Friday, October 24, 2014

The Land of Milk and Honey - The Boy from Khayelitsha - Pierced Flesh

"Go to the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey..."

In scripture, we read of God’s people longing for the promised land—the land flowing with milk and honey. It is God’s kingdom on earth, where the bounty of God is present, where God dwells with God’s people. When we think of the land of milk and honey, we often envision earthly riches, wealth, perfect soil and vineyards—milk and honey and all the modern riches one could ever desire.

As we left Gugulethu, we drove past a place named “the land of milk and honey.”

It was a collection of metal shacks, no running water, and raw sewage filling the streets. It looked like every other impoverished, unnamed settlement on earth. Children running barefoot through the streets, stray dogs lapping up the sewage, a rusted CocaCola sign used as a roof. And it was called The Land of Milk and Honey. Because it is.

We expect to see and find the kingdom of God in the riches of this world, the earthly riches of our lives. Culture teaches us to expect good in wealth. God’s kingdom, the land of milk and honey, is filled with shacks. The promised land—filled not with the bounty of this world, but with the bounty of the kingdom of God, flowing with goat’s milk, freshly poured into a rusted bucket from the animal eating along side the road. Honey, pollinated from flowers growing in a garbage heap. It is a place where we don’t see the riches of this world, thus believing it must be poor. We don’t bother to look for milk and honey, believing it could not possibly be the promised land. But this is The Land of Milk and Honey. It is where we need to look, dwell, be, if we wish to be in the presence of the Divine, drinking deeply from the riches of the kingdom of God.

Pierced Flesh

We spent the afternoon walking through the township of Khayelitsha, a settlement of 500,000 Children of God -- 250,000 living in metal shacks crammed into a few square miles.  Some of the residents have called South Africa home for generations, sent to Khayelitsha, their backs beaten with the whips of Apartheid. Others recently fled Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Congo, looking for a better life, or just for life. Inadequate toilets, overrun with rubbish. Dysentery awaits the children from the waste water, while their mothers and sisters risk brutal rape every time they travel to the toilet.

A 15 month old baby girl, hair braided in intricate cornrows, weaving left and right through her hair, sitting barefoot in the dust, chewing on her rattle--a pop bottle filled with rocks. Small red and white patches on her skin, infection from exposure to waste water.

A 6 year old boy follows us, red and white skin patches, matching his baby sister's. Head shaven, bald spots from ring worm. He limps, his foot red and swollen, wet with moist dust forming to mud on his heel. A splinter piercing a foot. Infected. Raw sewage in the streets. No clean water. A simple childhood splinter becomes potential death.

Our hands don’t touch his bloodied foot. We don’t remove the wood piercing his flesh, pour clean water upon it, apply ointment, bind up the wound. And there are countless pierced feet in Khayelitsha. We don’t have the tools, cannot risk the potential for disease, cannot risk our safety. While we are with leaders from the neighborhood, providing us a level of protection, we are told to stay close together, to keep the tour brief, to only go down the streets designated by our guides. And there are countless pierced feet in Khayelitsha.

Children of God continue to limp with infected, bloodied feet while we silently pass hand sanitizer around to one another on our air conditioned bus. Father Forgive…

And this is why our Lord's foot was pierced, bloodied, immobilized. Wood from the cross splintering off into his bare feet. The dust from Calvary turning to mud as it melds with the blood flowing from his pierced flesh. Our Lord’s skin, torn open by the whip, red patches where the crown of thorns tortured. A splinter that becomes death. A wooden cross, that brings life. Christ's suffering for the sake of the world.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"The Church is No Place for Dying People"

“When I was Hungry, you Gave me Food, when I was Thirsty, you Gave me Drink.”

In the early 1990s, as South Africa wrestled with finding peace amid violence and unrest following the fall of apartheid, AIDS began its deadly infiltration of the country. Spread not only through unprotected sex, but fueled by denial among government officials and agencies and a lack of access to medications, over 5 million Children of God became infected before the country acknowledged AIDS even existed, let alone that it was wiping out an entire generation.

The almond dust peppered our shoes and the smell of goat, roasting whole over open fires in outdoors stands, latched onto our tongues. Guided by members of the JL Zwane Presbyterian church, we continued our pilgrimage through Gugulethu township, an overcrowded and impoverished community, established by the government during apartheid to forcibly remove blacks from the city center. A mix of simple brick homes and metal shacks, residents string wires to the high voltage power lines which run directly over their community—the only way they receive electricity, which still is not provided in many settlements.

