I heard this song today and it made me cry. It really resonates with my recent feelings. I think I'll take it to our worship group tonight. "Again," by Flyleaf:

I love the way that your heart breaks
With every injustice and deadly fate.
Praying it all will be new,
And living like it all depends on you.

Here you are down on your knees again,
Trying to find air to breathe again.
Only surrender will help you now.
I love you, please see and believe again.

I love that you're never satisfied
With face value wisdom, and happy lies.
You take what they say and go back and cry.
You were so close to me that you nearly died.

Here you are down on your knees again,
Trying to find air to breathe again.
Only surrender will help you now.
I love you, please see and believe again

They don't have to understand you
Be still
Wait and know I understand you
Be still
Be still

Here you are down on your knees again,
Trying to find air to breathe again.
Only surrender will help you now.
The flood gates are breaking and pouring out

Here you are down on your knees
Trying to find air to breathe
Right were I want you to be again
I love you, please see and believe again
Here you are down on your knees again
Trying to find air to breathe again
Right where I want you to be again
See and believe.


They're rerunning the Bloom County series where they start a heavy metal band. I remember clipping these out of the paper day by day when I was a young head-banger in college.


what living in the kingdom of God means

"... Seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Lk 12.31-32)

The abrupt end of Heather's pregnancy really sent me reeling. As I think back over the past two weeks, I wish I had responded better in many moments, and am grateful that more was not asked of me. But I suppose times like these are when we learn the most about ourselves. On top of the feelings of loss, I've just been so confused. And frightened.

It seemed to me that the experience really threatened my ability (or willingness) to trust God, because I thought I had trusted so hard. And then had been completely let down. I think that has had a lot to do with my deep confusion, and has scared me about my future.

I told myself that our faith, our trust in God, is most challenged when we don't understand what God is doing, or when we don't agree with what God seems to be doing. That's the hardest time to trust. That's when we show whether we'll only trust God when things are going as we think they should, only when we approve the plan. I do think this is true. But it didn't console me very much.

Perhaps I was feeling let down on some deeper level, like some foundational belief had been brought into question. Jesus' promises of God's care and protection and liberation have meant so much to me, both for my own life and as the most important thing I have to offer to others (especially those who come here for retreats). I knew those promises weren't an assurance that nothing bad would ever happen to us. But maybe experiencing such a deep personal loss was showing me the difference between accepting that as a possibility and living with it as a painful reality. It raised the question even more strongly when I thought that our loss was actually much less than what many others have experienced, including many who come to our retreats.

I have felt it is very important that trusting in God should make a real difference in our lives, in our lived experience, a difference that could be seen. That's how it was with Jesus. Not just a different attitude about the usual joys and pains of life, but that the circumstances and experiences were actually different, even miraculously different, because of God's response to those who looked to him in faith. I think Jesus' words and life promised us that. That's the good news I've wanted to share with people. But suddenly it was very hard to see where the difference was in my life, as I grieved just like so many others have grieved.

As I was struggling with this, I kept being drawn back to Jesus' invitation into the kingdom of God, that this was the different life we were being offered. It certainly did appear markedly different as Jesus lived it. Yet there was also grief and loss and disappointment. Even questions and dismay about God's purposes at times. Yet Jesus still demonstrated a noticeable freedom and power that made his life different. Maybe that was even more apparent in those times of pain and questions.

I believe what Jesus demonstrated is that we can trust God to always provide all that we need to be free to love and do good. So even in times where we must go through pain or loss, or afflictions and oppressions from other people, God will bring whatever is needed to give us freedom in those situations. It may be financial resources or the help of a friend or a spiritual experience. But we can trust God for real help, real things, real intervention to free us. Not simply to spare our suffering but to allow us to be our good self, a unique loving presence, the presence of God in the world. In all situations, at all times, throughout our whole life. That's what living in the kingdom of God means.

That is the good news that I needed to hear. In my present grief, but also in my concerns about the challenges of fatherhood, and in my hopes that our retreats can offer real encouragement to those who come. I don't think I'll soon forget this lesson.


This past week we suffered a miscarriage. I'm stunned and can't say anything at the moment.


The Two Disciples at the Tomb by Henry Tanner, one of my favorites at the Art Institute of Chicago


the mercy of not being recognized

It hasn't felt much like Lent this year. With the very early spring it seems like the new life of Easter (and a new pregnancy) began pushing Lenten repentance out of the way almost before it began. But I do have one reflection that fits the Lenten theme.

I spoke with a friend the other day who remarked, "So, Paul the walker is going to have a baby." It struck me because thoughts of becoming a parent has made me wonder if my life's becoming more "normal" or less inspiring or at least less noticeable, hidden among a lot of ordinary human tasks. It's a thought I've had before. And I've been wondering if that's something I should be concerned about.

The story of Jesus' path to the crucifixion is far from ordinary. Yet reading that story I was reminded that this was a path that Jesus asked to be spared from. And I also recalled a thought I've had before, that to be recognized publicly as close follower of Jesus also sets us up to be treated publicly as he was. It's easy in our "Christian" society to think that recognition as a good Jesus-follower leads to acclaim and success. But that's far from the truth. It's far from what Jesus told us to expect. To be recognized as truly acting and speaking as Jesus did leads directly to the kind of end that Jesus experienced. This is not something to be envied or desired. Jesus knew what true recognition meant and he did not desire that path.

To follow Jesus and not be widely recognized is thus a mercy. Jesus was spared of it for maybe thirty years. I should be grateful to be spared of it also, especially if it allows a time of relative peace and stability for the nurturing of a child. I think there will definitely be a times, for all Jesus' followers, to be recognized and face the consequences of that. But it's not something to rush into with reckless zeal; that only shows we don't understand what we're doing. Obedience to God means accepting God's timing and accepting what God gives. Including the mercy of not being recognized.