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.”
Grace has posted thoughts I have had the last few weeks in her post “Absurdity Abounds” here
I have not had much time to blog lately and I still don’t. A couple of things caught my attention this last week. First this article by internet monk.
The second this video from Rick Joyner.
What are your thoughts on one or the other or both?
I went to see Doubt last week and thought it was one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic and went through twelve years of Catholic school in the same era the film is portraying. was in third grade at the time the movie is set in and so many of the issues in the movie which were very complex I found fascinating. What a powerful portrayal of the way a parish worked in the 60′s. Thanks to Alan Creech if you have seen it and want to interact with how to think about it you can visit a great blog that I have now bookmarked, A Nun’s Life where there is some great dialogue about the movie. If you have seen the movie I would love to know your thoughts.
From Parker Palmer:
Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about–quite apart from what I would like it to be about–or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.
Last Sunday at the Vineyard we felt like the Lord was saying to us as a congregation, “let’s all catch our breath” as I have been trying to do just that this week, I have been trying to grab moments of “silence” to just listen, to hear, to tune into the voice of God and what it means to lead in the midst of a faith community and a mission group. The truth is I get so busy I forget to listen. I am trying to intentionally practice “turning aside to look” to see God in all of my encounters, in all of life not just in church or in suffering but everywhere.
Especially listening to my life to understand what it is about rather than what I would like it to be about is more challenging and difficult than one might think. It takes courage to listen to what the voice of God might say…more later
The Assisted Suicide bill passed in Washington State. Last night I was with 8 women. When asked how many voted pro and how many against it was equally divided, 4-pro, 4-against. A discussion ensued as to why we voted the way we did. I thought a lot about the bill before I voted “against” and thinking more about it this morning. I think this is a very complex issue but for me boils down to some issues I can’t resolve. The main issues being my belief that God is the giver and sustainer of life. I consider the sacredness of human life in all of life; i.e., war, violence, the death penalty, abortion, euthanasia and biotechnology. My fundamental belief as a follower of Christ is that the kingdom of God consists of peace with justice, of life unmarred by killing. (Kingdom Ethics, pg. 147). The good news of the gospel brings life and invites us to participate in bringing life and resisting death. Simply put, (even though without a doubt these are very complex issues) kingdom ethics resists killing, as Jesus did, and strongly affirms the value of human persons, as Jesus did.
When we talk about assisted suicide or euthanasia, I believe we are talking about the difference between “killing” and “letting die.” I believe the role of the health care professional is to cure if possible, and to care always and to never harm or hasten death. The way to meet the legitimate needs of the suffering and dying is through enhanced pain management (palliative care), hospice care and other efforts to assure, as far as possible, a good process of dying.
The fear of dying a long, agonizing death is perhaps the fundamental driving force behind the drive for euthanasia. This seems to disregard the advanced pain management treatments that help to allow a person to die well.
As a Christ follower, I believe that until Jesus returns and brings an end to illness and death at last, God’s will is that every sick human being be treated with dignity and compassion, receive needed curative treatments, benefit from pain relief and die only when their time has really come. The need to offer compassionate care that meets the need of the ill and dying, and their families is what our society needs to focus on. My conclusion is that “letting die” is the correct response, “killing” in the name of “my right” or “compassion” is the wrong response.
would really like to know your thoughts because this kind of stuff confounds me.
This from Sojourners
This election has shown that thtch e era of single-issue voting is over and a broader moral agenda that seeks common ground on moral issues has begun. Members of Black churches, Catholics, evangelicals, Latinos, and mainline Protestants are acting on a broad set of biblical values. I look forward to the day when both poverty reduction and abortion reduction become nonpartisan issues and bipartisan causes.
Please join me in offering President-elect Obama our prayers and our actions as he assumes the responsibility of leading our nation in a very challenging time.
And then this from Dutch Sheets who represents the very Right/Charismatic stream of the Church.
I think the majority of us would agree that today is historic in so many ways for the United States. Even so, I can’t put all my eggs for “peace and Kingdom living” into the basket of who becomes the next president. What has been amazing (and sad) to me is how divisive for Christ followers this election has been. The one thing that I hope is that however you vote (or not vote) you would be respectful of everyone’s right to their decision. Honestly I don’t think Jesus is for one side or the other. I hope you vote your values and your conscience and are not in the fray causing division. As exciting as this day is, I am looking forward to tomorrow.
Check out this new video Brian did on Hope here
Short and to the point. When he talks about the Muslims in the first part of the video it made me think, this is exactly why the youth initiative TNT is an important experience for young people to learn about and from one another.
As I watched/watch the Conventions I am struck with so many issues. If God speaks through culture how are we discerning what we are seeing unfold in our current history-making elections? I have noticed many things that we (the church) could “notice” and wonder about. I will mention one thing and that is how many of the speeches and interviews with folks from the Kennedy’s, Clinton’s and Obama’s to the Bush’s and McCain’s, (and everyone else in between) always, always, always mention how their parents instilled in them a profound sense of no matter how privileged they were they must, must, must serve others. I have been struck with this notion for weeks now and am asking myself first, as a parent how I continue to raise my young son with this value and secondly, as a pastor how to create an environment within our faith community to instill this value in young people.