Tag Archives: passion

Death and dignity

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If you know me at all…no wait, scratch that…you don’t really have to know me in the slightest to know that I am a MASSIVE (in this case literally and figuratively :D) fan of Terry Pratchett. So of course I follow his Facebook page. And yesterday they advertised an auction for a dinner with the man himself, with all funds raised in this way going to support “Dignity in Dying”. Now, notwithstanding the fact that I would sell all my possessions and organs (as well as anybody’s that I have ever known) to be the one to have dinner with Terry, it also got me thinking. “Dignity in dying” is not exactly one of those causes you can use to win Miss Universe – it’s too depressing. But, knowing that Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago, I can see how this would become a cause worth investing in. Funny how priorities change as life takes its turns with us.

Which got me to thinking about “dignity” and “dying”, and about how these two can (and should/would?) go together. For “dignity” can sound like such a very passive, stiff-upper-lip kind of thing…so “dignity in dying” can sound so much like giving up, giving over, hanging around – in a dignified manner, mind – until your time is done. And yet, one of my favourite poems (anthems?) by Dylan Thomas tells us: “Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day; rage, rage against the dying of the light”. So how do we reconcile these two seemingly very different understandings? Can we? Should we?

Living = surrounding yourself

For that I think the answer is not in the dying, but in the living of it all. Of course, in those last moments of our lives, we will all wonder about one or two things when looking back upon our journey. The trick, I think, is how much there is to wonder about – in my experiences with death and dying, the most fear and desperation are felt by those who realise that they have waited too long with most everything. Who know, in that final moment, that too much has gone unsaid, undone, unthought. Is that the same as saying that to live to the full – to get to an end with mostly peace – is to rage and burn and rave all our desires to the full? No matter who or what you leave in your wake? Or in what condition? Since it is only you on your own in those dying moments?

And then “dignity” clicked for me – for to live a dignified live is not to live a life without passion and fire, but always living it with the knowledge that you are not the only person being affected by your journey. So, when talking about dignity in death, I think it’s more about the people you leave behind and how they are left. And the balance – that very precarious and flighty thing – is to be found in exactly “dignity in dying”…for then we are living our lives and our passions to the full, realising that we only have so much time in which to do all we desire; but to also do it in such a way that those around us are inspired, are ignited by our passion to find and follow their own, are strengthened by our lives and our journeys. When we manage that, our life, our death, will be something to mostly smile about…something that pushes people onward and upward…something to be proud of.

Those ordinary days

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Thanks, but no thanks!

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Shocking to hear? Maybe. Something to be irritated with and start defending against immediately? Definitely. But should it be? What does being a Christian MEAN to you and me? What IMPACT does it have on the way we make our way through the day?

I think, if we were totally honest with ourselves, then we would have to admit that “being Christian” is oftentimes synonymous with “going through the motions”. And then not because we are bad people, or even because we are not passionate about our faith; but simply because it comes so naturally to all of us as human beings to stop thinking about the things that form part of our everyday life.

“And you were once dead in your sins and offenses, in which you walked in times past, according to the age of this world, according to the prince of the power of this sky, the spirit who now works in the sons of distrust. And we too were all conversant in these things, in times past, by the desires of our flesh, acting according to the will of the flesh and according to our own thoughts. And so we were, by nature, sons of wrath even like the others. Yet still, God, who is rich in mercy, for the sake of his exceedingly great charity with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our sins, has enlivened us together in Christ, by whose grace you have been saved. And he has raised us up together, and he has caused us to sit down together in the heavens, in Christ Jesus, so that he may display, in the ages soon to arrive, the abundant wealth of his grace, by his goodness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not of yourselves, for it is a gift of God. And this is not of works, so that no one may glory. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has prepared and in which we should walk.” – Ephesians 2:1-10

I know, even this text sounds SO familiar, so familiar that we almost “zone out” naturally – unknowingly replacing the text with “blablabla” in our heads because we think we know it so well. But what happens with this text we know so well when we walk out into our every day? Does the passion of the text we know “by heart” translate into days filled with conscious heart and passion? For what the text describes is not mere factual knowledge for us to receive, then say “thank you” for and be grateful (even emotional) over for a little before filing/storing it away somewhere in our subconscious. This text is an inspiration to action – we have been saved and inspired SO THAT WE CAN SAVE AND INSPIRE. The grace of salvation was never meant as something to merely take note of, it was always meant as something to live and breathe. Especially when we journey further in the book of Ephesians…

  “And so…I beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the vocation to which you have been called: with all humility and meekness, with patience, supporting one another in charity… from now on you should walk, not as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, having their intellect obscured, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is within them, because of the blindness of their hearts. Such as these, despairing, have given themselves over to sexual immorality, carrying out every impurity with rapacity. But this is not what you have learned in Christ. For certainly, you have listened to him, and you have been instructed in him, according to the truth that is in Jesus: to set aside your earlier behaviour, the former man, who was corrupted, by means of desire, unto error, and so be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and so put on the new man, who, in accord with God, is created in justice and in the holiness of truth.” – Ephesians 4:1-2, 17-24.

Worship = life

Faith is not most importantly about facts. Or about the routines we have created for ourselves. Faith is not about Sunday, it’s about every other ordinary day filled with ordinary things…but then lived extraordinarily.

“For you were darkness, in times past, but now you are light, in the Lord. So then, walk as sons of the light. For the fruit of the light is in all goodness and justice and truth, affirming what is well-pleasing to God.” – Ephesians 5:8-10.

The best way to illustrate this and make it practical? A story…or a fable in this case…which could be seen as the same thing, but fable just sounds so much more enticing…

“There once was a rich Sultan with a wise Jew named Nathan in his employ. One day, the Sultan confronted Nathan with a burning question: ‘Which faith is the true faith? Is it the Jewish, Christian or Muslim faith? For all three lay claim to the one true God and his Holy Scripture?’ Nathan answers the Sultan with a fable…

‘Long ago there lived a man who owned a ring of inestimable value – any person wearing the ring was loved by God and man, if he believed that such was the power of the ring and lived accordingly. It was only natural for the man to be very attached to such a ring; and, aside from never taking it off, he also stated in his will that the ring should go to his most beloved son (who would then of course hand it down to his most beloved son).

The three rings

In this way, after many generations, the ring lands in the hands of a man who had three sons, all of whom he loved very much and equally (depending on the day and the behaviour of the sons of course). He knew it would be impossible to choose one over the other two, so when he became aware of his impending death, he went to a jeweller and had two other rings made that looked the same. The jeweller was so good that it was nigh impossible to point out the original.On his deathbed, the father called each of his sons to him and gave them a ring, accompanied by his best wishes. It did not take long for the sons to realise that they all had a ring, which immediately led to conflict as only families can do. Realising that it would be impossible to solve the conflict themselves, they went to a judge for his verdict. The judge refused to make a decision…but he did give the brothers the following advice: Each of the sons had to prove that his ring brought forth more love, kindness and grace than the others. And if the effect/influence of the ring could still be seen in his grandchildren’s children, then the judge would once again invite that brother to appear before his bench.’”

It is only through each one of us’ daily life in faith that anyone standing on the outside can ever hope to see the beauty, integrity and worth thereof. What is the testimony of your every ordinary day? Can those outside look at you and see God?

What are you showing/giving?