Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Love unknown

Well, it’s been quite an eventful ten days or so.  However I’ll concentrate on just one theme that occupied me which is the one about which I blogged before we went away for a few days.
On Friday (4th) we were due to be celebrating with our friends Esther and Julie their wedding. So it was somehow bitter-sweet to hear Justin Welby doing an hour’s phone-in on LBC Radio, answering among other things questions about gay marriage. He came across well, I thought, not least making real why it is such a hard issue for him.

The wedding celebration was an extremely happy event. The couple were in great form. One of them said to me, “It’s nice to feel normal,” and I could see what she meant.

Then we went away to Devon for a few days, staying in a cottage up a winding crumbling lane and with a blissful absence of internet. Late breakfasts, fresh fish and chips, picnics by estuaries, views from the cottage, spending time with Jane's parents.… And so after all too short a break it was back to the harsh rushing world of traffic, vehicular and cyber.

One of the first things I picked up was the news that my occasional correspondent, Vicky Beeching, who did her theological studies at the same place as me had been getting it in the neck because of her support for equal marriage. She now describes herself on Twitter as “Theologian. Religious Commentator (Sky, BBC, ITV, Radio 2, Radio 4, LBC). Pro #womenbishops  & pro #equalmarriage. Feminist. Christian. Songwriter (EMI). Geek”. It was a blog post she had written entitled My support of same-sex marriage which had incurred the wrath of many Christian readers, sadly, and ironically, since it was a personal plea for dialogue carried on in a loving spirit.
“So, while many conservative and evangelical Christians are very angry about my stand for same-sex marriage, please let’s dialogue in love. Journey with me here. I’ll be blogging about this topic, the relevant Bible passages, recommending books and resources, and writing about the various questions that arise from them all.
“Thanks to the many people who do support equal marriage and have reached out to me. I’m touched by the way you have gathered around me and rallied to encourage me at this difficult time. Thanks also to those who’ve written to say they disagree with me, but are wanting to do so with kindness and respect.
“If you want to come on this journey, whatever your beliefs may be, I’d be delighted to have you read, comment and share your responses on this site.”

Vicky derives much of her income from royalties on her songs. One consequence of her expressing her views has been churches telling her they’ll no longer use her songs, and thus she will lose a good chunk of her livelihood. I decided to write her a note:
“Hi Vicky.
“Thank you for your blog post. As others have commented, it's brave. Being retired I don't have as much to lose as you do. Being relatively obscure, I don't stand to receive the shower of vitriol that you do. However as you know I come from a similarly conservatively Christian background as yourself - and have to confess to having held what might have been regarded as a Biblically-based homophobic stance, which I now regret and of which I have repented, as I believe I should have much sooner.
“My change of mind and heart has not been an overnight conversion, but has been based on my reexamination of the 'proof-texts' (very situation-specific in all cases but one; that one a Biblical hapax legomenon [single instance] with a much debated meaning), the resounding silence of Jesus on the subject of same-sex attraction, and his resounding condemnation of judging others and his all-encompassing demand of love. It's also arisen from witnessing the harm inflicted on LGBT young people and their parents by the uncomprehending condemnation of Christians like me, and from an encounter with a couple where I had no doubt that I was to reach out, accept and love them. I had the privilege of celebrating with their friends after their marriage a week ago on Friday.
“Ironically I had listened to Archbishop Justin's phone-in on LBC Radio that same morning. And I did understand the awful dilemma that he has as a crucial leader within the Anglican worldwide church, being aware that any 'liberalisation' which might take place here would have fatal consequences to fellow Christians in other countries - as well as having the responsibility to uphold the Church's agreed teaching on marriage. I share your hope that 'as the Church of England enters a two year discussion period about “human sexuality” based around The Pilling Report,... those of us on all ‘sides’ can talk with respect and kindness, despite the deeply painful and inflammatory nature of the subject matter.' As mule-headed Oliver Cromwell said to the equally stubborn Scottish Kirk Synod, 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.' We're all of us mere humans.
“I suspect you don't need me to say that I don't believe you're a heretic, but on the contrary Valiant for Truth in the market place of Vanity Fair. And I for one will be listening to 'The Wonder of the Cross' this coming week and being grateful.”

