Sunday, July 29, 2018

pit crew

I find that the number one question I’ve been asked after I reveal to someone that I’ve been going through a divorce is this:  Do you have people who are walking with you through this?  Do I ever have people…God has given me the most incredible “pit crew,” as I call them.  This incredible team of family and friends who have been there to service and fill me up with their compassion, prayers, and kindness.

Presence, prayers, listening, cards and notes of encouragement, gifts and getaways, space, and love.  So much love. 

Early on, I talked with our young adult children, and told them to identify their pit crew…that this will be a critical part for their journey and healing through grief.  I have been so grateful for the amazing humans God has placed in the lives of our family.  What an incredible blessing, a true lifeline.  I also mentioned to nh and sh that they in turn will be there in the future for someone else who is struggling due to the help they themselves received in a time of need and the gratitude they have for God’s provision of a pit crew. 

I know that the picture above may seem antithesis to the quote below, but there is a "both/and" to this beloved community.  It consists of both an active carrying of a friend and a quiet holding of a heart.    

From Henri J.M. Nouwen’s The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

Friday, July 20, 2018


Through the course of grieving divorce these past six months, I have found that tangibles and rituals seem to offer some bit of help for me.  Early on,  in the midst of considering the broken hearts of my family, I had an image in my mind of four broken hearts in four little dishes that I could see, touch, and pray over.  I even went to a gift shop in March while I was in Arizona, and found marble hearts that I thought would be too difficult to bust up, so I set aside the notion to make this idea tangible, and instead, decided to keep the mental image only.  

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  I was visiting my friend, Alice, on her porch, and she showed me a book she was reading that she thought I would be interested in reading also.  There, on the cover, was a full marble heart in a dish, much like the image I had had in my mind, but my mental picture had been of a broken heart.  Right then and there I was stopped in my thought life.  Of course.  God longs for us and offers us a life of wholeheartedness.  This Healer wanted to remind me that morning that He desires to take our brokenness and make us new, whole, and fully alive in Him. He would rather my focus and prayers be on Him and newness and wholeness, rather than on me and a fixed gaze on the broken pieces of our lives.   

I shared this God-revealing moment with Alice.  A few days later, I found the book and a whole, marble heart gifted to me on my desk.  I went out and bought 3 more whole hearts.  nh and sh chose their colors, and these hearts sit in a oft visited place on our kitchen counter serving to remind me to pray for wholeheartedness as I look at them and hold each one.  

"Here's what I'm learning personally about wholeness.  I'm learning that it can't be managed.  It can't be scheduled.  It can't be attained in seven easy steps or three key disciplines.  And while disciplines and boundaries and wise life choices are building blocks of a life well-lived, we learn wholeness, more often than not, when our boundaries are shattered, when our disciplines fail us, when our theologies stump us, when our supposedly wise choices betray us.  We learn by un-learning, by stumbling and falling into the very thing we attempted to gain on our own terms.  This, I believe, is the deep wisdom of my Christian tradition.  Like love, wholeness is discovered in a thousand disappointments, embarrassments, and missteps.  It's discovered as our egos are shattered in the inviting presence of Another, One who calls us to belong.  It's experienced as a unity within ourselves and with our world that is indescribably satisfying."  -Chuck DeGroat Wholeheartedness p.7

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

the gospel is the answer

Yesterday, I listened to a co-worker talk about how God's Spirit is moving through a recreation room at a training school for juvenile offenders.  Volunteers from Grundy Center's Orchard Hill Church are making and sharing cookies there, games are played, TV watched, conversations had, community built, and the thread of grace is being woven throughout.  The school's administration is taking note of something extraordinary happening there.  The visionary behind the rec room talks about this space as a "holy place", set apart for the young men, set apart by and with the young men, and set apart within the young men to experience something that will live on within them past this time and space.  

This conversation reminded me of a segment in the CCDA training that I facilitate.  In the first 3 times that the Gospel was shared after Christ left His disciples (Pentecost- Acts 2; Peter and John heal a man- Acts 3; Stephen- Acts 9) we see a similar pattern:

-The disciples were out in the community/streets.
-The Spirit of God was moving.
-People began to ask questions about something extraordinary that they were seeing and experiencing.
-The Good News of Jesus was the answer.  

Paul Tillich, theologian and philosopher, said, "It is wrong to throw answers, like stones, at the heads of those who haven't even asked a question."

Bryant Myers, author Walking with the Poor, writes, "If the people do not ask questions to which the gospel is the answer, we can no longer just say, 'Their hearts were hardened,' and walk away feeling good that we have witnessed to the gospel.  Instead, we need to get down on our knees and ask God why our life and our work are so unremarkable that they never result in a question relating to what we believe and whom we worship."  

May we live in such a way in our communities that people cannot help but to ask questions to which Christ's good news of the Kingdom of God is the answer.  

Friday, July 13, 2018

dancing helps

Sometimes dancing to Fitness Marshall on You Tube is just what is needed.  I've become quite fond of this as a "beating the blues" strategy over the past six months.  Be sure to give it a try:

Friday, July 6, 2018

immigrant apostles' creed

Written by Rev. Jose Luis Casal

Immigrant Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in Almighty God,
who guided the people in exile and in exodus,
the God of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon,
the God of foreigners and immigrants.
I believe in Jesus Christ, a displaced Galilean,
who was born away from his people and his home, who fled
his country with his parents when his life was in danger.
When he returned to his own country he suffered under the oppression of Pontius Pilate, the servant of a foreign power. Jesus was persecuted, beaten, tortured, and unjustly condemned to death.
But on the third day Jesus rose from the dead,
not as a scorned foreigner but to offer us citizenship in God’s kingdom.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the eternal immigrant from God’s kingdom among us,
who speaks all languages, lives in all countries,
and reunites all races.
I believe that the Church is the secure home
for foreigners and for all believers.
I believe that the communion of saints begins 
when we embrace all God’s people in all their diversity.
I believe in forgiveness, which makes us all equal before God,
and in reconciliation, which heals our brokenness.
I believe that in the Resurrection
God will unite us as one people
in which all are distinct and all are alike at the same time.
I believe in life eternal, in which no one will be foreigner
but all will be citizens of the kingdom
where God reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

two rails

The truth is that 2018 has been a year of great sadness for me.  I am grieving the loss of a 30 year marriage, lamenting and repenting the brokenness that resulted in divorce, mourning the ripping apart of our family, and missing mh in his absence. 

The truth is that 2018 has been one of gladness for me.  Every single day, there have been gifts and graces from God that I cannot ignore; gifts and graces that call out beauty, speak a word of redemptive love, remind me of hope, cause me to give thanks. 

A good friend who has walked the difficult journey of grief has spoken often of life's two rails.  Pain and Promise.  Grief and Gratitude.  Suffering and Simple joys.

A few weeks back, I had a birthday.  Grief doesn’t really work on a predictable schedule, but one can pretty much guarantee it will come knocking on special days and holidays.   A day that started with tears was interrupted by a friend riding her bike to my house with a giant donut and candles. We laughed and sang, “It’s my party, I can cry if I want to,” and she joined my daughter and me in painting our porch.  The day progressed to be one of the most beautiful summer days we’ve had (low 80’s, no humidity…golden).  I got out in my kayak, took a book in which I’m finding much consolation, smiled at the many texts and facebook messages from kind well-wishers, and ended the day with family and a wonderful meal to celebrate.  Is there a deep wound and sadness?  A profound yes. Is there goodness and gladness in family, friends, good food, a painted porch, nature, a good book?  A profound yes.  Two rails existing in our one life, neither without a great deal of significance if we choose to engage them both.