Hobo Honeymoon

Hobo Honeymoon

This Lent, I’m using Edward Hays book, “A Lenten Hobo Honeymoon: Daily Reflections for the Journey of Lent.” In it Hays writes, “While both the idea of a honeymoon and of being a hobo might seem inappropriate for the holy season of Lent, remember the words of the great patriarch Moses, who proudly declared, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean, and we were traveling vagabonds and vagrants who found our way to Egypt and lived as aliens’ (Deuteronomy 26:5). Your spiritual ancestors were hobos, so rejoice in your proud heritage of traveling vagabonds as you begin these forty days.”

At the beginning he suggests we draw out a “Lenten Hobo Map” which is a list of our Lenten Works. My map is a simple one. I plan to pray every day but at least 2 – 3 times week it will be a long prayer. My reasoning for this is, I always pray but I’m lazy about spending a whole lot of time with God. I figured if I set myself a small goal such as this, I might be successful. In these first two weeks of Lent I’ve been successful so I plan to focus more on prayer until Easter.

I also set out some other works to do. It helps me to look at the list now for it reminds me what I planned on doing. I’m trying to set time limits on things and stick to it. This is a tough one because I’m such a perfectionist. Right now I’m working on an article for submission to the Presbyterian Outlook. Mark Pinsky, the author of “Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability, and Inclusion” wrote a guest commentary for the Outlook which really bothered me. I decided to submit some sort of response so I’ve been working on an article. I thought I would have it done by today but it still needs some work. The funny thing is, it probably won’t be published so I suspect I’m writing it more for me than for anyone else. Reading my list reminds me that I need to get this done and sent off tomorrow – no matter what.

My second work is to stop agonizing. This is a real challenge for me. I also plan to listen to classical music every day for this helps my creative side. I’m able to listen to music but the agonizing thing is a bit more challenging! I’m also supplementing this with Richard Rohr’s book “Radical Grace.” It is a good combination.

In today’s devotional Hays writes “After presenting the various worries and concerns of your prayers of petition to God, try to empty yourself of those cares, as well as your plans for tomorrow or memories of yesterday. Such empty space at the end of prayer gives God a chance to have the last word. And to those who might warn, ‘An empty mind is the devil’s workshop,’ you can reply, ‘An empty mind is God’s playground!’ For God’s creative play always completes our work more fruitfully than we could ever imagine.”

I find as I listen to music, God is using my mind and feelings as a playground. It’s hard to describe where my spirit goes when I listen but it does feel as if I am playing with God. Hays ends his devotional with these words: “Come, Beloved God; write boldly on the white page of my heart those four shocking, scandalous words, ‘You are my lover.” While I understand what he is saying, I prefer to think about God who says to me “You are loved.” I do need to hear this over and over again. “I am loved” for sometimes along with many others, I don’t feel so loved. Yet, I AM loved. All of us are loved by God and this is good news indeed.

Aimee Buchanan

Aimee's footprint at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church

Aimee’s footprint at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church

Like the Psalmists before us who screamed, “Why have you forsaken me? Can’t You hear my cries? How long are you going to hide from me?” we are crying out as well. “How can you take a person who has so much yet to offer the world? She wasn’t done yet! What were You thinking?” are some of our questions.

Some folks believe that God is in control of our world and everything happens for a reason. We may not know this reason yet but it will be clear to us later. While I understand this thinking and how it allows us to make sense out of the tragedies of our world, I do not hold this belief.

Why do some folks get cancer, diabetes or heart disease? Why do some folks have to use a wheelchair or a hearing aid? Why did I sustain a traumatic brain injury? There are no answers to these questions and dwelling upon them only makes us feel worse. God has power in our lives but not to make bad things happen so we can learn from them. God takes what has happened and helps us use our experiences to bring the Spirit of Life and Hope to our world.

I am sad that Aimee has died. Her death came way too early and she still had much to do. As is often the case, her death has brought back memories of other deaths and losses in my life. I’ve had to check out of my daily activities for a little while to deal with these losses and it hurts. After much time spent writing and singing – which always seems to help me process my emotions – I’ve come to an understanding.

The picture above is an imprint of Aimee’s feet that is on the wall in the youth room at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. Every year, the young people dip their feet in paint and then leave their footprints on the wall. I’ve been in the youth room often and every time I’m there, I wonder how they manage to do this. Do they hold one another up long ways so the person may stamp the wall with their feet? Do they sit on a ladder and swing their feet to make a print on the wall? I don’t know.