Following my recommendation of Vicky’s article, I was contacted through Facebook by one person challenging me to justify myself: “I have just never found an even slightly convincing theological argument for its practice...” I recommended Justin Lee’s Unconditional and Renato Lings, Love Lost in Translation. I suspect Vicky’s subsequent posts on the subject will provide more theology than I’m likely to. Another friend asked me whether I had read the Rev Steve Chalke’s article on the subject – which I had, and did again. I replied, “Yes, I have read it. It's so sad that Christians divide so heatedly over the issue. As I mentioned in my blog, knowing parents of gay children and having friends who are gay has made me think that the received attitude to homosexuality is pastorally misconceived and harmful - unloving and unChristlike. I suspect I'm like Steve Chalke in that. There are more struggling young gay Christians than churches like to acknowledge and consequently they feel they either have to conceal their sexuality or leave the ordinary fellowship of church.”

In her reply she agreed and recounted how one of her friends at university left the church when she realised that she was gay. She had prayed so hard that her feelings would be taken away from her. “I also am concerned that Christians appear to the outside world to be unloving bigots. I am so conscious of how the church is viewed by many of my colleagues - and it is not good!”
The stance which has caused more than “one of these little ones to fall” seems to me highly perilous and to require re-examination. I have previously said that I do not like Government redefining language by dictat – that is acting ultra vires in my opinion – but I do also like the Church supporting faithful loving commitment. Perhaps we need to accept that we live in an imperfect and broken world, and do what we can to work for the reconciliation between person and person and between people and God, which is why we call this Friday Good.

Have a listen to this: "The wonder of the Cross". I think it’s up there with “When I survey” and “There is a green hill”.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A rainbow world

In May 2004 we travelled with our great friends Anthony and Ruth to Florence, staying in the Hotel Berchielli near the Ponte Vecchio. Jane's and my bedroom, I remember looked down on this quiet square, Piazza del Limbo, with the 11th century Santi Apostoli church opposite. That was the first time that I appreciated the relief and the hazards of wheelchair travel. It was an unforgettable four days. Among the sights in one of the large piazzas there was a peace vigil - it was a year after the invasion of Iraq with all the messy mopping up. The vigil was largely young people and students. They were selling peace ('PACE') flags, and so I bought one as my souvenir of Florence, not as beautiful as Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence sextet, but there we go. I still have it.

I remember my family asking me when I proudly showed it them, "Do you know what it means, Dad?" So I told them it was an Italian peace flag and I'd got it from a vigil in Florence. They told me it also was the symbol of the lesbian and gay movement. (In fact I have now discovered that they were wrong for reasons I'll explain.) However at that time I was - I was going to say ambivalent about homosexuality, but that's too kind to myself - I was anti-gay. ("Love the sinner; hate the sin" - that sort of thing.) I put my peace flag away in a drawer. Readers of my blog will know that comparatively recently I have repented of my ignorant arrogance, as a result of encounters, study and reflection - see here, and here, and here. I've concluded that normally sexual orientation is not a lifestyle choice but an innate gift.

I was reminded of my flag with the great celebration in the media of the introduction of equal marriage at midnight on Friday. I was very glad when Archbishop Justin Welby went on record saying, "I think the church has reacted by fully accepting that it's the law, and should react on Saturday by continuing to demonstrate in word and action, the love of Christ for every human being." Strangely, for such a moderate statement, it will no doubt have exposed him to a good deal of hate mail and brickbats, probably from all sides. Nonetheless as The Guardian commented it did represent a shift in tone, rather as Pope Francis's "Who am I to judge?" answer did. I was surprised to read about the reaction to the American charity, World Vision's decision to open employment to people in a same-sex marriage. As one blog put it, the gates of the social media were stormed by people arguing for what they felt was the truth. "Additionally, and almost unbelievably, many chose to withdraw their child sponsorships in order to send a loud, clanging-symbol  of a message to World Vision." I suppose it was not surprising, albeit shameful, when World Vision quickly reversed its decision. A friend of mine was on the receiving end of very nasty trolling when she commented, "Someday the Church will look back on the fight over same-sex relationships with same incredulity & shame as with slavery & women’s suffrage." However, I hope she is proved right - in the not too far distant future.

Meanwhile I am looking forward to joining with lesbian friends of ours who are marrying on Friday. We feel very privileged to have been invited and are looking forward to congratulating them - and I shall be praying that God will bless them as they will have made their lifelong marriage vows to each other. Every such lifelong commitment needs every blessing, I reckon.

