Archives For death

Spurgeon said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that strikes me against the rock of ages,” and I have written about it before. It still stands that I’d rather kiss the wave after it’s battered and thrown me against the Rock instead of while it is battering and throwing me. I am human and therefore value self-preservation.

Honeymoon stage is a phrase I wish didn’t enter the Christian’s vocabulary. If marriage is to be a reflection of Christ and the Church and we are to worship at His throne forever in joy, why would we think earthly marriage should be different? I know just saying that has some of you shaking your heads, “Just you wait, Lore, it’s coming for you.” To that I want to say this: our honeymoon was one week and two days long, we spent it in Aspen, eating delicious food and having lots of sex. It was everything a honeymoon should be.

And then we came down out of the mountains to a new city, bought a house, started a job, lived in a basement apartment for a month, tried to make a new and different church feel like home, and we still don’t know who our people here are. Honeymoon was vacation, this is real life.

In the still dark hours of the morning a few weeks ago I made breakfast, sat down to drink my coffee, and read my bible while the man ran and then showered. He joined me when my coffee was drunk and we had a hard discussion on the realities of life: we need a new roof ($15,000) and his car needs $4000 dollars worth of work. That’s nearly $20,000 out of our honeymoon stage budget.

I got to work and he texted a few minutes later to call him. His contract won’t be renewed for his remote job. He understands and is full of faith, and has a skill set that’s useful and employable anywhere, but the kick in the gut still hurts. This wasn’t part of the honeymoon. He’s been looking now for a month and jobs are harder to come by than we thought.

In September I miscarried. For fifteen days I bled and cried and couldn’t answer the question: why? and what? This foreign emotion of being tied to something inextricably and forever felt alien. I am still learning what it means to live “until death us do part,” but that is a two way commitment and this felt painfully one way.

I say all this because I feel the waves and they’re battering and pressing and bruising, but I wake up every single day confident of the goodness of God in the land of the living. I wake up confident that living means really living, really seeing God’s goodness, not lowering my eyes to the sinking depths of life, but raising them to the One from whom my help comes.

Buechner said, “This is the world: beautiful and terrible things will happen,” and I have thought of it often in recent months. Sometimes Colorado is so achingly beautiful and so achingly hard at the same time. And sometimes marriage is. And sometimes church is. And most of the time life is.

I think often on Psalm 73: the nearness of God is my good, and I ask often that I would not just know his nearness, but I would feel it too.

I don’t know what’s going on in your life today, what waves are throwing you against the Rock of Ages or what beautiful and terrible things are happening, but I know this: He is good and He is near, especially to the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. His love for you is not a honeymoon love, fervent in the beginning and waning when real life hits. His love for you is everlasting and always good.

In the mountains and in the valleys. In still seas and stormy ones. He remains.

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I am not so afraid of death as I am of dying, the long slow fall into oblivion. And it is not attached so much to plane crashes and car accidents as it is to the slow death of the everyday. The “punctual rape” Richard Wilbur calls it and it is vulgar, yes, but true of sorts. Every day a little more is shaved off my life and I grow a little closer to the final sleep—and eternal wake. It is the every day dying I do to myself that pains me so much. This is the real dying I fear.

I wake this morning crippled by fears: what ifs and whens, hows and whos. The conversations I must have and the questions I must ask and the corrections to be ministered and the challenges I must accept and the prayers I must pray and the asks I must petition. These seem insurmountable when I list them out in the still dark hours. How, God? and Why Me? —these are the questions I ask.

The thing about death and dying is you can’t stop it. He who numbers and knows our days held the date in his hand before the foundation of the earth. The thing about death and dying to self, though, is it seems like you can stop it. Don’t have the conversation. Don’t submit yourself to correction. Don’t give up what you want. Don’t let go of this grudge or that fear or this offense or that dream. Hoard it all in the belief that you can have it all and take it with you when you breathe your last.

It’s an illusion, see. The belief that we can keep our lives and also we can keep all that is life, or what seems like life. Christ came to give life abundant, but the greatest lie we believe is He won’t and so we must get it ourselves.

I believe it sometimes. Do you?