While South African President Thabo Mbeki and was denying the connection between HIV and AIDS, and his administration was banning the importation and distribution of antiretroviral drugs, the JL Zwane community was organizing to prevent further spread of the disease and provide care for the thousands infected within their township. Amid tremendous opposition, the church began AIDS ministries.

“We watched too many friends, family, members of our community, die undignified, painful deaths from this disease. Lying on the floor of a shack, dying next to your child, covered in one’s own body fluids, is unacceptable. Saying ‘we don’t know why she withered away’ while knowing AIDS is the cause, only leads to more suffering and death.”

The church empowered leaders who lived in the township, creating community wide assessment tools to understand the needs of their neighbors and the number of people likely infected. Meals and basic care were provided, along with education programs for adults and children. Pastors began going door to door, not with bibles in hand, but with condoms and information on prevention and treatment.

“This church is no place for dying people”

As the church began their ministry to those afflicted by AIDS, many who were a part of the community and surrounding city were very clear — "This church is no place for dying people.” Threats to church vitality, financial support, and the stigma the church would experience were far reaching. Hundreds of people left, angry that AIDS patients were within the doors of their sanctuary and fearful they would contract the disease. No one wanted to recognize, let alone associate, minister to, or be apart of the lives, the deaths, of people with AIDS. Not a single organization in Cape Town would partner with the church. Defiant, they continued their ministry, going so far as creating a partnership with a Minnesota LGBT organization that had experience caring for AIDS patients and their families.

“We expected to find compassionate people of God in the other churches in Cape Town. But instead, God blessed us with a partnership with gay Americans, half way around the world. It wasn’t comfortable at first for any of us. We didn’t understand one another’s cultures or communities. But we understood our brothers and sisters were dying of the same disease, and that God called us to work together to show dignity to those who were dying.”

“The church is no place for dying people.”

No matter where we live, we want to deny death, our own mortality, the ugliness of the pain that surrounds us on this side of eternity. We fear aloud that our churches, our traditions, our bodies will succumb to death. Clinging to the edge of the cliffs of our past, blindfolds tied across our eyes, we do everything in our power to deny death. Often, we would rather leave our brothers and sisters on dirt floors, covered in filth, than pick them up and touch their moral flesh. There is such irony in claiming the church is not a place for the dying—it is THE place for dying people. Our lives, our whole being, our every breath, is centered upon the broken, beaten, blooded body of our Lord, nailed to a cross, gasping for his last breath, before into God’s hands he commends his spirit. You cannot have resurrection without death. There are consequences to death and not every person, church or community is willing to enter into the suffering and pain which is a part of death. Most will not dwell with the dying, their caskets made and waiting. Yet other communities, individuals, congregations, living out their baptismal covenant place the dying in a bed, press a washcloth upon their brow and speak the words “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the Cross of Christ forever” while the dying live out their baptismal covenant to their final breath. Dying, living, awaiting the resurrection.

For we, the church, are the dying.

We, the church, are the resurrected.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From the Halls of Power to the Fortress Tower, Not a Stone Will be Left on Stone…

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me—For God has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor; God has sent me to proclaim ‘the captives are set free….”  Luke 4

We boarded the catamaran, bound for Robben Island, a place of imprisonment and torture for Nelson Mandela and countless captives through the years of Apartheid.  For decades, political prisoners were forced to travel this three mile ocean journey, shackled, tossed in the dark bowels of the ship, their final pilgrimage, surrounded by guards with guns, told their feet would never touch the mainland again. 

Refreshed by sea salt air and the splendor of Table Mountain to our backs, we were surrounded by high school students, dubbed “the born frees,” having never known Apartheid, chattering to one another in Afrikaans, iPhones opened to Facebook, texting friends about their history lesson field trip.

“You picked a good day for this journey—I’ve been on this boat hundreds of times, one of the clearest views I can remember,”  Eddie Daniels, our personal guide tells me as the boat slows and docks on the Island, just south of the gift shop and adjacent to the sandwich bar.  “It used to be an emotional journey for me, but I’ve been enough times that it’s been transformed.  I’m free!  This place doesn’t hold me or anyone else any longer.”

Boarding our tour bus, Eddie, 85, slightly unsteady on his feet but his mind still filled with a lifetime of experiences, begins telling us of his first days of imprisonment on the island:  “They locked us up in concrete cells, no human contact.  The only food given to us through a slot in the door.  We lost track of the months, forgotten.”