The LGBT flag has, you'll notice, the red stripe on top and the purple at the bottom and has the turquoise missing. The stripes represent (starting at the top): life, healing, sunlight, nature, serenity/harmony, spirit.

As I sit in my chair, I still value the rainbow as the reminder of God being utterly faithful and loving us too much ever destroy the world, despite all our attempts. It reminds me of the eternal love that is at the heart of existence. It reminds me that even I am loved by the creator of everything. Hard to credit, but apparently true. "His steadfast love - for everyone - endures for ever."

PS The reason I have been quite vocal on the issue is the harshness of the criticism heaped on LGBT people, often sadly by followers of Jesus who had nothing to say on the subject but was very explicit on judging: "Judge not, that you be not judged." This is my way of saying I'm sorry.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

"Silk" on assisted dying

Last night I watched Monday's episode of BBC1's Silk. I much enjoy this series with its combination of courtroom and human drama. The two rival/colleague QCs are Martha Costello and Clive Reader; the machiavellian head clerk of chambers is Billy Lamb (who has prostrate cancer). This last episode was based on the "contentious" theme of assisted suicide. I thought it was well done with the exception of the rather cartoon portrayal of the Catholic counsellor. It was a bit too easy in my view to make the family involved Catholics.

Maxine Peake and Rupert Penry-Jones
The case centred on seventeen-year old, Jo, who had been injured and left tetraplegic in a car crash. She is killed by a lethal combination of her drugs, accelerated with whisky. Her mother is in court for her murder, having rung the police just after the event and confessed. Clive Reader prosecutes for the Crown; Martha Costello defends. In court, Reader gives a fair account of the arguments against euthanasia, primarily to protect the vulnerable (the disabled, the elderly, the painfully ill). Costello's defence is to argue that Sheila the mother was acting at her daughter's request. Naturally the emotional weight was on her side. That is the role that Maxine Peake (Costello) is consistently given - the humane face of the law. She's the one who tugs at the heart strings, as well as having a razor sharp brain. And it's the easy side of the argument. The arguments against seem hard-headed and cold by comparison.

Until, that is, one hears the real news from Belgium that its parliament has approved voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill children of any age - with parental consent and after counselling. I have recently read this comment: "We all know about very ill children and adults who have had to endure extreme weakness,  debilitation and are nearing the end of their lives, for whom there are no quick and easy answers. Should ending their life be an option? There are some who think so, and continue to campaign for 'death with dignity' whilst dismissing... concern about 'a slippery slope' to full-blown euthanasia. It is only 12 years since Belgium legalised euthanasia for adults. They know that British society is not ready to legalise euthanasia - so they are adopting a 'softly softly' approach, starting with 'assisted dying' for terminally ill patients able to make a reasoned decision" (Lyndon Bowring). It won't be long before we hear about Margot McDonald and Lord Falconer promoting bills for just that in the Scottish and Westminster parliaments respectively.

Silk's resolution to the legal conundrum was rather neat. In my view it was a vindication of the validity of the law as it stands. Had the mother been responsible for her daughter's death with nothing but her own word that it was her daughter's wish, she could well have been found guilty of murder. As it transpired, she had not been involved; Jo's youngest brother had carried out the girl's instructions and his mother lies to protect him. And the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to take any further action. It illustrated what I call the justice and mercy of the present law. Justice demands that life should protected and that the taking of life should prevented. Mercy takes motive into account; hence the guidelines for prosecution allow for compassion as a mitigation. Ending someone's life must never be a matter of economics or convenience. The reaction of the two QCs to the case was one not of triumph or defeat but of emotional  wreckage. Nothing is more shocking than the taking of life, whatever the reason.

Friday, 21 February 2014

To my friends (part 2)

In Elgar's dramatic oratorio The Dream of Gerontius there's a magnificent setting of what we know as the hymn "Praise to the Holiest"In the middle there's a section where the phrase, "O generous love", is echoed by the different voices in counterpoint.

I've been haunted by that phrase since writing the blog post To my friends , because it seems to me that in the two words, generous love, there lies the key to understanding what makes for good love. Although I am writing from within the Christian tradition, I hope that, whether you are of one faith or of none, you'll read through to my conclusion, which if it's right applies universally!
"O generous love! that He who smote
 In man for man the foe,
 The double agony in man
 For man should undergo;

 And in the garden secretly,
 And on the cross on high,
 Should teach His brethren and inspire
 To suffer and to die."
John Henry Newman’s poem in which generous love appears is clearly speaking about the self-sacrificial love (agapé) of the cross. "God is crucified - my Friend died - in some way, for me" (Justin Welby in his preface to Graham Tomlin's Looking through the Cross). However it could as well be a test for all other kinds of love, including sexual love (eros). In the often misinterpreted discussion of marital relations, husbands are told, "Love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5.25).                              

