Rhonda Cagle

Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Friendly Fire

In Uncategorized on September 27, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a subject that makes many of my friends and professional colleagues uncomfortable. For that matter, it makes some within my own family squirm. Once again, the subject of homosexuality is rocking the evangelical church. Once again, I’m wondering how to respond.

I know. We’re not supposed to talk about this subject. Or, if we must, we’re to do so in hushed and judgmental tones, quoting 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. As good Christians, we’re to shake our heads, tsk-tsk-tsking, while we throw another church leader to the curb and move on to the next spiritual superstar.

There’s only one problem. I can’t do this. I don’t want to tsk-tsk. And I don’t want to take up my Bible and skewer someone’s life with a few carefully selected scriptures. I’m uncomfortable with this “Christian” response because, well, it’s not Christian. I’ve read the rest of this oft-quoted passage of Scripture damning homosexuals to hell. The list also includes those who have a few too many drinks… those who speak in a way that damages the reputation of another… those who are greedy… those who put other things ahead of God… those who are inappropriate in their sexuality… those who steal or cheat others. In other words, the list includes all of us – people in need of God’s forgiveness and redemption.

Don’t believe me? Listen to some of the prayer requests shared at churches. “Please pray for Mrs. So-and-So. She and her husband are really struggling right now.” The well-meaning prayer then goes on to share what she’s heard about the ugly details of poor Mrs. So-and-So’s marriage. Or perhaps attend a cocktail reception this coming Friday night. Notice how many people – even good Christian folk – have “one more for the road.” For that matter, watch how the color drains from people’s faces when CNN breaks in with news that the Dow Jones has plunged another 200 points. I’m pretty sure they’re not singing, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

So where does this leave folks like me and, presumably, you who want to follow God but are tired of throwing stones? For that matter, where does this leave the Church?

Well….

For starters, I think we put down our stones. Since our hands are now empty, perhaps we can take up a little humility. While we’re at it, instead of seeing someone as a label, we might try seeing them as a person made in the image and likeness of God, worthy of respect and dignity. Finally, we might try listening more and speaking less, knowing that each of us has areas that are broken and in need of God’s repair.

I realize this doesn’t solve the great divide within our churches. But it may keep one less person trying to follow Christ from being destroyed by friendly fire. Personally, I’ve seen more than enough Christians shot through by hard words and actions. From my perspective, it’s time to lay God’s weapons down.

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Take Two Rosaries and Call Me in the Morning

In Uncategorized on September 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm

I had surgery a few days ago. It seems my gall bladder decided to form a lovely, large stone, which was in danger of blocking the ducts leading out of this odd bit of anatomy nestled within my abdomen.  And, as luck would have it, my surgeon was most insistent that his removal of my gall bladder takes place NOW instead of a few weeks down the road as I had tried to insist. Ever helpful, my family suggested that Vicki, my creative jazz singer/jeweler stepmom, fashion a lovely pendant out of this rather large stone my body had formed. I assured them the thousands of dollars of medical bills that will soon be arriving in my mailbox will be souvenirs enough.

Since I was unable to delay or avoid this surgery, I decided to also have a few other procedures performed at the same time, which my doctors have been advising for quite a while but I have been putting off. I figured it would be better to have a “two for one” surgery. Discounts – especially on medical bills – are always a good thing.

Except on the body.

Two surgeons, three procedures, and three hours later, I came out of surgery and into recovery. And I was sick. Very sick. The nausea was worse than the pain. As I went in and out of consciousness, I was hit with wave after wave of stomach-churning illness. “Sick!” I would whimper as Nurse Loud Mouth with her comforting bedside manner would scream in my ear, “How are you feeling?” She would then grab another syringe and inject another concoction of “feel good” drugs into my IV pronouncing, “There, you’ll feel better now.”

She lied.

Two hours later, I was in the car and on my way home bleeding all over my shirt from my five incisions and holding a bucket to my mouth while crying to Lorenzo that I still felt sick and was hurting. He got me home, got me upstairs, and got me into bed. He put the bucket by my bed while Megan put a cold washcloth on my forehead. I took the handful of anti-nausea and pain pills someone handed me – and prayed to die.  Seriously.

Given the fact that I’m writing this cheery little memoir, God clearly didn’t answer that prayer. But I’ve thought a lot about it these past few days as I’ve lounged on my couch.

Prayer is a sacred thing. It’s my soul laid bare before God. Sometimes, like a few nights ago when I prayed for death, prayer transcends words and even conscious thought and becomes a sort of inhaling and exhaling in the presence of the Holy. Through tears and sighs, hurts and sickness, death and despair are expelled. And somehow, my soul breathes in a little of heaven’s oxygen. For a few moments, these shared breaths allow me to put the very essence of my being into the hands of the Creator and say, “Thy will be done,” and then trust. Trust that in life and in death, I am not my own, but belong to a Loving God. Trust that when life is painful and hard, confusing and hurtful, there is purpose beyond what I can see or know. Trust that in sickness and the dark night of the soul, there is still a reason for my existence. Trust that whether I wake to morning’s light or heaven’s eternity, I am firmly held in the grasp of God.

If you were expecting some great theological explanation about why God answers prayers – or not – in His own mysterious way, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I don’t have those answers. I’ve sat beside my daughter’s bed as she clung to life and prayed for God to restore her. And He did. I’ve prayed by my husband’s bedside as he clung to life, asking God to restore him. And He did not. Who can say why the answer for my husband was different than for my daughter? Certainly, this side of heaven, I will never know or understand. As an aside, please don’t bother to tell me that Dennis now has ultimate and eternal life. Theologically, this may be true but it’s not helpful emotionally as I approach the third anniversary of his death.

If you’re still reading, the point is this. My prayers are not so much about changing my situation or the situations of others. Prayer is about changing me. The very act of prayer quiets my incessant cynicism and forces me to decide whether or not I will choose to breathe in synchronicity with my Creator, trusting Him with every breath… every hope… every outcome. Some days, that’s harder than others. But it’s necessary – often painful – requiring that I surrender the outcome to Other hands, believing that whatever happens, I’ll eventually feel better. Even when I want to die in the moment.

Kind of like my surgery.

Speaking of which, please pray for Nurse Loud Mouth. She’ll have another patient today. Both of them need all the prayer they can get!

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