I fear flying and car crashes, death and dying, yes, but right now I fear conversations and submission and saying, “Not my will, but thine,” far more. The irksome presence of people and demands and desires pressing on me more than I want them to or think I deserve them to.

My pastor recounted a story to me recently about pastoring people and the expectation that sometime they’d finally get it together and his job would be easier. But that’s not the job of a pastor, he said, the job of a pastor is to shepherd sheep and it never ends.

I think this is the role of the person too, at least the Christian person. To shepherd sheep. Dying, bleating, complaining, fussy sheep, who smell and press in and run away and push back—and to wake every morning ready to do it again. To come and die, to lose our lives that we might find them in the face of the great shepherd who leads us—yes us, yes you—beside still waters and restores your soul in paths of righteousness.

And all this for His name’s sake. For His glory. For His renown.

A few nights ago, after spending Christmas Eve in the Emergency Room and then a series of unfortunate events following, I found myself in the pharmacy at midnight. I turned to the man sitting next to me on grimy chairs, both of us bleary-eyed and said, “Merry Christmas.” He grunted in response and I wanted to cry.

I’ve been hesitant to ask many people how their Christmas was, not because I didn’t want to know, but because I didn’t want them to ask back. Mine was memorable, but not in the ways we like Christmas to be memorable.

. . .

There’s a woman whose story I’ve been following a bit over the past few months. Her husband sent me an email months ago asking if I wanted to review her book. Requests like these are many, but his email was different, and I paid attention. Since then I’ve followed her writing and journey with sorrow and joy. Her name is Kara Tippetts and she has cancer. It has ravaged her body so completely there is nothing left to do but call hospice, which her husband did today.

I read her recent post with tears streaming down my face because what a light and momentary affliction my Christmas week was. Even with another roommate in the Emergency Room this morning and with the weight of life falling heavy on another and the business of living on another—what light affliction. What a momentary suffering. This mama is curled next to her babies and they are watching her slip into the longest sleep. This mama has to hand their futures and living over to her pastor-husband and to the Lord in a way most mothers never will, and couldn’t imagine. And yet how gloriously she suffers.

She suffers knowing it is light—even though it is the heaviest thing she will ever bear. She suffers knowing it is momentary—even though she longs to stay here as long as possible, to simply give them one more memory of her smile and her love. She suffers knowing there is a weight of glory beyond all comparison.

I cannot wrap my mind around that—and I am not meant to, not fully. I don’t think any of us can, not really. Not until we are facing sure and certain death on earth, until its cold grip is nearly complete and our soul slips into the warm presence of Christ. But I want to understand it. I’m begging God to help me understand it tonight.

The only way I know to understand, though, is not to set my eyes on my suffering, but to, like Paul said, not look at the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen. I cannot see redemption in this life, no matter how hard I wish for it or look for it. Even my dreams pale in comparison to the glory I know he has prepared for me, so why would I set my hopes on them?

The transient things are seen—and this life, oh this turbulent, tumultuous, tenuous life is so visible, so seen. I see it in every direction of my life and the lives of the people I love. But there is a stayedness in the living dying of Kara Tippets and I am jealous for it. I do not envy her cancer, but I envy the way she has let the cancer eat away at bitterness or fear instead of feeding it.

I let the cancer of fear and insecurity and doubt feed more fears and insecurities and doubt. I stare at my light afflictions, daring them to prove themselves lighter. I trudge through my momentary afflictions, making it a slower and more weighty journey. How much better to set my eyes on the one to whom I run, to run with endurance, and to find myself arrived still astounded at the glory I behold? To spend my life imagining the glory and still find myself surprised at its splendor?

Let that hope of glory be the mark of our suffering, friends.

Pray for the Tippetts family. God, pray for them.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
II Corinthians 4:17-18

(Kara’s blog is currently down, but when it’s back up, here’s the link.)

Kara Tippetts

There are things I ought to have learned in science class, but I was too busy hankering for art class to pay much attention.

