June 7, 2012
Journeying through the wilderness is like an emotional CrossFit program. You are strengthened and conditioned in the most intense of situations. The only thing that sustained me was the love of people and the complete living into the mystery of “His grace being sufficient” it is in the wilderness I learned in the most visceral sense what St. Paul could have meant when he said “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
When you have no control over a situation that ends up bringing such heart wrenching sorrow you realize just how weak you really are. The power of God to bring strength and healing at such deep levels and the conditioning of the soul to be still, relinquish and hope for me only came by the Spirit of God.
I sense I am out of the wilderness now. The journey now continues and I find myself on the sea. The sea has many waters to navigate. My friend Jessica wrote a beautiful song that captures some of the waters I find myself navigating. Take a listen. Just as the Spirit of God carried me through the wilderness I now put up my sails and see how and where the Spirit will navigate this leg of the journey.
May 31, 2012
We received a brief message from Ben on a Wednesday evening. It was a short message: “I have some bad news. I found a lump in my inner thigh a couple weeks ago and have been getting it checked out.” This started a season in our lives that in many ways correlated with the liturgical season of the church. All through Advent we found ourselves in a posture of “expectant waiting” waiting for test results, surgery results and prognosis all while Ben was in Korea. The waiting was unbearable at times, we couldn’t just hear for ourselves what the doctors were saying, we prayed and prayed for “good news.”
Christmas came. Rich, Alex and I found so much hope in the incarnation, the idea of “God with us” through the day in and day out hopes that Ben was getting better we felt the presence of God in our midst. God graced us with faith, hope and love to take each day at a time.
We journeyed through Epiphany. We had our eyes opened more and more to the reality of God’s presence in the midst of our daily lives. Every day we could sense God’s light in the midst of darkness. Psalm 139 speaks to this sort of light in the midst of darkness, the Psalmist so clearly describes it as:
“It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.”
Then came Lent – the wilderness – a time of relinquishing. The terrain of the wilderness is tough. Sustenance from the Spirit of God is all that got us through. Sustenance came through gift after gift of grace. Graced by people, words, circumstances, things we could not have imagined. The wilderness is a time where everything is stripped away. Anger rises quickly to the top and you realize what really matters. Words that have stung your soul like a scorpion sting…betrayals that you need not attend to any longer…relinquish all control over how people think and speak of you. So many lessons learned in this wilderness.
Ministering angels came in the form of two female therapists. They met with me often (at no charge) because they said they could see God was allowing me to carry a lot. They wanted to help carry some of the weight. They did exactly what you think ministering angels are sent to do. They listened, they listened, they listened more. They cared about me, my family (a very large family) our church and they offered words of wisdom about how to survive in the wilderness. They became a cup of cool water in the scorching heat. They helped me understand what was important and helped me work out forgiveness of others and myself. They fed me nourishing food for my body and for my soul. I will be forever grateful for their kindness and caring even now as we continue to meet.
Our church once again proved to us that it’s not the usual pointers of success (my friend Julia calls this “Big ass American) that matters. It’s the impact that matters, the depth of soul, the ability to put aside one’s own suffering and pain to bring help, kindness, goodness and self-sacrificing acts of service to those in such dire need. Our congregation ministered to us, our family as well as the church community in the midst of such suffering. This will be another post. There is just too much to say about how much our community means to us and how grateful we are to serve this church.
Our friends, our life-long friends that showed up in the most poignant moments of this journey. This is why life-long friends become just that. Because no matter what you’ve been through, the good times and bad times, they stay your friends. They are there because they really really love you.
Easter and Pentecost came. Ben was hopeful. He believed God would heal him. He believed in the resurrection power of Christ to heal him and commute his sentence. But for reasons that are a complete mystery to me, Ben passed from this life into the arms of Jesus on the feast of the Ascension. The day the church celebrates Jesus ascending into heaven, our beautiful Ben goes to be with Jesus and to be with all the others that have gone before him.
The outpouring of love and grace for our family is indescribable. We are very early on in being out of the wilderness of this particular journey but what I do know is that God’s grace has been present every step of the way. Though we have walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, He has been with us…he knows the way through.
One other group of people that I do not have adequate words to describe yet is our children. Angela, Roi, Seth, Laurie and Alex. They are God’s gift. We watched them love their brother, Hyemin and the children. We watched them sacrifice, hope, believe, pray, and fight for Ben. We could not be prouder of how they walked through one of the hardest times they may ever face. They did it with love, dignity and honor.
So many people around the world were and are praying, speaking words of faith and comfort. Too many to mention by name. I only hope that God will pour out his lovingkindness on every person who has been that lovingkindness to our family.
