthy.
May there be no distress on earth.
May there be peace everywhere.
May all our actions lead us to make this happen.
May it be so.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of my Ordination!
Way last century, back in 1993, I was ordained by the members of Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church. After the laying on of hands I think I was floating for weeks. Both sons Rob and Fred Nugen participated in the service and surprised me with a simultaneous kiss on each cheek in front of the congregation.
The Rev. Dr. Leonora Montgomery preached the sermon–and now I’m back in Houston, where she is Minister Emerita of Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church, retired (though still extremely active), and a member of the church I now serve, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston.
In that summer of 1993, freshly ordained and graduated from Perkins School of Theology at SMU in Dallas, I was in search of a congregation but without an income. Leonora graciously offered her garage apartment and many late night conversations in her kitchen. It was a bonus to have a swimming pool just 2-3 feet from my door. I continue to feel grateful for her kindness, generosity, and wisdom shared with so many colleagues and congregations.
I plan to celebrate today by working on my sermon. What a privilege it has been to delve into a topic, reflect on its spiritual aspects and why they matter, and craft a coherent message for people who have a variety of experiences and spiritual understandings. My sermon this week is actually on a universal theme: “A Good Birth, a Good Life, a Good Death.”
Life is sacred all the way from birth through death and into whatever beyond one might imagine. We fear aging and debilitating illness more than death. We can’t quite imagine death–what that means for us and how life as we know it will change after we’re gone. We’d be glad to live forever if we could stay healthy, vibrant, and wise. (Few of us wish to return to our youth and go through all the tough times again.)
Tomorrow my loving husband Jon Montgomery will take me to dinner for a different kind of celebration. Meanwhile I will dive back into this vocation that has taken me on an adventure of a lifetime.