Ryan

My friend Ryan is dying.

If you want to get technical about it, we’re all dying, slowly, one day at a time – moving closer towards the day we eventually, inevitably, some day die.

But he is much closer to death than I.

He has cancer, and it’s been aggressive, and virulent, and over the past year it has been slowly killing him.

He’s done chemo. He’s received treatments. He’s tried it all.

We’ve prayed. We’ve fasted. We’ve wept.

And the cancer is still winning.

We got an email from his mother a few nights ago, telling us that he’s not doing well – in pain, on hospice care, and fading fast.

And my heart breaks. It breaks for Ryan, who is dying so young. It breaks for his family – for his mother and father who are watching their son fade away, for his siblings who are losing their brother, for his “family” here in Chicago that has come to love him and walk alongside him and meld their lives with his, and will miss him more than we know.

I’m tired of death.

I’m just so tired of it.

A few of us are driving up to visit him tomorrow – to move some of his things home – to show him again that he is loved – to spend time praying and pleading once more for his life, for healing, for restoration and resurrection, knowing full well that it is possible, and hoping against hope that the answer is “YES!”

But, in case the answer is “no,” we go up to say good-bye.

Good-bye…

And we mourn. We weep.

…but not without hope…

 

Hope

 

Hope for the day when all things are made new.

 

“The City becomes the Bride adorned for her husband and comes in fine linen to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

…The Signs and the Promises detonate each other, and the freight of imagery, accumulated over a thousand years, bursts out in one blinding flash: For the Temple has become Jerusalem, and Jerusalem has become the Bride, and the Bride has become the Mystical Body, and the Lamb and his Wife are one. And everything is Christ, and everything is the Bride, and everything is the City where there is no temple, sun or moon, but only the Lamb who is its light. And the River flows back from the dawn of creation, and the Tree of Life returns from Eden, and the Gates of Jerusalem are not shut at all by day, and there is no night there. The tears, the sorrow, the crying and the pain are gone. It is all gardens, gallant walks and silver sounds:

There they live in such delight,
Such pleasure and such play,
As that to them a thousand years
Doth seem as yesterday.

By the drawing of the Mystery, the world has passed from its lostness and found him whom her soul loves. The Beloved comes leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. The time of the singing perpetually begins.”

~ Robert Farrar Capon, Hunting the Divine Fox

And so we will mourn, but believing, hoping, trusting that Ryan will know peace, rest, delight, embrace, and perpetual song.

This is not the end…

 

IMG_0243

 

For those of you who pray, pray with us…

Thank you.

Merry Christmas

nativity

 

Celebrating the birth of Jesus – the gift of newness, the unexpected “thrill of hope” that shoots through us when new possibilities are revealed, new opportunities are before us, and new life springs up where before there was only death, and barrenness, and emptiness, and loss. Because of this, we have hope – and we are reminded once more that “He is making all things new…

Walter Brueggemann reminds us of what it means to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and what that can mean for us:

There is a time to be born, and it is now

There is a time to be born and a time to die.
And this is a time to be born.
So we turn to you, God of our life,
                   God of our years
                   God of our beginning.
      Our times are in your hand.

Hear us as we pray:
     For those of us too much into obedience,
          birth us to the freedom of the gospel.
     For those of us too much into self-indulgence,
          birth us to discipleship in your ministry.
     For those too much into cynicism,
          birth us to the innocence of the Christ child.
     For those of us too much into cowardice,
          birth us to the courage to stand before
               principalities and powers.
     For those of us too much into guilt,
          birth us into forgiveness worked in your generosity.
     For those of us too much into despair,
          birth us into the promises you make to your people.
     For those of us too much into control,
          birth us into the vulnerability of the cross.
     For those of us too much into victimization,
          birth us into the power of Easter.
     For those of us too much into fatigue,
          birth us into the energy of Pentecost.

We dare pray that you will do for us and among us and through us
     what is needful for newness.

Give us the power to be receptive,
     to take the newness you give,
     to move from womb warmth to real life.

We make this prayer not only for ourselves, but
     for our school at the brink of birth,
     for the church at the edge of life,
     for our city waiting for newness,
     for your whole creation, with which we yearn
          in eager longing.

