The week of Aug. 3-9, I will be at Ghost Ranch, the national Presbyterian conference center in northern New Mexico, teaching a class I'm calling "Writing Your Spiritual Will." The second link in this paragraph will give you all you need to know to sign up, and I hope you will do that.
In the class, I will be drawing a distinction between a "spiritual legacy" and a "spiritual will." In effect, the former is what others say and think about you after you're gone, while the latter is your words about what was meaningful to you in life and what values you want to pass on to others.
A few days ago I attended the terribly sad funeral of the 27-year-old son of a couple in my congregation. Brian had died of cancer just weeks after the birth of his first child. One thing I discovered at the service was that sometimes we create a spiritual legacy when we're quite young and may not have any idea that we're doing that.
For instance, Brian had written a poem when he was in 9th grade, and it was reprinted on the back of the worship bulletin. It certainly reflected the typical angst of the teen-age years, but, beyond that, its beauty and insight gave comfort not only to his parents but also to those of us who got a chance to read it after his death.
I'm going to reprint it here, along with the suggestion that you look through writings and photos you might have saved from your teen-age years to see if they would bring comfort or distress to people you'll leave behind. If the latter, you might ask yourself about the value of keeping them. Here's Brian's poem:
My skill in Video Games,
It does not feel exactly normal,
So I turn to my friends.
And even though they care,
They still don't believe,
They cannot conceive,
They do not understand the ponderings of my life.
So I turn to the Lord,
I scream to the sky,
"What is so different about me?"
"Why did you choose me with this burden of loneliness?!"
"What is your plan?"
And I feel him smiling, speaking,
"You. . .you are special,'
As for my plans,
Only time will allow you to see."
And I wait,
I feel assured,
and I know I will not die without love and honor.
I tell you now,
Remember my name,
The name of Brian Werst. . .
(The photo here today is one I took at Ghost Ranch several years ago.)
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IMAGINING FAITH'S FUTURE
Lots of people are trying to imagine the shape of faith communities moving into the future, and lots of people are worried that such communities may die out. But church consultant Tom Ehrich suggests in this piece that there really can be a bright future for such communities if they're willing to let go of some of what doesn't work any more. He's right, but it's too bad that change is so darned hard.
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P.S.: Kansas City religion educator Barry Speert, under the sponsorship of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, offers a current events discussion group the last Sunday of each month. At 3 p.m. this Sunday at the Waldo branch of the Kansas City Public Library, he'll be leading a conversation about this recent story of a Sikh man who, setting aside religious rules, took off his turban and wrapped it around the head of a boy who had been struck by a vehicle. That stemmed blood loss and helped to save the boy. For more information e-mail Barry at email@example.com.
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ANOTHER P.S.: Moving against the tide of history, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed legislation that would have banned capital punishment in that state. But a veto override vote took place yesterday afternoon and succeeded, so the death penalty has been executed in the Cornhusker state. Good riddance. And thanks to such groups as Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.