Let me begin by apologizing to my atheist and aggressively agnostic friends for using the word “gospel” in yesterday’s post. I try not to annoy you, but it’s going to get worse. I need to tell this story; Betsy would want it told.

Also, Betsy is the one who introduced me to the author Anne Lamott, and Anne Lamott is the one who showed me that a person can write about Jesus and faith without being obnoxious. And face it, trying to write a blog journal about grief without incorporating one’s beliefs about spirituality is downright silly.

Anne Lamott -- One of Betsy's Faves

Anne Lamott — One of Betsy’s Faves

So: Jesus alert. Keep reading or not, as you like.

When we left our hero yesterday (that’s me,) she had just realized that if Betsy’s spirit was so obviously hovering around, then perhaps her recently departed brother’s was as well. But she wasn’t so sure and told her journal: “Somehow that makes it almost possible to allow myself to believe that Biff’s spirit is also still with me. Almost. Too good to hope for in a way. Too good to be true. Do I believe in Jesus or not?”

It seemed relatively easy for me to accept the truth of Betsy’s living spirit because the risk was not great. She was not my flesh and blood. I have known her twenty years, not fifty-eight. Stitching together the rip in the fabric of my identity left by Biff’s passing is trickier work, and I don’t want to be knitting it together with yarn that won’t hold up.

I decided to take the risk: I’d seek out Biff’s spirit, too. More from my journal: “And so I told God that I am ready to accept Biff’s love, to welcome his spirit to accompany me, to live in me and through me. To let us have a continuing relationship, to not close the book, to let him speak to me and show me signs. I told God I knew it meant pain, but that I didn’t want to be without Biff. Ever. That I would open myself to his presence and his company, forever.”

Here comes the Jesus part . . .

And then it hit me: that is exactly what God asks us to do. To accept Jesus’s loving spirit and allow him to accompany us, to live in us and through us. To have a relationship, to let God show us signs through that living spirit.  Forever.

And yes, opening to that spirit does mean pain, because Jesus softens our hearts to the world’s pain and so we share his deep sadness about the brokenness in the world. That spirit also convicts us of our own brokenness, and that can be humbling and at times mortifying.

winter 2013 & Jesus pix 045.tear

But the pain encourages growth and makes us more loving people. And oh, the joy of being one with that spirit of love!

We get to say yes or no to allowing that eternal, loving spirit to accompany us. If you say yes, I believe you become more and more aligned with God’s perfectly loving spirit here in this physical world, the way Betsy did.

The famous prayer asks God to bring that kingdom of love and kindness “. . . on earth as it is in Heaven . . .” and that’s what Christians should be about. (I’m certainly the first to acknowledge that many Christian spokespeople in the public life do not appear to be living in that spirit.)

When we’re truly tapped into the wisdom and power of God’s eternal loving spirit, we can’t help but bring Heaven’s love to earth right here and now. And when we “die,” we get to leave behind the last traces of fear and live in that perfect love forever.

With Apologies to My Conservative Christian Friends

Now I have to apologize to my conservative Christian friends – heretic alert! (I may have lost my atheist readers by now, but I know that you’ll keep reading because you need to decide if I’m going to hell.)

If a person chooses not to accept God’s invitation to travel together, I don’t think that person is going to Hell. Gasp! In fact, I don’t even believe in the old concept of Hell, the I-love-you-so-much-that-I’m-going-to-fry-you-forever-if-you-don’t-love-me-back narrative. I don’t blame people for not believing in that God.

This is Love?

No — I think that you are traveling with God whether you know it or not, accept it or not. You are accompanied and loved and cared for, and you aren’t going to burn. God’s spirit lives in everyone and they get to open the channel or keep their heart closed.

When a person says, “No thanks, I don’t believe in you,” they don’t burn up. No, they just miss the joyful awareness, the signs, and the “nudges” that send us on God-inspired adventures that we might otherwise miss. They miss the spiritual guidance that helps us find our purpose and meaning in God’s larger story if we listen. Worst of all, if we don’t open to God’s spirit, we might miss the fact that we are all one, that there is nothing to fear, that there is no existential aloneness, and there is no death.

We come into this world connected by an umbilical cord of love and we leave this world connected to a cord of divine love that runs through all time and out of time. Biff and Betsy have followed that cord of love out of sight, but we are still connected. And that brings me joy, which makes me want to dye my hair pink like Betsy’s and celebrate life for all it’s worth.

I wish each of you love and connection and joy.

“God is love.”

Sermon done.

Joyful Betsy and her husband Eric

Joyful Betsy and her husband Eric