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A Story That Reminds Me of Why I am a Quaker and not a Baptist

“Ready for Jesus”, says Jeanie.

Jeanie had gone to her father’s church and asked to be baptized. Though it was a Baptist Church, they were not too friendly to her regarding baptism. She had never been to church much before she got sick. The pastor wanted her to jump through a bunch of hoops to prove that she was worthy. The tumor was so fast growing that Jeanie did not have the time for this contrition.

Jeanie was admitted to the hospital within a few days. I called a friend who is a Chaplain. After some discussion of Jeanie and the circumstances, Chaplain Ladd agreed to meet me at the hospital and baptize Jeanie.

Shortly after Jeanie was admitted to the hospital, I bought her a big study Bible and started the process to have her baptized at the hospital. I had to get permission from the hospital and Jeanie’s attending physician. The hospital wanted to approve only a “sprinkle” baptism, performed at the hospital bed. Chaplain Ladd insisted that he could only follow his belief and practice with a total immersion baptism. After several phone calls and discussion, the hospital finally agreed. Jeanie was to be totally immersed in a hospital tub, while medical staff watched over her.

I visited Jeanie a few times before her emergency surgery. At the time, she, nor I, knew how sick she was. While visiting one day, Jeanie and I discussed religion. We discussed what being “saved”meant and the Christian plan for salvation. A nurse came in the room and started doing some work behind a privacy screen. I summed up saying that, “Being born again is like starting life all over again. It doesn’t matter what you have done in the past. You are a new person.”

The nurse came out from behind the screen sobbing. She had obviously heard our discussion and I was embarrassed. I know now that this nurse knew how sick Jeanie was and that her condition was hopeless.

I would not learn that Jeanie was dying till a few days after her surgery. Jeanie would not learn of her rapidly approaching death until a month later. I told her at a park, where I use to take my kids, while we had ice cream cones.

The next day after seeing the tearful nurse, I met Chaplain Ladd at Jeanie’s bedside. He discussed the ritual of baptism and salvation with Jeanie. We had a prayer of repentance.

When I approached the nursing staff about the scheduled baptism, there was initially some confusion. Apparently, the plan had not been shared with the staff. There were some phone calls and discussion. The staff had to find a place with an appropriate tub to use. They finally found one on a different ward, which was used by the physical therapy department. Two black nurse’s aids were assigned to help us out.

We dressed Jeanie in two generic hospital gowns. One was put on in the usual style and opened to the back. The other was put on to tie in the front, to insure some degree of privacy while we transversed the halls.

The tub room was cold in blue tile and steel handrails. Chaplain Ladd said the deep and old-fashioned tub was satisfactory. He filled the tub and checked periodically to make sure the temperature was just right as the two attendants stood holding Jeanie steady.

Chaplain Ladd got Jeanie in the tub. He instructed her to fold her arms across her chest. The two aids got ready with towels. He and Jeanie said a brief prayer. Chaplain Ladd recited a brief passage from the Bible and laid her back into the water.

Jeanie was immersed. As she rose up out of the water, the two black female workers broke out in the gospel song “Amazing Grace.” Chaplain Ladd and I joined in. We were all baptized with tears by the end of the verse.

At the time, I didn’t know how sick Jeanie was, nor that she would be left child-like and die so quickly.

Jeanie’s impairment became quite obvious after her surgery. She was confused and delusional. She thought she was in the hospital to deliver her baby. She was not pregnant. Sadly, she would never experience the act of giving birth. Most of us, her friends and family, thought this irrational thinking would clear up. Jeanie kept the delusion of having a baby for nine months, until her death.

After being released from the hospital, Jeanie did get a little better, but she never improved to have the functioning ability above a four-year-old child.

I cared for Jeanie fulltime while she steadily declined to death. There were many days of doing nothing except watching TV and eating meals. A few times Jeanie would ask me questions that were difficult for me to answer. Once in the middle of the night she asked me if she should try chemotherapy since the surgery and radiation therapy had failed. I told her that we could talk to her doctor about it in a few weeks at her next appointment. She replied by asking, “Will I be alive then?” I answered honestly, and with a lump in my throat, ” I don’t know.”