Self-giving is the essence of every love. "Love one another as I have loved you." "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his love for his friends." "Love does not insist on its own way."

The Song of Solomon is the Bible's great love poem. It is a passionate dialogue in which the two lovers are totally absorbed in the other. "My beloved is mine, and I am his". "Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits." "Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me". "My dove, my perfect one, is the only one for me". The lovers seek only each other's good and pleasure. They are utterly uninterested in themselves, only their beloved. It's a high ideal of love. It's a world away from the contemporary cultivation of self-gratification, which is an inversion of love. That is, of course, self-love. 

No one is entirely free of self-love, especially in the realm of sexual relationship. It makes no difference; whether heterosexual or homosexual, there is a tendency to seek satisfaction for oneself. I'm reminded of James' vivid analysis of the causes of conflict and violence ("You desire and do not have, so you murder"). Rape is a perverted form of self-gratification which has no regard for the other. It is the extreme negation of love in what was intended as the ultimate expression of love.  Instead of being good, it is evil. Instead of being a creative act, it is a destructive one.

Creation in a sexual act is not confined to procreation. It is also the affirmation of the other as a person, imago Dei, in the image of God. It acknowledges their otherness. It asserts their beauty. As it used to say in the Marriage Service, it is an act of worship ("With my body I thee worship").

The test for everyone in a sexual relationship is, "Is your love generous?" In other words, at heart is it self-giving, not self-seeking? Is your desire not your own satisfaction, but the pleasure and satisfaction of the other? Do you surrender to your partner's wish, or do you insist on your own way?

And the ultimate test is, are you committed enough to give your life for the one you love? Will you stick with them whatever happens and whatever it costs until death separates you?

No one is entirely free of self-love. No one is perfect. However it seems to me that the nature of the love at the heart of our relationships, its generosity, is more important than the nature of our sexual orientation. Generous love is not a temporary madness; it is the greatest of divine gifts.

Monday, 17 February 2014

To my friends (part 1)

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;   
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.                                                         
              Isaac Watts

This blog is very much my own reactions to things going on in my life, or in the news, or sometimes both. This post is particularly so. It’s written in the light of good friends who have been severely wounded, both themselves and their children. It’s written after news reportage of the Church of England’s House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, published somewhat ironically on St Valentine’s Day, and after discussion of it on the Sunday Programme on Radio 4.

What follows is not a criticism of the archbishops whose names are appended to the guidance and both of whom I greatly admire. I understand they have an impossible course to follow, and I understand that the guidance is a holding position while the two years’ consultation of November’s “Pilling Report” on Human Sexuality takes place. And I understand the dilemma the bishops found themselves in between the Church’s “official” teaching on the subject and the more “progressive” approach of the Pilling group.

Neither is this a theological essay. I’m not the theologian of my family! I suppose it’s no profounder than a personal cry of the heart. What follows is, I hope, self-explanatory.

Dear Emma and Angela

It was really good to meet you on Friday. Of course Father Dom had told me a bit about you and what you were wanting. What he told me was clearly true. You are a remarkable pair. And in the few years of your relationship your love has withstood what many don’t experience in a lifetime. I think it was you, Ange, who said you’d tried to find something bad in your love, like something that leaves a bad taste in your mouth, or like tasting salt when you’ve asked for sugar in your coffee, in what you have. And you couldn’t find it.

You asked what Jesus would have thought of you two. That’s a very good question, but probably an impossible one, because time-travelling that perfect, utterly loving Lord into the present is beyond us. I don’t think he would have refused to welcome you, that’s for sure. However let me approach it differently. I was listening to Kathryn Scott’s beautiful version of Isaac Watts’ When I survey the wondrous cross, the greatest of all hymns, this morning – beautiful! I was struck by how wonderfully and impossibly aspirational it was, like so much of the best worship. (Charles Wesley reportedly said he would give up all his other hymns to have written this one.) Watts intended it be sung during communion. It is a highly devotional response to the sacrificial love of Christ.

