Sunday, September 23, 2018

learning to live well with sorrow

"I did not go through pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow.  I did not get over the loss of my loved ones; rather, I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am.  Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it.  I learned gradually that the deeper we plunge into suffering, the deeper we can enter into a new, and different, life- a life no worse than before and sometimes better."  -J. Sittser, A Grace Disguised

"When we plunge into darkness, it is darkness we experience.  We feel pain, anguish, sorrow, and despair, and we experience the ugliness, meanness, and absurdity of life.  We brood as well as hope, rage as well as surrender, doubt as well as believe.  We are apathetic as often as we are hopeful, and sorrowful before we are joyful.  We both mourn deeply and live well.  We experience the ambivalence of living simultaneously in the night and in the light."  -J. Sittser

"The darkness lingers for a long time, perhaps for the rest of our lives."  J. Sittser 

"Is it possible to feel sorrow for the rest of our lives and yet to find joy at the same time?  Is it possible to enter the darkness and still to live an ordinary, productive life?  Loss requires that we live in a delicate tension.  We must mourn, but we must also go on living."  J. Sittser

This is a work that I am very early on the journey of learning about and choosing to do well. Sorrow has been the dominant  and overwhelming emotion in my life of late, but I am grateful for this author who reminds me that I have a choice to embrace and absorb that sorrow into my life in such a way that it can be integrated into a new narrative of which its very presence in my life can create a greater capacity to live and love well.    

Friday, September 21, 2018

the valley of suffering is the vale of soul-making

In May, my good friend's dad passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I did not know Gerald, but through his loss and funeral, I learned some beautiful things about him.  I learned that Gerald stopped in daily at his Catholic parish to light a candle and to pray.  My friend shared this practice of her dad's in a text to me, and it attached itself to me and would not let go.  I went home and took the unity candle from Mike's and my wedding day out of my cedar chest.  I placed it on the table next to my bed, and I've been lighting it each morning when I make the bed....praying daily to Jesus, Light of the World, to illuminate, reveal, heal in the midst of so much difficulty and darkness found in the lives of family, friends, our community, our world.  Perhaps, these words below might be the greatest prayer for us all...

"And sometimes, when the cry is intense, there emerges a radiance which elsewhere seldom appears: a glow of courage, of love, of insight, of selflessness, of faith.  In that radiance, we see best what humanity was meant to be...In the valley of suffering, despair and bitterness are brewed.  But there also character is made.  The valley of suffering is the vale of soul-making." -Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son.

"It is therefore not true that we become less through loss- unless we allow the loss to make us less, grinding our soul down until there is nothing left but an external self entirely under the control of circumstances.  Loss can also make us more.  In the darkness, we can still find the light. In death, we can also find life.  It depends on the choices we make.  Though these choices are difficult and rarely made in haste or with ease, we can nevertheless make them.  Only when we choose to pay attention to our souls will we learn how much more there is to life than the external world around us, however wonderful or horrible that world is.  We will discover the world within.  Yet such attention to the soul does not have to engender self-absorption.  If anything, it eventually turns us toward the world again and makes us more compassionate and just than we might otherwise have been." -Jerry Sittser, p.49 A Grace Disguised

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

tied together

We must all learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or we will all perish together as fools.  We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  This is the way God's universe is made; this is the way it is structured.  

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

plunge into the darkness

“the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.” p. 42 
A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser

“I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could.  Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it.  I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and to yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what that would mean.”  P.42 A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss has been the most helpful reading I've done through the unrelenting pain of losing my husband and marriage.  I have not yet counted a day in the past 8 months that has been without tears, but I have also not yet counted a day in the past 8 months that I've not recognized that I've entered a core space, and that I sense deep meaning and message in the darkness.   Perhaps, I'm flittering close to this truth...

