Transactional Joy

When we grieve at Christmas, often there is a vast disconnect between superficial merry making and the transactional joy of Christmas. We may be surrounded by friends, family, and those we call family, yet we may be unable or unwilling to enter into the organized good cheer of a seasonal gathering. We ask, “What’s wrong with me?” because we are longing for the presence of our loved one. Transactional joy cannot be experienced in emotional isolation. There are always two parties to any transaction. read more »

Thanksgiving

On October 3, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued a Proclamation, “to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” At that historic time of divisive war, no one was spared from grief. Everyone lost someone or something - a loved one, property, dignity, or an old way of life. read more »

Our Saints in Circulation

Because our experience of grief is both intimate and personal, often we memorialize our loved ones more privately than publicly. When we invite others into the sacred space of our grief, we share our story of love and loss with those in need of community and spiritual encouragement. As we open our heart to close family members, acquaintances, or even relative strangers, we put our saints in circulation. read more »

No Fear in Love

Love and fear share a kind of polar opposite kinship. When we grieve, most of us experience the kind of fear that has little to do with love. Some of us live with a kind of chronic fear that feels like quiet desperation. Some of us live with low-grade fear that causes us to be constantly on the defensive. Though some of us live through grief with a fair amount of equanimity, unexpectedly we may be waylaid by episodes of fear that threaten to unhinge us completely. Grief, fear, love—strange bedfellows indeed. read more »

Grief Delayed

When tragedy and disaster cause the death of a loved one or destroy our home and property, circumstance usually allows little time to do the emotional and spiritual work of grief. We are in crisis mode: those who die are victims, those who survive are victims. Most are emotionally and physically overwhelmed by the basic tasks necessary to make it through even one more day of upheaval and chaos. Yet despite immeasurable loss, we get up, put one foot in front of the other, and do all we can to sustain life, even as we try to create some order or reason out of what has happened. read more »

The Faith of Grief

The hardscrabble faith of grief is altogether different from an unbruised faith that has not been tried and tested by a firsthand experience of death, life’s most certain inevitability. If our world has been inverted by the death of one we love, for a while our faith may seem muddled as we ask hard questions that test the truth of what we say we believe. read more »

Thousand-Person Army

When we take ourselves out of the crosshairs of daily life and gradually begin to focus again on life going on around us, this is a sure sign that we are making progress in grief. We see things differently and appreciate the beauty of nature in a different, more spiritual way. We consider the world and appreciate that we are part of a continuum of sorrow and joy, disappointment and hope, loss and victory, death and life. We better understand the heart and mind of God because we have grieved. read more »

The Penny

As I returned to my car from a quick stop at the drug store, I happened to look down at the pavement and saw a penny. Though it was dirty, scratched, and almost unrecognizable as a coin, I picked it up and put it with the other change in my wallet. read more »

Reflexive God

No matter where we live or when we were born, we are part of a generation of amateur fixers. There is at least one hardware or home improvement store in almost every community that insists that we can “do-it-yourself”. Even those who lack a certain manual dexterity or have little aptitude for repairs and renovations are somehow convinced by programs that showcase home remodeling that we should be able to tackle any project, large or small. We are assured that if we just follow a few easy steps, the finished product will be perfect. To understand the flawed premise of “you can do anything yourself” marketing, one has only to stand in line at the return counter of any hardware store and look at the people with failure written all over their faces. Next to the register there is usually a discreet display of business cards for professionals with the skills to fix most any botched job. read more »

Intermittent Grief

Intermittent grief is the faithful tap-tap-tapping on the window of our soul that gets our attention and transports us to the place of personal grief forever reserved for the one we love. Long after the tears of shock subside and we begin to think that we are better, time and again grief reaches into our heart to remind us of our loss. It surprises us, especially when we are unprepared to deal with it. read more »

Colorblind

One of the things I remember most about my father is that he was the most colorblind person I have ever known. His eyesight was perfect, but his heart and mind simply did not recognize black or white, brown or red. He chose to be a person who would, “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). Though my father was not a saint nor was he by any means perfect, he did not tolerate racism or bigotry of any kind. He lived in the conviction of faith that we should “love one another” (John 13:34 NRSV). Everyone. No exceptions. read more »

Hidden in Plain Sight

Sometimes a new perspective on a single word or idea can penetrate our uneven grief emotions and get our attention in an unexpected way. It is the light bulb effect, the “aha” moment when we at last understand some deeper truth that gives us unexpected insight into the nature of God. When this happens, we are strengthened and inspired to move forward in our grief. read more »

Unison Grief

Beyond the definition of a commonwealth as a federation of states, it is also any group of persons united by some common interest. In the face of a global pandemic or senseless violence, those who are helpless onlookers are most certainly part of a commonwealth. As we join hands and hearts across continents and the continuum of life, we grieve in unison for each individual who is lost to us in death and for every person who survives and grieves. read more »

Where is God?

When a virus erupts, causes a pandemic, and brings the entire world to its knees, there are only questions—what caused this, why, how? The kind of global tragedy that has unfolded over the past months is shattering, it’s life-altering on every level as our powerlessness seeps into each small corner of our life. It tests our faith and shakes the very foundation of our life and all we hold dear. From the depths of our mind and heart we may ask, “Where is God?” We want to know. We insist on answers when there are none. We question, we probe our faith, and again ask, “Where is God?” read more »

Don't Miss the Spring

At this time of unprecedented crisis the entire world is single-minded in its focus on the prevention and containment of the coronavirus. And while this daunting challenge may well stretch our healthcare resources and financial fortitude for an as yet unknown period of time, our innate survival instinct can easily overwhelm the rest of life still going on around us. We shop, stock up, and even hoard sufficient supplies to calm our momentary sense of helplessness at least for a while. read more »

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