There is a time to be born, and it is now.
    We sense the pangs and groans of your newness.
    Come here now in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

From Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth Prayers of Walter Brueggemann

For birth is not easy. It is painful. Frightening. Unsettling. But it is worth it.

May we have the eyes to see that which longs to be birthed in our hearts and in our lives in this coming year, the courage to welcome it, and the grace to persevere…

 

 

The games we play

Sitting on the freeway this morning: barely moving, ominous clouds rolling in, lightning skipping between clouds in the distance and thunder rumbling in your core.  Late for class, and we’re not moving because of the rain.  Impatience.

And then this:

Games Part 3: On the Winning Side by Radiolab

(it’s all good, but the juicy goodness starts at 15:27)

—–

Yes…

(Dang it NPR.  Why do you always make me cry…)

Anticipation and celebration


On Sunday afternoon, my younger sister married a lucky, lucky man. Four months after their engagement, a year since they had started dating, almost two years after they first met, their friends and family gathered from all over the world. People came from Germany, Korea, Australia, Hawaii, North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, Nevada, Washington, New York, Arizona, and all parts of California (among others) to celebrate their love – their commitment – their choosing of each other for the rest of their lives – and to do so in a way that pointed others to God, to life, and to deeper love.

The rehearsal on Saturday afternoon was a celebratory reunion, full of laughter and excitement as we practiced and watched the bride-to-be walk through the grassy field, surrounded by flowers and nature and green growing things. The rehearsal dinner that afternoon was again celebratory and full of anticipation – as we were served by Kait and Adam, were filled with good things, tables crowded with laughter and movement, with stories remembered and adventures relived, and people tried to capture the essence of the two who we’d gathered to celebrate. That night everyone – wedding party, family, friends, out of town guests – gathered at a nearby bowling alley for a night of play, laughter, music, dancing, a little friendly competition, visiting, and connecting, all covered in a deep blanket of gratitude and thanksgiving.

Sunday morning was full – family and friends running to the reception site to decorate, set tables, place the manzanita trees, hang candles, prepare the dance floor, arranging the room in a way that invited people to celebrate and rejoice while drawing their eyes to the joy Adam and Kait were feeling. So many people pitched in to help – so many gave of their time and energy out of love for the bride and groom.

At the gardens the chairs were arranged close together, inviting the guests to step in close and be a part of the ceremony. The wedding itself was gorgeous and simple – cello, oboe, and violin, communion on bended knee, worship, laughter, and the little touches that were so in keeping with who they are and what they want their shared life together to be about. And they said their vows, reaffirmed their choice, and stood joyful and radiant, together.

From a certain point of view, the reception was fairly normal.  It had all the right ingredients: food and wine, cake and champagne, toasts and speeches, pictures and well-wishing, dancing and laughter. But this was different – special – more – because it was THEIRS. The way the ingredients came together and the love and joy of the people who had gathered there to celebrate with the couple left me speechless at times – the only response was to move, to laugh, to dance. The love and joy were almost palpable. It was enchanting to watch people throw themselves into the celebration, to embrace looking ridiculous and throw propriety to the wind, faces glowing with laughter (or in some cases, the glow-sticks that had been liberally distributed to the dancers). People didn’t want to leave, but the night had to end as all things must.

As we gathered to send them off, bubbles filling the air, they high-fived their way down the receiving line, stopping for hugs and kisses and thanks and heartfelt congratulations and “one-more-things…” And then they were gone.

I think about this weekend, and I think about heaven – “the wedding supper of the Lamb.” I love the imagery associated with this – seeing heaven as a wedding and a feast, a beautiful meaningful ceremony followed by rich food and wine, deep connection, laughter ringing through the halls of heaven, dancing and music and stories flowing through eternity, the gathering of those we love and those we will come to love. I remember the anticipation Kait and Adam felt as they looked forward to the day they could be with each other, and could be united in a new and deeper way. And just as their anticipation melted into celebration, so our anticipation of eternity will flower into riotous, joyful, roof-shaking shouts of joy.