When political pressure forced the prison to remove the men from solitary confinement, they began work in the limestone quarries, breaking up rock for 12 hours a day.

“We would teach one another—those who knew the classics would tell about the great philosophers of history.  Men who knew Shakespeare recited plays—we taught one another while we chipped away at the stone.  No one could take away our ability to learn and teach.”

The limestone dust would fill their bodies, damage their lungs, coating their throat, eyes, even blocking their tear drops. 

"Some men had tear ducts blocked so badly we can't even shed tears anymore; our eyes are damaged forever."

Steadying himself on the rocky, broken ground, Eddie takes my arm.  Leaning toward me, a secret to tell, he whispers, "They even tried to take away our tears...but see! We don't need tears now--they have been wiped away--we have joy...all this,” his free arm outstretched, sweeping across the island, “All this is transformed. We don't need tears. For we have joy...and they can never take away our joy…it is ours forever.”

Making our way back to the prison block, Eddie pulls out the key to Nelson Mandela’s cell.  “They gave me the key, imagine that!”  His eyes twinkle, nearly disappearing as a smile engulfs his face.

He held the key—the key which once tried to lock away life.  The key--now not powerless, but transformed.  Walking, frail, unsteady, yet knowing, Eddie led us to the hall, the dungeon, which was his home from 15 years.  Rock quarry dust still clung to the corners of his former prison, but no longer to his clothes.  His hand, reaching for the lock, iPhones and cameras swarm to capture the prisoner unlocking the prison.

“Here it is—it used to be a heavy place, one of pain, remembering the fear.  But now—go, go in, see,” gently pressing us into Mandela’s cell, “See it.  See our history, it’s transformed.”  Mental bars creaking, he closes us inside.

Walking down the hall, past dozens of empty cells, up a set of stairs, he reaches for my arm, steady.  Arm in arm with me, the once imprisoned walks out of this place, his hand grasping mine, the key pressing into my palm. 

“Let’s go outside now.  To freedom.  To transformation.  Don’t keep it here,” thumping his chest, “Send it out here,” sweeping his arm toward the students, the ocean, the open world in front of us.

“My heart shall sing of the day you bring
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn….”

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Blessing for Women and Girls

A blessing used at Holy Trinity on Mother's Day.  Please use as you are able.

A Word on the pain that may come on Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day brings out a variety of emotions—joy for first time mothers. Thanksgiving as those with good relationships with their mothers celebrate.  Sorrow as those who recently lost their mother travel through a first year without her.  Pain for those experiencing infertility or who  had a miscarriage.  Unspeakable grief for those who lost a child.  Resentment as those who chose not to have children as mothers are celebrated and their roles are silenced.  Today, we thank God for healthy relationships with mothers, and those who were like mothers to us.  We acknowledge the pain of broken relationships.  No matter what feelings are stirred in you this Mother’s Day, know that the Body of Christ is big enough for your joy and your pain.  We pray that you feel the peace that passes all understanding this place. 
A Blessing of Women and Girls:
P:  To those who gave birth this year to their first child
C:  We celebrate with you
P:  To those who lost a child this year  
C:  We mourn with you
P:  To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away
C:  We grieve with you
P:  To those who have warm and close relationships with their children and mothers
C:  We give thanks to God
P:  To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with their children and mothers
C:  We pray God’s healing and presence
P:  To those who lost their mothers this year  
C:  We grieve with you
P:  To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother
C:  We acknowledge your pain

P:  We pray for women throughout the world that are oppressed.  May we remember those who are enslaved, trafficked, abused and forgotten.  May we be Christ-like, seeking justice for all, living our lives in ways that do not further oppress, exploit or cause harm to any sister in Christ.
C:  Forgive us and bring us strength, Saving Lord
P:  Lord God, we ask your blessing upon all the women and girls of this congregation, and all women who have touched our lives. Stir up the power of your Spirit in all women, that they may be strong, courageous and faith filled. 
C:  We give you thanks, Lord God

P & C:  AMEN!  Thanks be to God!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Christian Response to Arizona State Bill 1062

I have hesitated to write this post for some time.

As you are likely aware, Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062, a bill which would have allowed businesses in Arizona to deny service to persons based on sexual orientation.  Read a synopsis by here. The authors of the bill claimed that religious liberty was at stake and the right to deny service to gay and lesbian Children of God was a fundamental, deeply held religious belief. 

