The Worst of the Worst News

Though trivial, I briefly wondered if the priest burned frankincense or myrrh for the incense.

I knew why I was there watching that priest. There being a place I did not want to be. There being a time of grief with unfathomable sorrow. There being an infant’s memorial service, occurring a mere two days after a years-ago Christmas. A parent experiencing the death of a child ranks among the worst of the worst news. All descriptions of their feelings—shocked, angry, bereft—are inadequate. Few can stand with them and say, “I understand what you are going through.”

The memorial service was held in the Roman Catholic Church where the child’s parents were members. I was not there to help lead the service, but to be supportive of the grieving family. The grandparents were friends and I couldn’t not be with them.

And so, I watched. And so, I also felt disoriented. Continue reading →

Dream On

Matthew 2:1-12 – Epiphany* of the Lord – for Friday*, January 6

“Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route . . .” (Matthew 2:12)

Once, Joseph dreamed angelic dreams, nudged by the Holy.

Mary, however, received a formal visit from Gabriel to discuss a divine future.

Those wandering, follow-the-star wise guys fitfully dreamed of Herod’s schemes.

The shepherds experienced a starlight symphony, hillside seats for an angelic orchestra.

Dreams distinguished Matthew and Luke’s unique accounts of the nativity. Matthew waited for the participants to settle into sleep. Everybody seemed to have eyes wide open in Luke. Indeed, in Luke, there were no dreams. But Matthew, from start to finish, from the first anxious thoughts of Jesus’ impending birth to the holy family’s return from Egypt, sleeper’s sleep and dreamer’s dream.

I have no idea if my dreaming is “average.” My odd, early morning habits—I rise around 4am to begin writing—may thwart potential dreams. And yet I recall some dreams, especially ones that recurred with startling similarities. For years—decades!—I dreamed about a glitch with college graduation. Did I finish my degree? I’d awake unsettled, as if living a lie. When younger, I regularly dreamed of flying. Airborne dreams, I’ve read, are common. Common or not, I enjoyed mine. Unlike waking with the dread of deceit, my winged memories provided uplifting feelings.

Dreams can be sexual, symbolic, graphic, and ephemeral. We fall and never hit the ground. We walk through rooms that later, awake and with eyes as wide open as Luke’s Mary, make us feel like we’ve been in that place before. Continue reading →

We Hear What We Want To Hear

Luke 4:14-21 – The 3rd Sunday after Epiphany – for Sunday, January 24, 2016

“He began to explain to them, ‘Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.’” (Luke 4:21)

Female-doctor-listening-t-006Leaning forward, I listened intently.

Chatter and ringing phones from nearby sections of the busy second floor—the reception desk, waiting room, and adjoining exam areas—faded into background noise.

At a teaching hospital, my wife and I focused on the surgeon’s explanation. As still as soldiers standing at attention, several student interns and the supervising professor (a renowned medical expert) also crowded the exam room.

Only our doctor spoke. Only her words mattered.

While not an emergency, this was serious. We had time to ponder, but a decision needed to happen within a few months. That decision would trigger a cascade of activities including crucial CT scans to discern the extent of the damage. The surgeon elaborated on the key steps necessary before and after the operation. Wanting to be 100% sure about everything, I asked her to repeat several statements

So focused on her crucial information, I didn’t even hear any barking in the background.

Our doctor was a vet. Continue reading →