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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Live generously

It's another tough gospel this morning. Here, read it yourself in Matthew 5:38-48, but I must admit that I like Eugene Peterson's translation in The Message best:
38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.”
Sometimes, Jesus exaggerates to make a point.

"If someone wants the shirt off your back, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it."

I love that! What a wonderful exaggeration to make a point. If someone wants the shirt off your back, give him your coat. And, not only that, make it your BEST coat. Oh, and don't just give it to him. GIFT WRAP IT!

It reminds me of the advice given to me by my ordaining bishop. "If you are being run out of town, get in front of the crowd and make it look like a parade."

In the traditional translation, the point of this gospel passage is "Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect."  In 'The Message', the point is, "live generously."

Live generously. Whew! That's a pretty high calling, but one I have the possibility of reaching. I'm afraid 'perfection' is way beyond my grasp - well, on this side of heaven, anyway. Alas, I know myself only too well.

Live generously. Still not easy. If you are paying attention, the message 'hidden in plain sight' in those words of Jesus is that living generously often means to live sacrificially.

In today's society, when we hear the word "sacrifice" we immediately reach to protect our wallet or purse. But, that's not what Jesus is saying. He isn't saying 'give generously'. Oh, no. It's a much higher calling than that. He's saying, 'live generously.' And this time, he's not exaggerating.

He's talking about a 'spirit of generosity' that is so strong it infuses your whole life - your attitude, your philosophy, your 'style of life' -  the way you cherish life and are so filled with gratitude for the time you have been granted on this earth that you are willing to do whatever it takes to show your gratitude.

That's what generosity is, really. It's a manifestation of gratitude.

It's a "sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving" that is at the core of our Eucharistic prayer. It's a wonderful lesson in the manifestation of the miracle of God in this season we call "Epiphany".

Here's another miracle. Another manifestation of gratitude. Someone who 'lives generously' and inspires me to do the same.

Meet Cristy Kessler.  You can learn more about her at a website that has been established for her. It's called "One of our own". Here's what it says about Cristy.
"She doesn’t look sick. And she tries not to act sick when she’s around people. But Cristy has been fighting one disease or another for her entire life. Not a day has gone by in her 39 years when Cristy hasn’t experienced pain that would be agonizing to any of us.

Three autoimmune diseases affect almost every organ of her body. These diseases are chronic, progressive, evolving, and any one can be fatal:
I think it takes enormous gratitude for your life to be in that much agonizing pain and still fight for your ability to live your life.

Further, I think Cristy defines the gospel mandate to 'live generously' by doing whatever it takes to make certain that she maximizes whatever time she's been granted here.

She inspires me - and others - to 'live generously' as well. Her webpage states:
Cristy wants very much to live so she continues to beat the odds. She’s able to do this with phenomenal doctors and with an incredibly deep faith in God. She is an award-winning high school teacher and college professor who continues to teach teachers. Cristy believes God has put her on earth for a reason and she intends to continue to live her life in the most productive ways she can. But she needs help and she needs support.
So, here's how you can live out the gospel mandate and 'live generously', too.
In 2007, Cristy went to Mayo Clinic, in Scottsdale, Arizona, and came out with the three diagnoses you are reading about here. Her bill, after insurance claims, was $10,000, and since then, she has garnered at least another $20,000 in co-pays and medical bills her University of Hawaii medical insurance has not, and will not, cover.

Thanks to the generosity of friends, family, and perfect strangers, since February of last year, we’ve been able to raise about $35,000 to cover the cost of the Mayo Clinic, the past three years of medical bills, medications, and much of her ongoing treatment.
Unfortunately, she just can’t continue to cover these expenses, as well as the future costs, on her own with the salary of a UH associate professor and with health insurance coverage that is not as comprehensive as it needs to be. Most of us find wonderful causes around the world to support, and research for many major illnesses is funded by international personalities. But vasculitis, scleroderma, and ankylosing spondylitis are not well-known diseases, and they don’t have holiday telethons or major personalities supporting them on primetime TV. It is rare for you to be asked to help one individual with the medical costs necessary to keep her alive, but we need all the help we can get to support one of our own, right now, and as much as possible.

