It is Good For Us to Be Here
Episode 3 – February 11, 2018
Killer Queens – “I Want to Be Free” (Queen Cover)
Wool & Howl – “Shining Through”
Reading No. 1
Mark 9:2-9 Jesus Transfigures in front of his Disciples
Read by Norm Seli from Ajax, Ontario
Norm is the minister at Jubilee United Church in Toronto.
Reading No. 2
“I Whisper” from by poet Star Blossom Goddess
Star Blossom Goddess has an offer for listeners of the Living Presence Podcast. SBG is an angel card reader, and she is offering a reading to people for $35 (normally it is $95). If interested, you can be in touch with her through the HelloPoetry.com website.
Love for the World
Part of each episode of the Living Presence Podcast will feature a section where we lift up people and places who can use our alliance, our attention and some hope. (If you are from a United Church, this would be similar to “Prayers of the People” or “Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession”).
The idea and our hope are that listeners from all over can send in the people and places they would like to bring to our attention, and I would love it if YOU would consider sending something in to be aired. You can either a) record something with the voice recorder app on your phone and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org OR b) call 289-903-0019 and leave a voicemail OR c) Leave a written comment and I will read it on the air.
THIS WEEK WE LIFT UP:
- People who are grieving loss
- Those affected by sexual violence, sexism, etc.
- Those who are survivors of suicide
- The people of East Gwillimbury
- The family and friends of those in Toronto’s Gay Village who are saddened by the murders of 5 (and probably more) men from their community
- Mark Guevarra who was fired by the Archdiocese of Edmonton last week
So far, this podcast has followed the Revised Common Lectionary, which is a three year cycle of scheduled readings. One of the challenges that comes with following the lectionary is that it jumps around a lot. Last week we were with Jesus and his disciples in a synagogue, casting out an impure spirit – his first public act of ministry. Today we’ve skipped ahead, and are right smack in the middle of Mark’s story.
So Jesus brings Peter, James and John up the mountain with him. Jesus is transfigured…which is really such a Christianese kinda word. We can also just as easily say he was transformed before them. White clothes. All shiny. Moses and Elijah show up – Law and Prophet. Past and future. Although Mark wasn’t specifically writing to Jews, most of his community would have understood the immense significance of Moses and Elijah showing up for the party.
I love the honesty of the disciples response – particularly Peter’s. They were terrified. Seems completely reasonable. And like other people I know who have trouble with big feelings and uncertainty, the only response Peter comes up with is to do something…or in this case, to build something.
My husband and I were laughing with each other about this passage earlier this week because it reminded us of an evening exactly six years ago, where everything went crazy, and the thing that helped him to keep it together was something concrete…something practical…to do, on the night I went into labour with my first son.
Now, I love birth stories. Seriously. If anybody knows of a podcast out there where families share how their little people entered the world, I would listen to that every week. So, if anybody wants to tell me their birth story, feel free to send it along. I will read it gladly.
My own strategy for dealing with chaos and uncertainty is to create for myself the illusion of control. So I plan. And let me tell you, I planned the crap out of my first labour. Homebirth. Midwives. I knew what I wanted to eat. What I wanted to drink. Scented candles. Two separate music playlists – calm ambient music for the first stage, and then a playlist of superhero theme songs for when it was time to push. It was my dream that Son #1 would enter the world accompanied by the John Williams Superman theme.
Dun dun dun dun duuuun…
One of the central points for our labour plan was a birthing pool set up in our living room. I’d watched approximately 500 hundred hours of water birth videos on YouTube and was convinced the warm water was going to help me through the pain. And it did. Anytime the midwives asked me to leave the pool I wanted to swear at them. Actually, I probably did swear, but midwives let you get away with that kind of stuff when you’re going through transition.
But in order to have a water birth, you need to have water. And that…that was my husband’s job. To get hot water from the tap into the pool. We bought a hose. It was a pretty long hose. It was also a pretty long way from our living room to the plumping. A few days before I went into labour I asked my husband, “Do you think you should check to make sure the hose is long enough?”
“It’s fine. It’ll be fine. It’s totally fine.”
And I was content with that. If he was sure it would be okay, I could be sure it would be okay. I just had to worry about the baby part.
