First of all, I want to thank everyone for the really great comments on my last entry. What a great bunch of people!!
I've had a little time to think about some things during the last week. But there is something that is a little more heavy on my heart these last couple of days, though, so the "order of church things" has had to take a back seat.
We are watching my father-in-law die.
He hasn't been well for a few years, now, but things took a drastic turn for the worst Monday morning.
We saw him Thanksgiving, and he was doing relatively ok, all things considered. He's had most of one lung removed due to cancer (which is due to him smoking for a large part of his adult life). But earlier this year, his blood counts started dropping, and shortly before Thanksgiving, he got an infection that wouldn't go away.
Early Monday morning, he got up to go to the bathroom, and didn't have the strength to get back to bed. His wife finally took him to the ER, and they admitted him to the hospital, where they found that he has virtually no immune system left. Practically no white blood cells, and they were giving him transfusions and platelets almost daily.
Finally, on Tuesday morning, my wife got a call and was told that he wasn't getting better, so they were basically giving up trying, and were going to just give him drugs to keep him comfortable. They said that he would probably die within 48 hours. They also discovered around then that he had pneumonia, as well.
It's now been almost 72 hours and he still hangs on. Yesterday afternoon, they moved him to a hospice facility (basically, this is where you go to wait to die). It's actually quite a beautiful place, very peaceful and comfortable. They are keeping him pretty well doped up on morphine.
Stephanie is not processing all of this very well. In some ways, though, she has done better than expected. She spent two whole days up at the hospital, which totally surprised us, because she normally doesn't like hospitals at all. But she wouldn't go home Wednesday night at all. She insisted on staying up there with her mother. So she has missed two days of school this week. But we didn't fuss about it. He will be the first grandparent that she loses.
My wife is handling things pretty well. Her relationship with her father has always been tense, but he's still her father, and she loves him. The hardest thing is just watching someone you love go downhill so fast like that.
I'm doing pretty well, mostly, but tonight at work, I was listening to Sarah McLachlan's Christmas album ("Wintersong"), and it actually made me cry a few times. Fortunately, there aren't many people in here on Thursday nights.
I do want to return briefly to the subject from the previous entry.
We had our annual "Hanging of the Green" service this past Sunday morning. It's a really nice service where we explain the origins of some of the decorations and stuff that we use to celebrate Christmas. Why we use evergreens, Saint Boniface and the alleged first Christmas tree, Martin Luther being the first to "light" the tree, Saint Nicholas dropping money down the chimneys of girls who lacked dowrys (this is one legend of why we hang stockings by the chimney), etc.
After the service, I was deep in thought. We finish this service with everyone holding a small candle, singing "Here I Am To Worship." It's really quite moving and beautiful.
I can't just walk away from that.
Now, let me explain some of my thinking, here.
First of all, I want to clarify some things that came out of the previous entry. I wasn't thinking of giving up "church" altogether. Nor was I planning to stop putting up Christmas trees, etc. (I do, however, think it would be way cool if all the Christians in the world started celebrating "Christmas" on Yom Kippur, because I really think that is when Jesus was born.) I also wasn't thinking about converting to Paganism, although I just might take good friend Brin's advice and read the book she suggested, so as to understand it a little bit more. As she so well stated, I never need to stop learning.
The thoughts that are blowing through my brain like a hurricane involve the way we do "church." And as I've thought more about this in the past week, I believe that we can reach some kind of compromise on this. I do plan to get my pastor to read the book. I've already talked to him about it, and he sounds interested.
I don't think we need to change everything we do just because the origins might be pagan. I don't see anything wrong with worshipping in a building especially designed for that purpose. I do, however, wish and hope that we could tear out those horrible pews and put in chairs so that we could move around sometimes and maybe look at each other for a more intimate setting. It's not a theater. Emphatically not, and we need to rethink how it's arranged, because it does look like one.
All that being said, I still plan to read the author's next book, Reimagining Church, and ponder the issue some more. In the meantime, I will keep doing what I do and, as the apostle Paul admonished us, do it to the glory of God!
Once again, I thank you all for your great and thoughtful comments. Each of you gave me something to seriously think about, and I'm very grateful for that.