death

WeCroak app and the desert wisdom

Hoping for a better year is rooted in our clinging to life. And while life is good, when we cling to life we fear death. When we fear death then we are not living the Christian life. Christian spirituality is, at its core, about embracing death. Not in a macabre or violent way, but in a way the trusts that death is not the last word. Embracing death removes any fear we have of death and when the fear of death is removed then power of death is gone - because the only power we give death is fear. 

There is a little app on my phone that I have been living with for a few weeks now called WeCroak. I came across this app in a wonderful little write up in the Atlantic and I cannot recommend this app or the Atlantic article enough. The only thing the app does is remind you at five random times in the day that you are going to die. In fact the message looks like this:

https://www.inlander.com/spokane/searching-for-the-meaning-of-death-theres-an-app-for-that/Content?oid=7382589

https://www.inlander.com/spokane/searching-for-the-meaning-of-death-theres-an-app-for-that/Content?oid=7382589

While the creator of this app was inspired by the practice of reflecting on death in Budhaism called Maransati the centrality of death is present in many traditions. Jesus talked about picking up your cross and the desert wisdom placed death at the center of many teachings. For instance here is this clever little story:

 "They told the story of a hermit who was dying in Scetis. The brothers stood round his bed, clothed him, and began to weep. But he opened his eyes and began to laugh; this happened three times. So the brothers asked him, "Abba, why are you laughing when we are weeping?" He told them, "I laughed the first time because you fear death; I laughed the second time because you are not ready for death; I laughed the third time because I am passing from labor to rest, and yet you weep." As he said this, he closed his eyes and died."

In the coming year, may you let go of clinging to life so that you may embrace death - even just a little bit. I know it is scary, however it is when we let go and trust that death is not the last word we experience resurrection. 

At least that is the Gospel.

No Longer Asking How I Want to be Remembered

Photo by  Madison Grooms  on  Unsplash

Today marks what is known in the liturgical calendar as All Saint's Day. It is the day the Church remembers the saints who have died and who continue to teach and guide us even as they are no longer walking among us. Those who have come before us have much to teach us, if we could take the time to listen and see. 

Many of us think about how we want to be remembered when we die. This is a fine question. It forces us to consider the ways we live our lives and the story that people tell about us. It is a social check to encourage people to be kind and generous. You don't want to be remembered as a curmudgeon do you? 

Recently, I heard someone say that they used to ask themselves how they wanted to be remembered, but then something dawned on them. How they want to be remembered is not as interesting compared to the question, "Why do I want to be remembered at all?" 

The question of how we want to be remembered challenges our outward actions, but why we want to be remembered challenges our desires and motivations. It is our desires that drive action, thus our desires need to be examined and vetted.

Why do you want to be remembered at all?

 

The Key Difference Between a Cleanse and a Fast

If you are into cleanses then that is great, but do not confuse a cleanse with a fast. They are different.

Of course a cleanse is different from a fast in that many cleanses encourage taking in of some food or liquid and fasts generally do not. It is also true that there are some cleanses that call for fasting from food. I can list all the ways cleanses and fasts overlap or not, but beyond the superficialities, cleanses and fasts are fundamentally different in one way: what they embrace.

The promise of the cleanse is some combination of prolong life and/or health, greater energy, weight loss, better eating habits, etc. Be it the advice of Dr. Oz or any number of cleanses (liver, colon, juice, soup, coconut oil, sauna, etc.), there is a lot to be said for being more aware of what we are eating and how much of it we eat. There is nothing wrong to being healthy, and perhaps a cleanse is a good thing for all of us. However, the promise of the cleanse is that by practicing all these things you will stave off death for a little bit longer than you would otherwise. Cleanses embrace life.

green brown land.jpg

Conversely a fast is an intentional practice of limiting food for the purpose of coming face to face with your limitations and dependence upon others. It is purposefully entering into a state of limits in order to practice in order to be at peace with the limits of life. Fasts may have some physical discomfort but the intended discomfort of the fast is the discomfort we have with death. Thus the more we fast, the more we come to terms with our own deaths. Which is why fasts embrace death.

People are motivated to take on cleanses or fasts for a variety of reasons, and I am not in a position to dismiss these reasons. You may be a person who practice fasting and more power to you. However, if we embark on a fast that leads us to embrace life rather than embrace death, then we are really embarking on a cleanse by another name. 

Are the Seasons Backwards?

Back in 2009, the question was raised, "Could the problem with Sunday worship be that it begins out week?" The assumption I generally operate from is that Sunday is the start of the week. But, the question wonders, is it more reflective of a deep wisdom that Sunday should be considered as the culmination (the end) of the week? 

Taking this idea of flipping my assumptions, it lead me to think about the seasons of the year. 

While the calendar year ends in December, for reasons I cannot place my finger on, I have always put the "start" of life in the season of spring. In fact if I were allowed to remake the calendar, I would have shifted the start of the new calendar year with the first day of spring. Spring has new buds and new leaves and new life and it all feels like spring is the start of a new life. Conversely, winter signaled to me the "end". Cold and dark, it just made sense to me that winter is the end of life and spring is the beginning. 

However, what if this ordering of the seasons misses a deep wisdom? What if we did not associate spring with the beginning of new life but we considered the season of fall? 

If we think of fall as the "beginning" then we gain a good number of deep truths. First of all, we no longer would be so afraid of death and dying. Death and dying would be the "start" of a new life. And in fact, in the world of plants, death is the start of life. If death is seen as the start of our lives, then how would our minds change toward our care for the elderly?  

After our new life begins in death (fall), the next step in life is germination (winter). This is the season of wondering what sort of new thing God is germinating in us. This season of germination would be the season of deep faith that God is doing something even if we cannot see it. It is the season of faith that there will be spring and summer after the dark season of winter. Additionally, Advent, the season around Christmas which focuses on God coming into the world, would take on a whole series of new meanings.

After the season of germination (winter) we begin to flower and see the beginning of this thing that God has been doing in our lives for the past six months. We no longer see flowers as the start of the process but as the half way point of what God is doing. We begin to see that these flowers are beautiful but temporal. Spring becomes the season that we rejoice that God is faithful to us because for six months we may not have seen much evidence of God's work in us when we began this process of new life.

Finally, we see the "fruit" of the past nine months of God working in and on us in the season of summer. The fruit is sweet and provides sustenance for us. We assess if we are producing good or not so good fruit. As we sit in the heat of summer, beaten down by the sun, we can only consider if the work that we have done with God the past year is fruit bearing. While we enjoy these fruits we understand that God is calling us into a new thing once more and we take that first step into new life by dying to our old life - the season of fall is upon us once more.