I noticed phrases such as “my richest gain I count but loss”, “all the vain things that charm me most/I sacrifice them to His blood” and “demands my soul, my life, my all”. They were, I reflected, in the same vein and as radical as the demands that Jesus made to his contemporaries, about leaving, or selling, everything, about living like the birds, not worrying about the future, about observing every scintilla of the law, about absolute faithfulness to one’s spouse, about hating the members of one’s family, about taking up one’s cross daily and following him. We comfort ourselves with the assurance that they are poetic or Hebrew expressions, and that they must be taken in their context. That may well be true, but the fact is that most of us muddle through as best we may.

Sometimes, it seems to me, the Holy Spirit and the Word (i.e. Jesus’ words) come together and speak to a person in a specific way. For example, St Francis hears the call to abandon his life of luxury and takes to the road with nothing. Many others have heard a similar call. However it is a personal call. It’s not a demand made by an institution. In fact on the whole such personal calls are an embarrassment to hierarchies, whether of church or state. When the institutional Church starts to make the demands which only Christ who knows our hearts can make, it oversteps its competence. Forgive me if my history is ill-founded, but when the Church used its power to instigate the Crusades as a Christian duty it got it wrong.

There have been times in history when, for example, the Church allowed marriage for its presbyters, others when it demanded celibacy, and now in this country we have two patterns of priestly ministry. I’m married; Father Dom may not marry. In the Church of England divorcés were once barred from ministry, but now are accepted without a qualm. Once, women were excluded from the priesthood; now the C of E is on the way to what was the original (in my view!) pattern of women in leadership. In the C of E there was a time not long ago when vicars were not allowed to conduct a wedding for people who had been divorced, only a blessing after a civil ceremony. Remember Charles and Camilla? There was even a time when living together before getting married was “living in sin”. Now the Church tolerates it and is just grateful when cohabiters decide to tie the knot.

It’s tough then that those who are naturally attracted to others of their own gender should be faced with such a hard line, as your Church and mine follow. Two days ago, the Bishops and Archbishops in my Church issued “pastoral guidelines” for clergy about same sex marriage. Clergy are reminded that under canon (Church) law they may not themselves marry someone of the same sex, although they may be in a civil partnership provided they remain celibate within it. When the Equal Marriage Act comes into effect in March, of course, under Statute Law they will not be allowed to conduct a marriage ceremony for a gay couple. They are reminded that they may not formally bless a couple after a civil partnership ceremony nor after a same-sex wedding, although a “more informal kind of prayer” is permissible.(Not that you need to know all that! It's just on my mind at the moment and it's partially relevant.) 

Understandable though this all is in light of the current unresolved controversy within the Church (based mainly around a handful of hotly debated proof texts in the Old and New Testament, which I know you have looked at carefully), to my gay friends it perpetuates a rigidly negative message – which unsurprisingly strikes them as homophobic, despite the repeated assurances of love with which the Pastoral Guidance is replete. I understand them feeling less loved, less accepted and positively excluded by the Church which claims to represent Jesus Christ on earth. I wonder if the mistake we are making as the institutional Church is to demand that members of the LGBT community make sacrifices, about which the rest of us devoutly sing but fail to demand of ourselves. It strikes me that Jesus alone has the prerogative of making demands on anyone. When he walked the earth, he called for different sacrifices from individual followers.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9.57ff) 

I can’t find it in myself to say that you must give each other up or sacrifice the comfort and love that you find in each other. I think that only the Lord Jesus could make such a demand, which he would do through His Spirit and through your consciences. Not me; not any church. However having talked to you, I have no doubt that that your love is genuine, as real as mine and my wife’s, and that your commitment to each other is “for better for worse” – you’ve proved that! – and that it’s lifelong. I can see that you nurture each other’s faith. You’re good for each other. I know you don't want to get married yet, but you want to make a formal commitment to each other and to God and you’d like to have the commitment publicly blessed. You didn’t choose your orientation. In fact I know it has been an agonizing struggle, especially for you, Angela. I believe your love is a good thing, a gift. It's generous; it's unselfish. I can’t refuse to ask God to bless it. Somehow we shall find a way.

God bless you and keep you.


PS Have you seen this moving video of the star Ellen Page speaking on Valentine’s Day? The tension and emotion as she speaks is visibly tangible, isn’t it? And she expresses her (and so many others’) pain and hope so well. I think everyone should watch it. Brave girl.