When a pastor speaks of issues of sex and politics, tempers can flare and divides can spread through the lives of the Children of God.  But this post, and Arizona State Bill 1062, aren't about sex and politics, states rights or the constitutionality of gay marriage.  This about discrimination and the use of scripture to justify it.

I am bound by my baptismal covenant to, "Proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace."  Thus, I am compelled to speak on this issue.  Further, I have had countless conversations over the past week about this issue as people asked me to provide a pastoral response to it.  To be clear--my goal is not to change anyone's beliefs on same sex marriage or on the ELCA stance on the ordination of persons who are living in committed, lifelong, monogamous relationships.  I fully support and respect the ELCA statement on Bound Conscience, calling us to live together as the Body of Christ in the midst of strongly held differences on issues of sexuality rooted in one's interpretation of scripture. (You can read more about Bound Conscience here.)

The misuse of scripture and the claim of religious freedom to excuse discrimination has a long, dark history in American culture.  In the Jim Crow era of our nation's history, businesses placed signs in their entryways, stating "Whites Only," using II Corinthians 6:14, "Do not be unequally yoked...," as biblical support.   Ephesians 6:5, "Slaves, obey your masters with fear and trembling," was perverted by slave owners who claimed it was not only their God given right to own other Children of God but also as an excuse to beat them into a state of fear and trembling.  During the early days of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, pastors went on national television, stating AIDS was a curse sent by God to destroy homosexuals while others publicly called for the internment of all homosexuals.

Discrimination in the name of Jesus is deeply offensive to me on a personal level as well, as I recognize only 40 years ago, my transracial family would have been denied service, harassed, and possibly harmed in the name of religious liberty and freedom--this, assuming we could have overcome the insurmountable legal obstacles put in place to prevent us from becoming a family at all.  Denying businesses the ability to place a sign in a doorway which reads "No gays allowed" is not an attack on religious freedom.  Our ability to worship freely is not threatened because gay and lesbian persons, and heterosexuals who are labeled as gay based on stereotype, cannot be thrown out of a Grand Canyon fast food restaurant.

The story of Christianity is one of radical, culture-defying love.  One of the most powerful and holy aspects of the Christian story is the unity in God which comes forth through Christ.  A person was no longer denied the name "Child of God" based on their bloodlines--all nations, all peoples, are welcome and can receive the Spirit.  We read in Acts 2, the Pentecost story, "upon servants, men and women...I will pour out my Spirit."  The baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8 teaches us that a foreign castrated man, who was to be considered "unclean" and forever cast out of the family of God, is welcome and named "Child of God." 

Faithful Christians read and interpret scripture through various lenses and, bound by their faith and conscience, do not believe this should be interpreted to sanction gay marriage or the ordination of those living in lifelong, monogamous, same sex relationships.  Our religious liberty is rightfully protected under the First Amendment, giving churches the full freedom to preach and interpret scripture.  I do not take issue with those who interpret scripture passages found in Paul's letters and Leviticus related to sexuality in ways that are different from my interpretation.  I welcome honest, prayerful dialogue with all Children of God--the blessing of faith is not to surround ourselves with those who believe exactly as we do but to understand how the Spirit is at work in the Child of God before me.  I do, however, take deep issue when our holy and sacred texts are used as weapons and religious liberty becomes cover for discrimination.

I recognize some believe that as a pastor I should remain carefully neutral on politically charged issues.  There is immense truth in this--I will never, for example, endorse a political candidate using my title.  But, after careful consideration and prayer, I do use my personal blog to speak out against discrimination and offer a viewpoint which is grounded in scripture.

May the unifying, loving message of Jesus guide us always...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In the Beginning, God Created the Heavens and the Earth: Faith and Science

Nebula--"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth..."

On the evening of February 4, 2014, CNN, among other sources, livestreamed a debate between Bill Nye (also known as "Bill Nye the Science Guy") and Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum, located about two hours from my home, in Northern Kentucky. For those unfamiliar with it, the Creation Museum is a 70,000 square foot for-profit organization claiming to promote a Biblical view of science. Using what adherents call "young earth creationism," Ham and those involved with the organization reject modern scientific theories, claiming that the Bible proves the earth is a mere 6,000 years old, and that, among other things, Adam and Eve would have lived in the Garden of Eden with dinosaurs.