And then I felt my labour starting. I puttered around downstairs for a bit of the early part.
Coconut water. Check.
Pool inflated. Check.
My husband came downstairs and I confirmed our baby was going to arrive that night.
He said he was ready, but looked more like Kermit the Frog in the Muppet Show…hands waving frantically in the air. Because it’s scary. I think it must be so frightening for pregnant women’s partners to watch their loved ones in pain and there with there being very little they can do to make it any better.
But my husband’s job was the water. He unpackaged the hose. Hooked it up to the faucet. Brought the hose into the living room…
Except it didn’t reach. The hose didn’t reach the pool.
My husband looked at me panicked but pulled himself together before assuring me…
“It’s fine. It’s going to be fine. I can still fill this pool.”
I suspect the look of on face at this point was something like, “Dude – you had one job!”
He looked through the kitchen and found our canning pot, purchased when I thought I’d have all kinds of time to do canning while I was home from work and looking after a baby. Clearly, I was delusional. To this day this pot has been used exactly three times: twice to fill a birthing pool, once to boil corn.
So as we waited for the midwives, and my contractions became more and more intense, my husband focused on filling the pot and emptying the pot, filling the pot and emptying the pot. And when the hot water tank was depleted, he literally started boiling water to help this birth along.
The more intense and uncertain the night became…the more my husband clung onto his job. In one sense, it was a good thing that the hose didn’t reach because having a concrete and specific task kept him focused. At one point our midwife suggested the water in the pool was getting a bit too cool. Before she even finished the sentence my husband was up and back in the kitchen. “Perfect. I can DO that!” I don’t think the water was actually getting too cold – our midwife was just trying to help him out. Having something to do kept him steady. It kept him from becoming completely overwhelmed. And it gave him a specific role in the narrative of how our son came into the world. And I wonder if Peter was feeling a similar thing.
It is good for us to be here. If you’d like, I will make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Not only is Peter leaning towards doing while amidst all the intense feelings that must have come with the scene, he’s also trying to mark the spot…to mark this place, perhaps even his place. He wants to stay. He wants to stay in that spot. But this is Mark’s gospel, and Jesus doesn’t stick around any place too long in this version of His story. Jesus doesn’t even answer Peter. He doesn’t say anything until after the voice of God proclaims Jesus as his son.
Don’t be afraid. Get up. We gotta go. Our ministry, our mission is down there, with the people. It’s not up here. We have to go back. There is still much work to be done, and much for you to learn…before I am no longer with you. Because again, this passage is a turning point. Things are about to get hard. And perhaps it is only the visceral understanding of Jesus’ true identity that will get his friends through the coming tragedy.
Today, the day I’m recording this reflection, my family celebrated our son’s 6th birthday. I think one of the reasons I love birth stories so much is because they mark a very sacred space and time. It’s important to mark the special moments. The birthday parties. The Holiday dinners. But we can’t stay there. We can’t linger. Because the real work isn’t the big stuff – it’s the day to day grind. My husband and I mark that day with this story. But the real work started after the midwives left. The round the clock nursing. The sudden development of seemingly never ending anxiety about another human’s well being. The first trip to the Emergency Room. The moment when I realized I’d been wearing a shirt soaked in pee all day, but I didn’t even care because of all the bodily fluids I dealt with on a daily basis, urine was nothing. New smiles. Poonamis. Teething. Am I holding him too much? Am I not holding him enough? Learning to say Mama. Learning to say “I don’t like you, Mama.” Adjusting to a new brother. Hot dogs and Kraft dinner for supper because Mama’s too tired to make anything else. Rushing off to swimming classes. Snuggling together on the couch after a long, sad day.
Parenting is hard…it’s big, uncertain, chaotic…and sometimes frightening work. It’s not usually glamourous or exciting. But it’s important. And it’s vital. And we gotta be there to do it…down in the trenches. It’s important to mark the milestones, but it’s even more important to live into the necessity of being present to the needs of those who depend on us…to recognize the light shining in the valleys, and not only on the mountaintops. We cannot stay there. It’s time to go…
Here’s a photo of Son #1 and me, a couple of hours after he was born.
FEATURED IMAGE BY
unsplash-logoPeter John Maridable
The Living Presence Ministry is a community ministry of the United Church of Canada