PS A very good explanation of why the guidance hurts so badly is here: http://www.acceptingevangelicals.org/2014/02/bishops-ban-clergy-from-same-sex-marriage/#comment-3852

Saturday, 25 January 2014

A rather good meeting

Prof Kevin Talbot
This afternoon we went to our local MNDA meeting. It was in the Peartree Holiday Inn - and there were a lot of us there. The main meat of the afternoon was feedback from Professor Kevin Talbot, the boss of Oxford's MND Centre about the research going on there. As usual he was very clear for us lay folk about very technical matters. The thing that made me most sit up was the fact that now he is involved with the three largest pharmaceutical companies. As I understand it this is because he feels research has now reached the stage where the drug companies' vast libraries of experimental drugs might usefully be tried on MND-affected stem-cells. Members of his team are now producing sufficient of the latter to try "treating" them, the cells. He told us that, though he believed a cure would be found one day, there was a long way to go yet and it was impossible to predict.

Something else he told us was that the specialist nurse who runs the clinic, Rachel Marsden, and the specialist OT, Jenny Rolfe, the country's expert on wheelchairs for neurological patients, have been appointed to NICE's (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) advisory panel on MND. I reflected again on how blessed I am to have this Care Centre monitoring my condition.
Jenny Rolfe
Jenny herself reported on the International MND Symposium of last December, which happened in Milan. She concentrated on the care side, such as improving non-invasive ventilation, the evidence of the pros and cons of different direct feeding methods, the devising of an optimum powered wheelchair for people with MND - the Neuro Powered Wheelchair. Judging from my experience there can be no one better than Jenny to know exactly what's needed. One thing she mentioned - which clearly appealed to a lot of others - was the Cuddle Chair, a riser-recliner sofa, designed so that the MND person could have two armrests, essential for standing up, but also can sit with someone, rather than always in isolation. I looked it up on the internet when I got home (Wealden Rehab Kent); ominously there's no price. But it would be nice....

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

MND - what's your dream?

Following on from my last post, Bo Stern whose husband, Steve, is a long way down the journey of ALS/MND writes an inspirational blog, The Difference of Day and book Beautiful Battlefields, both crafted in the crucible of her own experience. Yesterday, Martin Luther King Jr Day, she posted this. I love that last paragraph: "I guess, I am not wishing you a quick way out of your battle: but I am believing for you and for me, that every square inch of our battleground will be redeemed. And on that ground, beauty will grow, wild and free."

"It’s been a tough couple of weeks on the ALS frontlines, and last night was especially hard, filled with breathing mask difficulties and some scary choking episodes into the wee hours. I’m sure every serious illness comes with problems for which there are no solutions, but ALS seems to specialize in them. 

I often feel helpless and useless, sitting beside Steve while he chokes and tries to find his way back to regular breathing (and then apologizes for keeping me awake). This morning, my facebook newsfeed is filled with tributes to another friend, lost to this battle. We are expecting to say farewell to several more within the next few weeks. And sometimes it seems we’re no closer to finding a cure than we are to achieving Lou Gehrig’s batting average (.343!)

But today I am home from work because it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. day. And, though I know we still have far to go in achieving true racial reconciliation and equality, I wonder if, in his lifetime, he could ever have imagined that his name would be attached to a national holiday. As he fought on the front lines of racism and segregation, how could he have known how significantly he would help to alter the course of history? He just did the work. And he believed. And I’m guessing sometimes it felt like he was believing his way through quicksand, because he said this: 
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” MLK 

I am working at believing. Believing for a day when breakthroughs will come. When science will crack the mysterious code that keeps so many suffering. I am believing that, even if there’s never a national holiday to celebrate the eradication of this relentlessly brutal disease, that my grandchildren and great grandchildren will gather for dinner somewhere and the same time every year. And they will raise their glasses to their strong, valiant, soldier of a granddad…who never stopped fighting. 

I wonder: what are you believing for today? What seems impossible? I am wishing you the strength to stand in the trenches and the strategy to make inroads that generations will thank you for. I am wishing you life and joy and peace in the battle, though sometimes those things seem impossibly incongruent. I am wishing you the bravery of Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart and Malala Youfsazai. Because we all have a story and we all have a storm. May we have the faith to believe with Martin Luther King, Jr., that “unearned suffering is redemptive.” 

So, I guess, I am not wishing you a quick way out of your battle: but I am believing for you and for me, that every square inch of our battleground will be redeemed. And on that ground, beauty will grow, wild and free. 

Let Freedom Ring,