The age old debate, pegging religion against science, has existed for decades in the United States, dating back to the 1925 "Scopes Monkey Trial." From Ken Ham and the "Creation Museum" to William Jennings Bryan, the prosecutor in the Scopes Trial, a picture has been painted that Christians choose not to critically explore scientific inquiry and that the faithful discredit science in place of Scripture. This is far from reality, as plenty of faithful Christians merge their reverence for Scripture and their awe of science. There is no need to see science and religion in conflict. Further, the promotion of organizations such as the Creation Museum and legislation that promotes the education of such ideas in science classrooms are detrimental to both the scientific future of our nation and to religious organizations.

As a ELCA Lutheran Pastor and Christian, I hold our Scripture in the highest place of reverence. It is the story of God's relationship with God's people, dating back to early human civilization. Scripture demonstrates how God's people, and all of creation, are broken, falling short of God's call to and for us. Yet, in the midst of our brokenness, we have a God who fully immerses Godself into creation, becoming fully human through Jesus Christ. Scripture tells the incredible and holy story of Christ's death and resurrection, reconciling God's people with God. Scripture guides and orders our lives as Christians, telling the story of human brokenness, death, and redemption through Christ, given to us freely as a gift.

Scripture was never written with the intent to be used as a science manual. It is misuse of God's Word to use it as a step by step approach to the exact ways in which God created the universe. Genesis was first shared through oral tradition, and then written, using the language and images familiar to God's people of that time and place to tell all people, among other things, that "God created all that exists." These early people had no understanding of atoms, light years or the laws of physics. The lack of inclusion of these concepts in Scripture does not mean that they don't exist or that the faithful can't use new discoveries to deepen their understanding of creation. They weren't concerned with the question of "HOW was the universe created?" but instead focused on "WHO created all that exists?"

Science uses experimentation to test and replicate results, giving us a deeper understand of creation. This is holy, Godly work. We have been given the gift of intellect, the spark of curiosity. Discoveries in the scientific community lead to modern day miracles, such as vaccines, new cancer treatments, and the general betterment of life for people. Some religious groups promote legislation that insists on the teaching of young earth creationism and other nonscientific ideas in the classroom. Not only does this hurt the credibility of US science education worldwide while damaging advancement in scientific inquiry, the Church suffers as well. We are to use our minds, given to us as a gift from God, not use the Bible as a weapon to discredit new God-given discoveries. We are to build up the kingdom of God while honoring the holy work of God's people, including scientists. Fighting to include nonscientific ideas such as those promoted at the Creation Museum in no way grows our faith and understanding of God's presence and power in creation, nor does it deepen our faith and relationship with Christ. We are not called as Christians to strive to discredit everything which is not mentioned in Scripture. Instead, we strive to live lives that honor our creator God, making disciples, and receiving the Grace given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Science in no way threatens these God-given gifts.

Having completed an earth science minor in college, I have had the holy opportunity to take multiple astronomy classes at my Lutheran liberal arts college. I have gazed at the rings of Saturn, plotted star clusters, and calculated astronomical distances between galaxies. When I began to understand the vastness of the universe, I felt a deeper connection to my creator God who ordered all that exists. I did not feel the slightest disconnect between the discoveries I was making and the words I read in Genesis. I knew the words of Genesis 1&2, telling us how the universe was created in "days," was translated from the Hebrew word which means "epoch" or "time period"--thus, "there was morning, and evening...the first epoch." I recognized that those who first spoke of creation had no concept of a 24 hour day. I was simply in awe of the incredible, vast gift of the universe, thankful for my faith, which told me WHO ordered all that existed, as well as the God-given gift of science, which helped me understand HOW creation was ordered. As I walked back to my dorm after plotting the distance between star clusters, I simply thought "How Great Thou Art..."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Challenger Reflections

Below is a creative writing piece I crafted as I reflected on my experience of watching the Challenger explosion. 28 years ago today, I was 6 and my parents were going to teacher conferences. And my dog was old. I wrote in the voice of the 6 year old who experienced this day. We often try to hide death from children, believing they can't understand it. However, children have questions and wonder just like adults. Rather than hiding death and pain, we need to do as my family did, and help me walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death...

January 28, 1986.

It's cold and windy. I'm not going to be able to play outside today. Mom and dad are going to meet my teacher today and there's a spaceship going up in the sky. They said if I'm good I can watch it on TV, but first they need to meet my teacher. They have parents come to the school and see our drawings and where we sit and Mrs. A is going to show them all the books I can read. I wonder where they're going to sit? We have kid chairs and they're grown ups. I hope they see the rainbow painting I made, the one over by the drinking fountain.