There is still a long road to travel in this part of our journey as a family. One thing I know is that I cannot travel it without taking the hand of the living God. This quote from Frederick Buechner says it well (my poker friends might appreciate this)
““Believing in him is not the same as believing things about him such as that he was born of a virgin and raised Lazarus from the dead. Instead, it is a matter of giving our hearts to him, of come hell or high water putting our money on him, the way a child believes in a mother or a father, the way a mother or a father believes in a child.”
April 25, 2012
I am on a plane heading to Minneapolis for the Society of Vineyard Scholars annual gathering. I am excited for the plenary sessions with Mary Kate Morse and Greg Boyd and several others.
You can check out the program here. I’m looking forward to being there with Amy, Rachael, Winn and Elizabeth and seeing David Ruis, Adey Wassink and others!
I do like inflight wifi:-)
April 13, 2012
I love this quote by Wendell Berry, “The shoddy work of despair, the pointless work of pride, equally betray Creation. They are wastes of life.” So true, and I would say they betray New Creation. We’ve just celebrated Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, an embodied reality that God is with us and is inviting each one of us to participate in New Creation. Participating in new creation simply means in the midst of a still very broken world, I will choose to not cave to despair. When the circumstances of life seem to invite, no, invite is too kind of word…when the circumstances of poverty, sickness, selfishness, greed and any kind of evil invade my life I pray for mercy. Mercy that the new creation in Jesus will intervene and grace me to participate with peace, love, healing, justice and truth.
And the flip side of that coin, “the pointless work of pride” that wallows in self-contempt or grandiosity in order to prove myself I will beg for mercy and grace to walk in forgiveness, humility, strength and light.
As this present evil age wages war on all that is holy and good, I will practice longing for, looking at the evidence and stepping into the new world that Jesus brought. A world that is emerging in the midst of the brokenness. A world that is full of compassion, peace, and kindness. A world that bursts with the colors of faith, hope and love.
The shoddy work of despair and the pointless work of pride, betrayals and wastes of life – yes, I would say very much so.
March 31, 2012
Tomorrow we begin Holy Week. We follow Jesus beginning with his entry into Jerusalem. We read about the crowds in reverence throwing down palm branches, shouting hosannas. Then comes the cleansing of the Temple, the Passover, betrayal, arrest a contrived trial, betrayal, death by crucifixion and burial.
Back in Luke 9:51 it says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
I find it interesting that Luke frames Jesus’ death in Jesus’ ascension. The way to redemption, to new life is through the road of suffering and death. My friend David Ruis penned lyrics in a song that captured my heart years ago: “The way of suffering takes me to the least, down the road of suffering to the wedding feast.”
Turning our face toward suffering is counterintuitive, especially in America. We have every drug available and at our disposal to avoid pain and suffering:
Food – my current drug of choice
Over the counter drugs
We use processes, people and substances to alleviate our pain and suffering
The list above is by no means complete and most of the items on the list are not bad in and of themselves. It’s when we begin to use anything in excess or in order to avoid pain.
I find I am caught in a terrible bind these days. I use food to stop the immense feeling of powerlessness and pain I feel for the people I love. Watching my heroic stepson battle life-threatening cancer with all his strength. His wife, and the rest of our family praying and believing that God can intervene and commute this sentence. Every one of us along with friends here and around the world who are holding onto to hope beyond hope that a miracle will come any moment.
I wish I were strong and courageous enough to not use something to medicate this pain. But the truth is I’m not. So today, I will practice what my practice has been through this entire Lenten journey, surrender, relinquishment, letting go of my ability to stop pain, suffering and the road that leads eventually to the wedding feast. I will practice relinquishing self-contempt because I eased the pain with chocolate or pasta or whatever drug fills that aching place in my soul. Today I will pray for grace as I take the hand of Jesus and turn my face toward Jerusalem.
March 26, 2012
More thoughts on the wilderness journey. In the past two weeks the wilderness has felt more like an emotional white water rapids trip. The risks involved in white water rafting are caused by both environmental dangers and improper behaviors. Environmental dangers such as fallen trees, dams, rocks, and waterfalls. Improper behaviors such as inexperience and not using a guide, rafting while intoxicated and panic in dangerous situations.
There are so many environmental dangers both in the wilderness and in the white water. Finding safety as I continue this journey means training, trusting experienced guides and not panicking when thrown out of the raft. In fact when out of the raft, swimming to a calm spot behind a rock is protocol.