Cristy’s doctors here have done everything they can for her. She’s had chemotherapy and is currently on a cocktail of daily drugs, including vicodin and morphine. A bone marrow/stem cell transplant will not restore what has already been damaged but it will stop the progression of these diseases so that she may live a longer and more productive life. She has spent much of the last year researching all the options available to her in the US and around the world, including a trip to Bankgok this past fall to consult with doctors there. Anadolu Hospital in Turkey has been the one facility that has been most responsive to her situation and has all of the certifications and experience necessary to make a transplant process safe and hopeful.

Now Cristy must come up with an additional $80,000 for a bone marrow/stem cell transplant that will take place at Anadolu Hospital south of Istanbul, Turkey. Anadolu is affiliated with Johns Hopkins University and has one of the top state-of-the-art transplant facilities in the world. The director of this new center has agreed to be Cristy’s doctor for her transplant process. But we need to come up with the funds in order for the process to get started. Cristy’s first appointment is February 28 at Anadolu. That gives us between now and mid-February to find the financial resources to move forward.
TIME IS SHORT! FUNDING IS DESPERATELY NEEDED BEFORE THE CLOCK RUNS OUT!

Very simply, Cristy wants to live. The treatment for allowing her to live exists, and although the United States will not make that treatment available, she is willing to go where there are compassionate and highly trained doctors who will treat her. We just need your continuing help to make that happen.
I know that there are many preachers out there who will be delivering sermons this morning about "perfection" and "radical resistance" and "loving your enemy". These are all important messages for us to hear - especially in terms of what is happening in the Middle East and in the Midwest.

This preacher wants to urge you to "live generously". Adapt a philosophy of life that flows from your unspeakable gratitude for the gift of your life.

Ask yourself: What 'sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving' am I willing to make as a manifestation of my gratitude for the miracle of life?

Take that the next step and ask, "What sacrifice can I make, out of the abundant riches of my life, so that others may live more abundantly?"

I think, when we consider those questions and then take some measure of action, miracles can - and do - happen.

So, here comes my shameless pitch: Please head on over to "One of our own," and make a contribution to Cristy's cause.

You can also follow her on Facebook and Tell A Friend about Cristy.

Even if you can't - at this time - make a contribution, do what you can. Spread the word to others who might be able to help.

Live generously.  Yes, Margaret Cho is right. Generosity - even in small, undetectable ways - can change someone else's life forever.

More importantly, it can change and transform your life and you will never again be the same.

It's a pretty high calling, but when you're dealing with miracles - especially the miracle of life - it's one that Jesus tells us is within our reach.

Lo! In this Season of The Epiphany, I tell you a miracle: When you live generously, miracles happen.

"If you always give, you will always have."

I don't know how that works.

I only know that it does.

6 comments:

barbara said...

Donation made...hope others will join in

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Barbara. I home many, many others will join you.

Mary Anne said...

Our daughter in law had a stem cell transplant because of her scleroderma, and is was a true miracle, though it was quite a long and tortuous battle. She was one of the fortunate ones whose insurance paid for it (after the hospital went to bat for her) at the only hospital in this country where it was being done at the time. She was their first patient. Needless to say, I welcome the opportunity to make this happen for Cristy because I know that for at least one of her diseases, it can help. How tragic that she has to leave the US to get this treatment.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Mary Anne, for your testimony and your support. Let's make this happen, y'all!

Sharon said...

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and for sending the word out about Cristy's needs. As the person who manages the records of all donations, online and otherwise, for the One of Our Own Fund, I was pleasantly surprised and grateful when donations started pouring in yesterday from all around the country, but I was puzzled about what could have initiated them. Liz forwarded your email and blog link, and the mystery was solved. Thank you so much for spreading the word and helping us raise the money to save her life.

Here is a link to a recent tv news story done about Cristy: http://www.kitv.com/video/26928951/detail.html

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

YAY! I'm so glad people are beginning to respond. I'm so happy to help get the word out. Let me know when you want me to post an update and another appeal.