Other times we would play talk and act silly to one another. She would play word games like a child. One of the games we played was remembering people’s names and the meaning of words. One word Jeanie could not remember was sanctified. I reminded her of being baptized quite frequently and explained what that meant. She could not understand. I would usually end up explaining and then sum up by saying, “It means you are ready for Jesus.” Jeanie would repeat this several times in an excited child-like manner and it seemed to make her happy.

Just saying and repeating “ready for Jesus” seemed to bring her some peace and comfort.

Jeanie steadily declined in health and functioning. Just months before, she had been a witty, beautiful, and athletic woman. By the time she went to a nursing home, just shortly before her death, she had the mind of a child and the body of a ninety-year-old woman. Her face was round and distorted, her bones brittle, and her muscles wasted away. I remember her once looking in the mirror and crying about her appearance. These periods of despair were sparse and she was always the type to pick her spirits up and go on.

Jeanie’s memorial services were on April 1, 2003, April Fools’ Day. She was cremated at her request. Knowing Jeanie’s personality, I am sure she has had a laugh over the date of her services. She had the most distinct laugh. It was loud, vibrant, and bawdy. I can still hear it deep in my head.

Every now and then I pause and think about Jeanie and her death. If the moment is quiet and I still my soul, I can still her say “ready for Jesus”, and it brings me comfort too.

Impressions of my first Quaker Meeting One Year Ago

Visiting a Quaker Meeting for the First Time

 
I went to a Quaker Meeting today.   This is my second entrance into a place of worship since I quit my boycott of churches last week. My boycott had lasted almost ten years following the death of my girlfriend.
 
This was my first meeting. I went to the Valley Mills Friends Meeting House on the southwest side of Indianapolis. It is a very simple building and does not have much of a sign out front. It does not look like a church. There are no stained glass windows or crosses. It is a simple white building with a more modern addition to the side.
 
I entered the building and went to the fellowship hall. There were about one dozen persons there. Almost everyone seemed to be 70 years old or older. Everyone was White.   There seemed to be more women than men.  I introduced myself and everyone was very friendly.  What impressed me initially was how smart these people seemed to be.
 
I had just enough time for a sip of coffee and we were called to the worship hall. I was told after the service that this building was made in 1856.  It was a plain room with old fashion pews. If the room was packed, it would only hold about 200.  It appeared to be about to comfortablely hold a hundred or less.  There was a podium with a lectern. There was a hand hewed floor of dark wood.   All of the wood work was stained or was naturally dark.  The walls and ceilings were off colors of white.
 
There were two concessions to comfort.  One was a simple two inch think red cloth  colored pad and three ceiling fans.  There was no air conditioning and this part of Indiana was in the middle of an unprecedented drought and heat wave.  It had stormed hard last night which done little to lower the temperature, but raised the humidity and discomfort level a lot.
 
At the beginning of the service, a lady came over and told me I could  move to the center and I would be cooler due to being directly under the ceiling fans.  I declined.  It took about fifteen minutes for me to start cooking and I then understood the wisdom of her offer.
 
The service had three songs, an offering, a short sermon, and a three to four short periods of silence for about five or so minutes.  A few of the members were moved to speak and give a short testimony.
 
I must say, that this service was a very enjoyable experience [except for the heat]. I should say I was the only one dressed in a black shirt and gray slacks. everyone else was dressed in a normal fashion in colors of the rainbow. The lone young twentysomething male [the preacher’s kid] was dressed in shorts.
 
I was invited back and was told I would probably enjoy the study discussions which begin after Labor Day.
 
I plan to go back.  I seek the comfort there and want to be of service where I can.
 
I liked it very much at the Valley Mills Friends Meeting in Indianapolis.

Why Do I Like Quaker Universalism {QU}?

ImageQU and the Light

I was recently at the library researching a bit on the Quakers, the Holy Spirit, and contemplative prayer.  My table is full with stacks of books.  Most I have rejected for one thing or another.

 

I settled on seven books of modest size. Four are on Quakerism, one is on Pentecostalism, one is on Contemplative Prayer, and one is on an International Perspective on the Holy Spirit.