Seeing her footprint reminded me how much walking Aimee did in her life. She walked in the Sanctuary at Grace Covenant when she led worship. She walked at youth events at Montreat Conference Center and in other places across the country. She walked at Haywood Street Methodist as she led those who don’t have homes in art projects and prayers. She walked all over Asheville leading groups for Asheville Youth Missions.

In worship on the Sunday before Aimee’s death, the choir at Grace Covenant sang an anthem by Brian Tate based on lyrics from traditional spirituals called Hold Me, Rock Me.

Hold me, rock me, calm and easy
Hold me, rock me, deep and wide,
Hold me, rock me, in your arms,
Oh I got a home on the other side. (refrain)

Someday, gonna cross that river, gonna set out on my own,
Don’t know where my journey leads, but I’ll keep on walking’ till I get me home. (refrain)

My life is a runnin’ river, flowin’ from the mountains to the distant sea.
I’ve know many hills and valleys, but when I reach that ocean, I’ll be free. (refrain)

Aimee spent her whole life walking on the peace and justice road. She walked with us on our journey toward wholeness. She encouraged us on our paths as we walked along which helped many of us keep walking. Now she has walked home.

Even though she is no longer here, we can still walk on. We can honor her by continuing to carry out her vision of peace, justice and wholeness to the world. She knew many hills and valleys but she has reached that ocean now and she is free.

Death

I went to two Memorial Services last week. One was for Tom Swift who died from complications of ALS. You can read a commentary I wrote about him here: http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013302030018 I also attended a service for Dean Bush who lived homeless, was hit by two cars and was caught under a third and dragged several miles.

Then on Monday morning, Aimee Buchanan a 44-year-old Presbyterian minister, died from complications from the flu. Her death has stunned everyone including myself. Here is an article published in the Asheville Citizen-Times about her. http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20130206/NEWS01/302060033 All three deaths have affected me greatly.

I began thinking of all the folks I know who’ve died from brain injuries or who have many more challenges than I do because of them. Why did God save me and not them? I asked myself. Of course these thoughts snowballed and I could feel myself spiraling into depression. In rehab, I learned how my emotions tend to snowball and the best way to handle this is to have a behavioral approach. I have to say to myself loud and clear, “STOP.” If I catch it early enough, it works.

A wise friend wrote me an email reminding me that the question, “Why her and not me?” has no answer. Evil is real and it is random in nature. We don’t know why but the best we can do is to live our lives working for peace and justice which honors God as well as honoring the concerns of our loved ones who have died. I’ve learned I can waste a lot of time when I let myself spiral into depression. This time, I’m not going to let it happen.

In her book, “Help, Thanks, Wow” Anne Lamott writes

“There’s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won’t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you’ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged…..It’s exhausting, crazy-making.”

Before one reaches this place, however, one must not be afraid to cry out to God. Today I pulled out the Psalms and looked at Psalm 13 which begins, “How long, God? Will you forget us forever? How long will you hide your face from us?” (I changed the “me” to “us” because there are many, many folks struggling right along with me) This is my- our – question exactly. Why did God let this happen? Why did God let me sustain a brain injury? Where in the world is God anyway?

Rev. Steve Goyer, a pastor in Atlanta, dealt with many of these same questions after his wife died from sustaining a TBI in a car accident in 2001. In the first sermon he preached after her death, he shared the following from Peter DeVries book The Blood of the Lamb.

“The main character of the book loses his daughter to leukemia. On the day of her death someone had left him a cream pie which he was carrying when he found himself standing before a crucifix outside the church next to the hospital.”
He looked into the eyes of the crucified Christ hanging on the cross, cursed his name, and flung the pie squarely into the face of Christ. He stood there defiantly thinking, ‘Take that you SOB!’ Christ did. Christ took it, and then giant tears began streaming out of those holy broken eyes of that Christ causing the whipped cream to slide down his face.”

This is the Christ I know. Through the tears of Christ, through my tears, through all of our tears, we can reach out to Jesus and Jesus will help us stand. Although I’m getting close to reaching the place that LaMott calls the “great unknowing where restoration can begin,” I’m not there yet. And that’s okay. Christ is crying with me and with us all until we do get there. And we will get there.