How heavy is that stone?

We’ve all been in the crowd at some time, or will be. Fingering the rough edges of the stone, anticipating the moment to throw, perhaps even calculating how hard, and where. As time goes on, the weight of it can grow until it takes all our strength and focus to simply hold on. Even if we may know, though we will not always admit it to ourselves, we could be the one on the ground.

Weeping in the dust.

Guilty.

When teachers of religious law and the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus into saying something they could convict him for, they dragged in a women caught in bed with a man who wasn’t her husband, an act punishable by death by stoning.

(They only brought the woman to be judged by Jesus. Where was the man? Was he paid to seduce her, to entrap her?)

The religious leaders presented their case against her and waited, most likely sharing smug smiles. They’d get him on this one, trick him up with all his love talk.

The crowd grew, more ready stones.

Nothing like a righteous stoning to make one feel superior.

The Pharisees struck a pose and probed, pushed for an answer.

But Jesus stooped and wrote in the sand, like a kid at the beach.

Did he reveal secrets? Simply bide his time? Take that time for prayer?

Everyone waited.

Especially the partially clad, totally disgraced, obviously guilty woman sobbing at his feet.

Then Jesus stood. Who did he make eye contact with? The ringleader from the Temple who’d voiced the question? The man in the crowd with the biggest stone? The gray-bearded one who’d seen it all, perhaps done it all?

“Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Silence.

Even the sobbing hushed, waiting for the first thud against her defiled body. The beginning of the painful end.

Nothing.

One by one, eldest to the youngest, hands unclenched.

Stones dropped to the sand, an irregular rhythm of acknowledgement, if not repentance, of sin, of falling short of who they were created to be, how they were created to love.

When they were alone, I imagine he raised her chin as he asked, “Where are your accusers? Doesn’t even one condemn you?”

She croaked, “No, Lord.”

And he released her, admonishing her to go and sin no more.

He gave her another chance. A new start. A new life.

What about the others?

Did the man who’d hated his brother for cheating him out of his inheritance go and re-establish a relationship?

Did the young man who’d been secretly cheating on his wife vow to concentrate on honoring and caring for the one he had pledged to love?

For the son whose father had always been away, or distant, was his heart softened, enabling him to reach that now empty hand to his father’s aging one?

What about the man whose wife had left him for another, then found that greener pasture not what she had expected? Did he let the stone fall from his heart and embrace her after all this time?

And you?

Right now, where are you in this scene?

Do you find yourself weeping in the dust?

Ps 51 1 3 6 on Cloud Forest-Ecuador

Ps 51 10_12 sail

Ps 51 16_17 Bahama beach

Or are you carrying a heavy stone? You are right, but is the weight sapping your strength, every day calling your heart to more hardness, your ears rarely hearing his voice?

Eph 2 7-8 Lighthouse, Bahamas

I Cor 13 3-8 MSG

Compassion for those suffering the shadow land of dementia, and for those who love them

The other side of the true religion equation is caring for widows. In the months leading to my widowed mother’s death last July she longed to be free of her dementia ravaged brain and the bizarre world she crept through each day. When she died, I thought I’d feel peace, for the end to her torture, and for me, relieved of the day and night weight of trying to ease her pain, brighten her life, lift her load, with rare success.

Mom and a great-granddaughterInstead, I miss her wacky presence. I miss having a Mom, even if I’d been the one mothering her for years. Instead of taking care of a widow, I am an orphan.

And I have become extremely sensitive to the multigenerational relationships around me.

I notice the middle-aged woman easing her father out of her car to the wheel chair—often a great challenge in itself—and chatting with him about what he “needs” to buy in the grocery store. I want to hug her and encourage her to keep on.

I also see the daughter or son impatient with their confused or fumbling parent in the doctor’s office. I want to intervene and say:

I know the days are long —

Often the nights as well, if you have your loved one at home, or just can’t sleep because they are on your heart and mind.

I know they can be exasperating, exhausting, argumentative and unappreciative.

I know sometimes you are so bone tired you don’t know how much longer you can do this.

At times you don’t even want to see your “loved one.” And you feel guilty. Somewhere you know, probably unprocessed, they are not your enemy. It is the ravages of dementia you both battle.

And in the midst of it all, you are grieving.

All the little losses of who they used to be, or say, or do, or love

As they lose abilities and you take on more responsibilities, you know this is slow.motion.dying.

It rips you up inside.

My humble advice:

Let go of who they were.

If there is anything at all that they enjoy or respond to now, go for it, in spades.

If I had a do-over I’d give my mother more baths, more back rubs and loads of ice cream, because that’s what really brought a smile to her face, until near the end.

If your once unsmiling, go-by-the-rules mother is all of the sudden giggling at all the wrong moments, giggle with her.

It hurts to see your once proud, successful father muttering in a wheelchair or wearing diapers, but he still needs a kiss on that wrinkled cheek. He needs you, not just folks paid to care for his needs.

If she wants to dance in church, go early and dance with her.

Don’t worry so much about their falling down or getting lost. This is strange coming from one who used to teach American Red Cross classes to seniors about safety, but at this point in their lives, I believe connecting is more important than safety.

Seek every opportunity to relate to whomever you have before you, today.

I believe that even with those who seem to be disconnected, deep inside, your loved one is still there waiting for you to reach in when they can’t reach out.

Waiting to feel loved.

Needing so much the security that only connection with you can give them in the nightmare inside their head.

Find music from their childhood or youth and play or sing it. Sometimes a song can “wake” a person who hasn’t responded in months. I sang in a nursing home to a semicircle of wheel-chaired patients, one in the back slumped over, oblivious. When we started singing an old gospel chorus, she sat up in her chair and clearly sang every word with us. We learned later she hadn’t talked or responded to anyone in months.