"The soul is elastic, like a balloon.  It can grow larger through suffering.  Loss can enlarge its capacity for anger, depression, despair, and anguish, all natural and legitimate emotions whenever we experience loss.  Once enlarged, the soul is also capable of experiencing greater joy, strength, peace, and love.  What we consider opposites- east and west, night and light, sorrow and joy, weakness and strength, anger and love, despair and hope, death and life- are no more mutually exclusive than winter and sunlight. The soul has the capacity to experience these opposites, even at the same time." p. 48 A Grace Disguised  by J. Sittser

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Iowa Justice Action Network

Iowa Justice Action Network (IJAN) is hosting their fall conference in Waterloo, IA, on Tuesday, October 9, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 

Consider giving a day to listen, learn, and join this important conversation.


The Iowa Justice Action Network Fall Conference addresses the need to create new narrative about criminal justice, one that focuses on restoring wholeness to the individual, the family and the community. The keynote speaker will be Jeanne Bishop, author of "Change of Heart:Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with my Sister's Killer" There will be panels on services to persons returning from prison, reconciliation, services to families of those incarcerated and the role of higher education in restoring those who have served in prison.

You can learn more and purchase a ticket here:

Sunday, September 9, 2018

freedom from regret, guilt, and shame

"When you combine a passive guy and an assertive gal, there will be far more than underwear and dishes to wash.  You'll also have a build up of anger or rage to disinfect, a diminished intimacy to cleanse and restore, a loss of trust to reestablish and renew.  And much more."  -Paul and Sally Coughlin, Married But Not Engaged.   FAIL.

Losing mh and living in the reality of a failed marriage is by far the deepest sorrow and greatest regret I've known.  Loss, grief, regret, guilt, and shame have been constant companions of mine these past months, and so I was thankful for my friend, Alice's, teaching this summer.. a gift of grace from the Divine for me one particular morning.  I had not even been able to sit through a full worship service since Christmas without having anxiety overwhelm me to the point of needing to leave the room.  But on this particular day, I stayed through every last powerful word for my soul.  

If you are stuck in the sludge of regret, guilt, shame, be reminded today with this sermon below that we are invited to receive forgiveness and freedom by way of the work done by Jesus, not us, on the cross.

"We mess up, we sin, and we then give in to this belief that we've messed up so badly that our sin now defines us.  That we are somehow beyond grace, and we refuse Jesus's offer of forgiveness....We flat out say, 'I want guilt and shame to eat at me for the rest of my life.  I'm really interested in self-crucifixion."  -Alice Shirey

"The choice to extend forgiveness is God's.  The choice to live in the power of that forgiveness is up to us." -Alice Shirey

“Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat denial of the gospel of grace. Our approach to the Christian life is as absurd as the enthusiastic young man who had just received his plumber’s license and was taken to see Niagara Falls. He studied it for a minute and then said, “I think I can fix this.”
― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out

“May a merciful God preserve me from a Christian Church in which everyone is a saint!  I want to be and remain in the church and little flock of the fainthearted, the feeble and the ailing, who feel and recognize the wretchedness of their sins, who sigh and cry to God incessantly for comfort and help, who believe in the forgiveness of sins.”  -Martin Luther

Sunday, September 2, 2018


I just returned from co-facilitating a day long CCDA intensive in Indianapolis at E91 Church. How energizing it is to dialogue with several churches and ministries about God's heart of compassion and justice!  To hear what God is up to in Indy and to hear the passions and work of Jesus followers in the room inspires me so much.   What a warm welcome Terrance and I received from Indianapolis host churches/ministries!  

After facilitating activities, conversation, and reflection over the 8 key components of Christian Community Development, we spent a little time hearing the learnings and takeaways from our day together.  One key takeaway that I heard from participants was to further examine what it means to partner WITH the community in development work.  How is our church or ministry an integral part of the community?  How are existing relationships and programs utilizing gifts from both the community and the church/ministry?  Are decisions about the programs/services to be offered being made with the community?  Is the ownership of the programs/services shared with the community? 

These are excellent questions to ask as we consider our ministry approach.  Christian Community Development is about harnessing and developing the WITH.