A number of friends who were at this wedding are feeling that anticipation deeply now, as they mourn the deaths of a mother, a wife, a husband, a father, a sister, a brother, a son, a daughter, a grandma, a grandpa… At times, I’m sure they were acutely aware of all those who couldn’t be at THIS wedding celebrating… But I am so thankful, and hopeful, and anticipating with great joy the wedding celebration at which we will ALL be in attendance, from the greatest to the least, where every tear will be wiped away, and death itself will be swallowed up forever. And even as we celebrate Kait and Adam, and their love for and committment to each other, we celebrate the God who gave them to each other, the God who is making all things new, the God who is constantly foreshadowing the good gifts that he has in store here and now, and the God who is preparing the party that will leave us breathless. We wait with hope, and as we wait, we celebrate.  We celebrate because we are all invited.  We celebrate because the table always has room for one more.  We celebrate because the arms of the Father are open wide.  Come on in. The music has started, and it’s time to start dancing…

Let the wild rumpus begin!!!

Tomorrow afternoon my little sister is getting married!!!

Image

(@ the rehearsal today – pic via Lindsay Long)

The last couple of weeks have been a tumultuous, crazy, roller-coaster: finals, job transitions, an intensive summer course, and a quick trip from Chicago out here to sunny California for the Miller-Derentz extravaganza.  After a week of sleep deprivation and intensive, exhaustive learning, it does my heart good to be out here, surrounded by family, laughter, crazy busy-ness, and the celebration of love.

We arrived at the botanical gardens to find Kait, Car, Adam, and all the rest of the wedding party – such a delight to see so many people who love her and have gathered to celebrate with her – and so much fun to spend time anticipating the adventure that begins tomorrow.

And now I’m falling asleep on the floor of Grandma Sally’s living room, incredibly thankful, and overflowing in all the messiness and abundance that implies.  Overflowing because of:

– Beauty, flowers, nature, and sunshine
– Hugs and laughter of friends reunited after years and years
– Delicious food, drink, stories, and reminiscing at the family lunch
– Time with brother and sisters as we ran around doing errands
– Swimming pools and sunshine and hot-tubs and laughter
– Bowling and dancing and people – beautiful, funny, joyous, loving friends and family

And it’s not over yet!  Can’t wait for the celebration of their love – a day full of work, worship, beauty, dance, and joy.  Love you Kait!!!

make it count…

“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” ~ Annie Dillard

So how are you spending your days?


Make them count.

Do justice. Create beauty. Laugh. Forgive. Risk. Give thanks. Dance. Slow down. Pay attention. Smile. Pray. Work. Rest. Celebrate. Drink deeply of today…

(video via Josh Barkey)

Good Friday?

A couple of years ago I spent part of Good Friday visiting my mom’s grave.  It was one of those spring days that are so ridiculously over the top that you feel like someone is playing tricks on you: fresh cut grass, brilliant sun shining, breeze wafting through the tombstones…  It always seems strange to remember someone who was so alive, in such a place full of life and beauty, while being aware that she is dead.  I hadn’t been back in years – but that morning, I sat by her grave and remembered.  I relived stories, laughter, hopes and dreams.  I remembered the things that made her happy, that made her angry, that made her cry…  And in the remembering, I felt more aware than ever of her absence because even though her body is buried there, all that made her who she was is no longer there.  She is gone.  She is dead.

—–

I remember lying on my couch in my apartment in the favela one blazing hot afternoon.  I was on the internet doing something meaningless when Rich started pounding on my door.  Something was wrong.  “I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but Jeferson is dead.  He’s been killed.  Murdered.”  There’s really no easy way to tell someone.  And my response – disbelief, shock, amazement, anger, grief – a heady cocktail that deadened my world and shut down my senses and closed possibilities.  It was anti-hope.  Laughing, smiling, dancing, singing Jeferson was no longer there.  He is gone.  He is dead.

—–

I think of the disciples – Jesus’ closest friends and companions who had bet everything on Jesus, and who loved him deeply.  They had traveled with him, walked with him through heat and cold, laughed at stories around campfires, worshipped in the synagogue together, and shared joys and hardships with him for over 3 years.  I think of Jesus’ mother – she who bore this baby, and raised him, trained him, saw him learn to walk and talk, to share and play with others, learn compassion and love…  And on today, Good Friday, they saw him killed.