Several years ago my sister told me about the book Still Alice. I read it in a wash of tears, and it changed how I looked at behaviors that once confused or irritated me with our Mom. (I’ve heard the movie is also good. If you go, take lots of tissues.)

Impatience turned into compassion.

So cry when grief hits your gut, then wipe your tears and dance, hug, rub backs, and sing.

And hold them and pray, out loud, because their spirit is still alive, hungry for eternal words when the words of this world no longer have value.

True religion leads to compassion

True religion leads to compassion

Compassion has a special call on my life, in particular “True religion is this that you care for the widow and the orphan.” I’ve spent the last decade caring for my widowed mother. Now that she is set free in heaven, I turn to the other concern . . the orphan, the one with little or no voice, and a lifetime of emptiness unless someone comes to offer a heart and a home.

Most of us have seen dramatic scenes of orphans in foreign countries, but the need is also very close to home.

Right now, there are over 100,000 children in foster care in the U.S. waiting for adoption. 100,000 children with no certainly or continuity of love in their lives.

Far too many of them will time out of the system when they turn 18, unprepared for life alone, set loose without a life foundation a family provides, untethered.

Little wonder so many end up in prison within ten years. Where else will they be for Christmas or Thanksgiving, while families gather all around them, behind closed doors?

While 100,000 sounds overwhelming, it becomes less so if we break it down by state and look at the resources.

Texas edges out California for the sad honor of the highest number of children at risk, 13,091 children. My state of Florida comes in fourth, after New York, with 5,127 children waiting for forever homes.

How can our compassion move such numbers?

Look at the second column in the data below, which represents the number of churches in each state. Texas has more than twice the number of churches as available orphans. If half of the churches in Texas practice true religion and one family adopts a child, with the congregation supporting them, the foster system would be empty, except for emergency, temporary placements.

And over 13,000 lives left out in the cold in Texas would begin to heal and grow toward the light.

In Florida, in less than one out of three churches one family could adopt a child, and empty the list of Florida’s foster children waiting for adoption.

Look at your state and calculate the odds. They aren’t insurmountable, are they?

State Children Waiting FY 2012* Churches*
Alabama 1,155 10,760
Alaska 786 1,050
Arizona 2,910 3,771
Arkansas 1,020 6,343
California 13,091 22,798
Colorado 916 3,813
Connecticut 1,385 2,909
Delaware 243 1,009
District of Columbia 303 825
Florida 5,127 16,805
Georgia 1,645 14,380
Hawaii 223 1,163
Idaho 278 1,776
Illinois 2,936 13,097
Indiana 2,318 9,204
Iowa 961 4,766
Kansas 1,853 4,615
Kentucky 1,999 6,859
Louisiana 1,088 7,983
Maine 480 1,539
Maryland 559 5,816
Massachusetts 2,468 4,039
Michigan 3,583 11,169
Minnesota 983 5,628
Mississippi 890 7,718
Missouri 2,065 8,973
Montana 403 1,518
Nebraska 904 2,595
Nevada 1,879 1,248
New Hampshire 182 1,033
New Jersey 2,226 6,713
New Mexico 836 1,796
New York 6,056 14,767
North Carolina 2,070 17,625
North Dakota 210 1,252
Ohio 2,655 14,657
Oklahoma 2,803 6,737
Oregon 2,062 3,646
Pennsylvania 1,924 15,539
Rhode Island 223 703
South Carolina 1,330 9,479
South Dakota 397 1,368
Tennessee 2,514 11,179
Texas 13,148 27,505
Utah 566 2,582
Vermont 226 692
Virginia 1,517 10,952
Washington 2,865 5,393
West Virginia 1,404 3,432
Wisconsin 1,129 6,045
Wyoming 107 803
Puerto Rico 818
Total 101,719 348,067

Now, I’m personally too old to adopt, and have health problems that would even preclude fostering right now, but my heart is there. I can support those who do, and I am doing so right now with my words.

If you cannot adopt, perhaps you can help provide funding to people or programs for those who wish to adopt. You can offer respite care to foster parents, or ongoing support for those who adopt or foster.

Several families close to my heart have responded to this call. Some have adopted internationally as well as domestically.

The one I know the best, adopted at five weeks, is now almost six years old. Since he is African-American and his parents are Caucasian, it is unlikely he can ignore the obvious, that he isn’t “just like” his brother and sister. He’s asking questions about where he came from. Last week he asked his mother, “If I didn’t come from your tummy like (his siblings), then is the other tummy my mommy, too?” The conversation ensued, gentle answers to his probing questions, the why’s and how’s of it all. After he heard that his birth mother had been too young, etc. to care for him and gave him up for his good, he reflected. “That must have been sad for her (his birth mother). I am glad that God made something happy from something sad.

Happy with life and the world
Happy with life and the world

That is the key of adoption.

It is sad when a woman is pregnant and cannot, or will not, keep her child. (But at least she loved him enough to give the child life.)

When we, with a heart of compassion, step up the plate and care for the one who needs us, we are God’s hands, making something happy from something sad.

Check out these sites for more information.
http://www.heartgalleryofamerica.org/
https://www.adoptivefamilies.com

On March 3-5, 1025, The Dropbox will air across the country. It’s an award-winning documentary on one man’s response to an orphan’s need, profoundly moving. You can watch the trailer here, and check out local theatres and buy tickets below. (I heard some cities are already sold out, so don’t wait until the last minute.)

http://www.fathomevents.com/event/the-drop-box/buy to buy tickets to The Drop Box.

Have you personally been touched by adoption, or are you contemplating opening your family heart to another?