No Time for Goodbye

A girl I love is a few months away from graduating from High School. We met a few weeks ago in the “before-time” at a local coffee shop and talked about colleges, scholarships, growing up, and life in general. The sun illuminated her strawberry blond hair as we sat at an outside table with not a care in the world. As I said, it was in The Before.

Now that we have arrived in The After, I can only see pictures of her on FaceBook. She just had her senior pictures taken. What I probably won’t get to see is her dressed in a cap and gown walking across the stage. I won’t see a hundred shots of her in her prom dress with her boyfriend in a matching tie. I won’t see beach pictures of her running in the waves on a rare day off from her summer restaurant job. And we had no time to say goodbye.

Teachers who miraculously scrambled to put their lessons online with one day‘s notice are just now allowing themselves to grieve the loss of being with their kids in person. Healthcare workers are having to quarantine themselves in their garages or at the hospital for fear of infecting their children at the end of work. My Alma Mater just announced that Spring Semester is over. The students moved out weeks ago, thinking they would be back after an extended Spring Break. Now it’s over, don’t come back. It was so unexpected, they had no time for goodbyes.

I miss my congregation so much it stings my eyes every time I think of them. I miss Miss Jean’s sweet bent-over hug. I miss Bonnie’s grin. I miss Jonny’s laughter. I MISS SINGING TOGETHER. God, I miss singing together. I miss them all. I didn’t know that the last time I saw them would be the last time I would see them. No time for goodbye.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus reminds us that we are blessed when we mourn:

Matthew 5 (The Message)

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

When everything you know and love gets stripped away, there is God. For such a time as this, we were made to seek him out for comfort and companionship. Blessings WILL happen in The After.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

This is especially poignant for The After. Being stuck inside allows us to get our inside world put right.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

The After is a time of no goodbyes, but also a time of saying hello to a whole new set of blessings we never would have discovered in The Before. God is with us. We are with each other.

And the good news is, we are one day closer to the end of this thing. Thanks be to God.

One Day Closer by Wende Pritchard

I SAID dNO!

Nora Jean is one feisty chick. She comes by it honestly, as she is the progeny of a whole line of feisty chicks. Take her grandmothers, for instance. A super-energized nurse who raised three kids while her husband flew for the Navy, and then the airlines. The other grandmother is a super-energized chick pastor, who raised two kids while her husband flew for the Navy, and then the airlines. (That is not a typo. Both grandfathers are Navy/Airline pilots. Imagine the odds of THAT happening!)

And then there is her mother, the feistiest of the feisty-clan. SHE kicked cancer, danced in a 46-hour marathon 9 months after her last chemo, got two degrees, and is raising three kids while her husband flies for the Navy….oh Nora Jean, you are surrounded.

So it is absolutely no surprise that at age two, Nora J can express herself with great clarity. They took her and her less-feisty brothers to a restaurant called The T-Rex Cafe. T-Rex is a bigger-than-life venue of pre-historic trees and vines, loud animal noises, dark spaces, and oh, yes…a ginormous T-Rex and his friends. Nope, said Nora. Nope, nope, nope, and if you didn’t get my meaning, let my shrieking do the talkin’. So without even sitting down, they exited.

Oh, but wait! Nearby is the much gentler Rain Forest Cafe, with quiet waterfalls, monkey sounds, and lush foliage. So in they went, and out they came. The same dark, immersive environment was also not to Nora’s liking, and the volume of nonononononono was actually heard in the gift shop next door.

As her mother took her outside to see if a little explanation and cajoling might help, Nora took her mother’s face in her hands, looked her in the eye, and said, “I SAID dNO.”

Matthew 5 (The Message)

33-37 “And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true.

Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.

Let your yes be yes and your no be no, like a boss two-year-old!

It is interesting to see how The Message applies this to religious talk. How many times do you say to someone, “I will pray for you,” and then never do? Peterson calls that “religious lace.” In other words, we can see right through it. Worse, so can God.

I think there is a lot of smoke-screen-religious-speech happening right now. I would hazard a guess that there has always been a lot of it, if Jesus was addressing it over 2,000 years ago, calling it an issue that is “embedded deep in our traditions.“

We should strive for clear, accurate communication that is free of manipulative words that we use just to get our own way. Let us stick with the truth, and stop trying to making ourselves sound more religious with unnecessary embellishments. God calls us to mean what we say, and say what we mean.

Let your dNO be dNO.

My dNO means dNO.