Last week I had a dream. In my dream I was in a large house with small children. I could see a storm, a whirlwind or tornado coming. I knew that I could not out run it. As it approached I realized the only safe place was to step into the eye of the storm, that there I would find calm and not be hurt. It was counterintuitive, I wanted to run with the children from the danger. I knew without a doubt if I stayed outside of the center the outer edges of the storm would destroy everything in its path, including me and the children. I was so afraid but as it approached I grabbed the kids and stepped into the center of the storm. It was instantly calm as the whirlwind carried us and then set us down. We were safe. Dream ends.
I have no control over the elemental dangers that come. The truth is, in this lenten season I have learned how little control I have over much at all.
In a Jan Richardson’s book, “Sacred Journeys” I read a meditation on anger and tenderness. Here is part of the reflection I sit with as the white water of anger rages in my soul:
“Anger is a woman who has learned
is not the way to peacefulness,
is not the way to strength.”
Swimming to the Rock, stepping into the Center of the storm, relinquishing control over and over, that what this Lenten journey is teaching me.
March 7, 2012
“For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.”
This last week the wild animals of fear, sadness, loss, anger, frustration, powerlessness and emotions that cannot be articulated became constant companions. Both while I was awake and even more so in my sleep. At the same time angels appeared all around me. Ministering angels that brought courage, peace, joy, strength, wisdom, faith, hope and love to me in the most unexpected and in the most obvious of places.
Somehow the care of angels brought me the ability to make peace with the wild animals. The prophetic picture of the lion lying down with the lamb comes to mind. Something in the tension of holding so many conflicting life experiences that are my reality in the here and now becomes bearable as I meditate on the biblical themes of wilderness.
I’m not sure how I will feel tomorrow, but for today, I am grateful for the care of angels…
February 28, 2012
As I continue to reflect on the Lenten journey today I found myself reflecting on Jesus’ forty days in the desert, the wilderness. The Judean wilderness was largely uninhabitable and full of dangers for anyone traveling through let alone staying for forty days. Dangers from the scorching sun by day and the extreme cold at night. Dangers from the wild animals and scorpions, the lack of food and scarcity of water. Today in my reflection on the journey through the wilderness this is what came up for me:
Dangerous animals – right now the most dangerous animal threatening to devour is “cancer.”
Scorpions – the poisonous sting from people’s unkind words, their projections, their unresolved pettiness and lack of relational integrity. One of the most vile scorpion bites – passive agressive behavior
Scorching sun – anxiety surrounding provision for those I care deeply about
Extreme cold – Biting fear, fear of the future, fear of harm to those I love, fear of rivers of sadness as you watch those you love in pain.
The wilderness journey for Israel, Moses, Elijah and Jesus end with renewal, faith, hope and vision. I will hold that posture…justice comes. As my friend David sings, “#LTKC!”
February 17, 2012
My stepson, Ben is battling cancer. He was diagnosed in Korea in late October. Had surgery in November. Complications after surgery. Ben, his wife, Hyemin, their son, Daniel and Hyemin’s mother, Leigh returned to America just over one week ago. Ben is battling for his life. Would you join him/us in prayer for a divine intervention? The prognosis is very grim, Ben needs a miracle. I believe in miracles, I do.
I have felt the grace of God in so many ways through so many people. Our family, friends and our faith community, Vineyard Community Church have surrounded us with love and care. I read this in a book recently, “Suffering enlarges the soul’s capacity for great joy.” This is a season of joy and sorrow taking up equal residence in my soul and in the soul of those I love.
I will pray for Ben’s healing, for God to have mercy. I will trust in the goodness of God no matter what the coming days bring. Ben is strong, he is a fighter. I’m joining with all the prayers around the world for healing for grace for mercy.
February 11, 2012
Our family is once again facing the demonic illness named cancer. This illness has wreaked havoc in the lives of the people I love most on this earth and once again it has come to call. Words from the doctors, “incurable, 6-10 weeks, chemotherapy, maybe 6-8 months” these are surreal words that should not be spoken over a thirty-five year old husband, father, son, brother, uncle. Our hearts are breaking yet finding strength in everyone’s prayers, thoughts, blessings, love and words of comfort and peace. Our grandson, Daniel is three. Whenever he is getting his picture taken he gives you the “peace sign.” I’m told that’s big in Korea (where he is from). Little does he know that’s exactly what is needed for him, for his mom, for his dad and for his extended family both here in the States and back home in Seoul.
This I know. God is not the inventor or author of the insidious disease named cancer. Cancer comes from the pit of hell where one day when its all said and done there will be no more sickness, no more dying and every tear will be wiped away. Until that time we know that when it comes time for our son to pass from this life to the next, death does not have the last word. In the end of all that is now temporal will be made right, cancer does not win.
Daniel you keep giving us the peace sign. As we watch your innocence in flashing us that sign we will breathe in peace and trust that one day, “All matter of things shall be well.”