It seems difficult, if not impossible, to look back thousands of years, and imagine what that first “Good Friday” must have been – must have felt like – to the friends and family of the murdered man. I read the stories about the betrayal and death of Jesus from the perspective of the Resurrection. I look at Friday through the lens of Easter. And in doing so, I miss much of the pathos and the reality of what happened. In my mind, Jesus’ death does not have the power that my mom’s death had, or the deaths of my friends on the street. That’s because, in my mind, my mom and Miriam and Jeferson and Tiago and Everton’s deaths were all REAL. The effects are lasting. They are gone. I will never see them on the beach of Rio, laughing in the cordilleras of Peru, or sharing a meal in my home.  I still miss them. Somehow, when seen only through Sunday’s events, Jesus’ death is transformed into something fake – a pretend death. But nothing could be further from the truth. Only when we enter into the brokenness and the anguish of that first Friday can we begin to understand the joy and hope of that Sunday.

On Friday, Jesus was dead. He was tortured. He was mocked. He was killed. He was dead. He stopped breathing. The blood coagulated in pools.  Rigor mortis set in.  Bacteria began the work of decomposing his body.  His body grew cold. He was GONE. His loved ones watched, helpless. His mother and friends wept. They wept because they had lost their son, their friend, their brother, their hope. They believed, but their belief had betrayed them, left them hung out to dry.

Belief – faith – love…  All these things leave us open to disappointment – to betrayal – to rejection – to the failure of our dreams to come true, and having to come to terms with the reality that what we had hoped for just isn’t going to happen.  I think of the disciples on the road to Emmaus as they spoke (unknowingly) with the risen Jesus, saying “We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel…”  We had hoped… but now we know better.  We had hoped… but now we are disappointed, and trying to go back to our own lives.  We had hoped…  and all our hopes have turned to dust.

Jesus’ lifeless body was taken from the cross. His stiffening corpse was carried to the tomb, prepared for burial, and then placed inside. Those few who hadn’t run away in fear bent over and kissed his cold forehead with their warm lips as tears slid down their faces. When the tomb was shut, there was all the finality of the earth being thrown on my mother’s coffin, or the casket lid being tightened over Jeferson’s stillness. He was gone.

Feel the hopelessness. Savor the despair. Soak up the fear, the hurt, the betrayal, the numbness. For everything has changed. Where hope existed, now lies doubt. Last night, joy and love and laughter and life filled this upper room.  Last night, bread and wine and words of love gave light, and sparked hope once more.

But tonight, it is only ashes and dust, tears and mourning. He is dead.  His absence is everywhere. There is no escape. The vine has been ripped from the ground, and the branches are withered and dying. The shepherd has been killed and the sheep are scattered and helpless. The center could not hold.

This is the bitter cup of death. Jesus drank his own death down to the dregs.  He absorbed the pain and the evil of the world, and offered forgiveness.  “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing…”  And then he died.

His friends, his disciples, drank that cup of death and fear. For each one it was different, yet for each the agony and heartache and fear is the same. No one understood. All they knew was they missed him, and he was gone. Everything had changed.

What now?


(modified from an older post I wrote back in 2006…)

Freedom and surprise

“We try to be formed and held and kept by him, but instead he offers us freedom.  And now, when I try to know his will, his kindness floods me, his great love overwhelms me, and I hear him whisper, Surprise me.”

~ Ron Hansen

…may we have the courage to live this out…

Falling in love…

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.  What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.  It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything…”

~ Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

May you have the eyes to see today as a love letter, written to you, by God…

May your imagination be seized.

May your heart overflow.

May you stay in love.

And may you feel that deep love today…

"Look with the eyes of love…"

My growing obsession has been in learning to see beauty everywhere.  I know it’s present.  I believe that it’s learning to have the eyes to see it – to train my eyes to look for it and not stop until I have found it…

But how do we do that? How do we find beauty in what may seem prosaic and ordinary, or even revolting and disgusting?

Maybe we can learn to see what others do not see, if we learn to look with the eyes of love…