 

I have a thirst, a hunger to learn as much about Quakerism as I can.  As quick as I can. There are several reasons for this.  First is that this belief system values everything which I value and it is as if this faith was written for me from my deep beliefs.  Second, the belief system is  one of darma in that there is a consistency of belief and outward behavior.  Third I am drawn by the universality of the inward light which shines on each individual’s path to God, if only one can be quiet and look. And finally,  the fourth reason is its emphasis on love and peace.

23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry in 2013

Great

Flavorwire

It isn’t far-fetched to say that Patricia Lockwood’s poem “Rape Joke,” which was published at The Awl this week, was the best thing most people read on the Internet, and quite possibly the brightest moment for poetry, this entire year. Very rarely in this day and age do you see people discussing and sharing a poem the way the Internet has with “Rape Joke,” and the sheer number of times this harrowing work has been shared (23,710 times as of this writing, on Facebook alone) lays to waste the ignorant claim that poetry is dead. While Lockwood, who is the author of the poetry collection Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, might be the most talked about poet right now, she certainly isn’t the only person keeping poetry relevant in 2013. Here are some more names to know.

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The Legend of Lilith

This is a re-post of an article on the Legend of Lilith.  What does this say about our attitudes toward the magic of women?

The Biblical Myth of Demon Lilith

How the True First Woman to be Created by God Escaped the Fall

Tweet   May 21, 2008Steve Williamsholy roots – morguefile

Examining what the myth of the first woman in Creation can teach us about attitudes toward women at the time and how it may demonstrate that feminism has biblical roots.

Reaching beyond the bible to examine the rich array of biblical myths and legends that have largely been forgotten today, we examine the story that delves long before Eve’s existence and how “girl-power” got the true first woman God created expelled from Eden.

Many books have talked about the various attachments of biblical myths that have originated from Jewish Mysticism, including works by renowned scholars such as Robert Graves and Raphael Patai. Few are as compelling as the first woman to be Adam’s bride, the legendary story of Lilith.

Who Was the Demon Lilith?
It is said that when God created Adam he did not have in mind to also form a “help-meet” – a lover – for his creation, however, after Adam implored Him to do so, God, full of compassion for the human, acquiesced.

“God then formed Lilith, the first woman, just as He had formed Adam, except that He used filth and sediment instead of pure dust.” (Excerpt from The Hebrew Myths by Robert Graves and Raphael Patai (New York: Doubleday, 1964), pp 65-69.)

Why Did Lilith Leave the Garden?
Adam was originally pleased with his lover, but Lilith was less impressed by her mate. The tale goes that she refused to lay down for Adam and be the submissive partner, saying that she was also created from Dust and therefore was Adam’s equal. She called upon the magical name of God and rose into the air, flying from the Garden of Eden.

The Immortal Lilith Lives On
She was spared the curse of Death having flown from the Garden long before the Fall, and could not be compelled by God’s angels to return to the Garden. She gave birth to legion after legion of demons and prayed on boys up to the age of eight days (the time at which a boy should be circumcised) and girls up until the twentieth day.

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 Lilith’s story does not end there. She reportedly was the one to kill Job’s sons and ruled, for a time, in Sheba. Her origins are murky and likely a melding of several old Hebrew myths, but there are several instances in the bible itself where her name appears:

“Lilith dwells among the desolate ruins in the Edomite Desert.” Isaiah xxxiv. I4-I5

What Can The Reader Take From the Lilith Myth?
What is fascinating about the Lilith tale is that God did not compel her through holy power to return to the Garden. In fact, if Lilith new the special name of God it would appear, according to Jewish Mysticism, that she at least had some kind of power to sway God’s own, for it was common practice to believe that, by knowing the true name of any divinity, be they demon or deity, that you could command their sway. That is not to say that she had power over God, but rather a power that at least bought her protection from God’s destruction at that time.

Moreover, the eventual creation of Eve was done from a rib of Adam (or a vestigial tail, depending on which myth one believes), making Eve a creature derived from man and twice removed from God.

In short, this establishes the male supremacy and hierarchy of many heavily religious communities of the time and, when that fact is pared with the myth of Lilith, the entire story becomes a fascinating commentary on how religious texts reflect societal values of the period, especially in this case, and with reference to the attitudes of that society towards women.Image