J is going to watch me. She'll make me lunch and I'll play in the basement. She tells me not to worry, that I'll be home before the spaceship goes up, and that my mom and dad can watch it with me. It's always so cold in J's basement. G and D are working in the barn, and it's to cold for me to go help. They have big, big tractors and G let me ride on one when he harvested wheat last fall. But it's to windy today, so he can't give me a ride. There are to many boy toys here. I don't really like J's house.

Mom and dad came back and they brought the rainbow painting! Mrs. A gave it to them! And she told them how I can read! Mom's furry jacket is itchy, but she wants to hold me and show me the "report card" with lots of letters and words I can't read on it. It smells funny and the paper is slippery and the ink rubs off on my fingers.

We go home--the wind hurts my face, I don't like walking outside in winter. Where's Shalom, our dog? I can't find her. Maybe she's cold and went in her house. She has shiny gold fur and white under her face. Mom says she's old and I can't ride on her back anymore. When we have running contests, I win now. Shalom used to win. But I win now. Even when I'm wearing snow boots.

Someone's on the phone. Only grown ups use the phone. My mom sits down in her chair and lights a cigarette. She always lights a cigarette when the phone rings. I'm going to color a picture of a spaceship. It's black and white, and red, white and blue. Because it has a flag on it. It's our spaceship. So it has our flag.

Mom gets dad and says he needs to go downstairs. They never talk on the stairs. They whisper. I'm not supposed to listen. They put on their coats, and I can't come outside. They say I need to stay inside. By myself. Dad asks me where I put my plastic red sled. I tell him it's by the tree, but the yellow handle broke. Are they going sledding? Why can't I go?

If I stand on the chair, I can look out the window and see them. Why are they taking the sled up the road? Why is Shalom in the sled? Shalom doesn't like riding in sleds or wagons or roller skates. Why is she going to the garage? Dad looks sad. Shalom is old. And when dogs get old, they die. Shalom died, and she won't breathe anymore and we can't play and we have to say goodbye. Her eyes won't blink and she's cold and won't move. I have to say goodbye. It's ok to pet her, but I won't see her ever again. My stomach hurts and I'm dizzy. I want to lay down.

Mom says I'll feel better but I can cry. I can watch the spaceship, maybe it will help me think about something else. The spaceship is so big, and all the astronauts wave at the people. One lady is a teacher. She has pretty brown hair and it's long. They all have flags on their spacesuits. They're in Florida.

Everybody counts backwards. I can count backwards now too! 3, 2, 1...Boom! It's going up in space! It's so big! All the people look up up up....

where did it go?

People are yelling. A lady is crying. My mom says "oh no...oh no..."

The spaceship is gone. The people aren't there. They died too. They were on TV and waving and now they're gone. Dad says they're not up in the air. No, there aren't parachutes to help them get down. They are gone. They died like Shalom.

My head hurts. I need my blue pillow and green blanket. I want to lay down on the couch. Peter Jennings talks and talks and talks. He has pictures of all the people on the spaceship. He looks sad too,n like me. Does his stomach hurt?. Did he know Shalom died?

I don't want to color or read. I just want to lay on my blue pillow and watch tv. Mom and dad do too. Mom smokes another cigarette. She's in the living room. She never smokes in the living room. Dad's holding his head, maybe it hurts like mine. I tell dad it hurts and he gives me 7up. He says I'm not sick. He says when people are sad they don't feel good.

I want to go see Shalom again. Dad says I can. He makes me put on snowpants and boots. The sky is black and it's snowing and it's cloudy. There is smoke in the air, is that the smoke from the spaceship? Dad says it's far away and nothing will fall on us. The smoke is from the beet plant, and nothing falls from the sky over our house. Shalom is really cold, her fur is icy. I put a blanket on her and say she can have my sled. Her eyes don't move. Do people's eyes stop moving too? She doesn't look the same, she isn't here anymore...she's here, but she's not here. What happens when people can't say goodbye and touch someone because they died in a spaceship? How do they say goodbye if they can't touch them and put a blanket on them? Where did they go? If Shalom is in a sled, are they just floating in the air? Did God get them a sled and take them to heaven?

I'm cold and my head hurts. I want to go inside.