Did you know that the reason the autumn leaves are so spectacular in the northeast is because the weather has an indecisive air to it? It’s true. One night it’s cold enough to frost and the next day it’s warm enough to kayak in a tshirt. In the mountains the reds and oranges are deep and rich, and in the valley fields the green is vibrant and lush. The sky is almost always a steel blue, nearly grey, but still clear. I cannot describe this well enough, I know. I’m sure I tend to romanticize it because I tend to romanticize everything. It makes for a better story, see?

But trust me: it is beautiful here. Even today, while it rains steadily outside the side porch where I complete my wedding tasks of the day, it is beautiful (of course it helps that my wedding tasks for the day were to take buckets of flowers and make them into eleven presentable bouquets).

Tonight I’m going to leave these bouquets of roses and hydrangeas, seeded eucalyptus and ranunculus here on the porch—outside, where temperatures will probably dip into the forties. I’ll leave them here. And for the same reason the leaves get more and more spectacular, I have no fear for these flowers.

It goes against my gut to do this, leave them outside. Because flowers bloom in the warmest months, I assume that’s where they’ll thrive best. But years in Texas are teaching me that while the heat may force a bloom to open, it does little to sustain it.

We all need a little indecisive air, a bit of a chill, to be sustained.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I had a conversation with a friend the other day and she’s asking the right questions: why does it have to be so hard sometimes? Why does it have to hurt? I don’t have answers for her. I’m finding the more I know, the less I really know.

But I know this: those leaves wouldn’t take our breath away if they weren’t dying in the process.

And I don’t like it. It makes me uncomfortable. I hate death, it is nothing but stings and barbs. But I love life because it is nothing but newness and cycles.

I love life because I know I will die a million deaths until the final one, but each one makes me a little more vibrant in the process, and each one brings the promise of newness. That’s something I can plant my soul in.

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I said no to a lot of things this year and in every direction branches have fallen. Good, seemingly healthy branches and dead ones too. Their absence has left me feeling naked and exposed, broken and wondering: what did I do to deserve the axe to my soul?

I learned long ago to not make plans, partially because nothing in my life goes according to one, but also because they become a breeding ground for resentment when I am disappointed in their failure. There were seeds of doubt in me this year that grew into fear and developed into anger. Not anger at others, but anger at myself, mostly, and anger at God. Maybe others knew I was being pruned, but I felt unjustly ruined.

It has been a strange dichotomy for me. Before 2010 I lived most of my life perpetually mistrustful of God, with a brooding anger at him. Since 2010, though, his goodness and prevailing trustworthiness has been steadfast and immovable. I have never known anything like it and still am in awe of what a constant God he is when not encumbered by the caricatures and Sunday School stories we make him out to be like. 2014, though, has been a year where I have seen my glaring disappointments and failures front and center. If there were places of pride in my life and heart, places I thought on the brink of full sanctification, this year has wrecked every one of them.

Jill Andrews has a song called Cut and Run where she says, “And it’s just like me // to walk away so early.” All my life that is my propensity. I walk away early instead of digging in deep. But this year He wouldn’t let me. He made me wait, long past the time when everyone else said to walk away. He stayed me, and then still cut me. It felt unfair, the antithesis of his goodness.

Nothing has gone unscathed.

Making the decision to stay in Texas was an act of faith for me three months ago. I felt physically nauseous when I signed our lease; it felt like a death warrant for me in some ways, and I am not prone to exaggeration. It was in part an act of submission to leaders in my life who are wiser than I, and in part submission to the Lord who presses deep on my propensity to run when the going gets tough. I began to submit a thousand small things to others too, in a way I balk against naturally. There have been times in my life when I felt suffocated by submission, no part unscrutinized by others. And there have been times when I have soared in submission, being set free under good leadership who wanted good for me. But this season of submission has felt both restraining and freeing.

The other night my closest Texas friends and I sat around a fire for half a night. The moon rose behind us and the coyotes howled. I didn’t say much, which is not unusual, but I listened a lot. I listened to laughter and sorrow, stories and life. All the things God uses to bring us to today.

He has been healing some things in me in the past few months. Not growing new branches yet, but healing the cuts from the old ones. Signing that lease, living with the four souls in our home, going to my hometown in Pennsylvania, good conversations, intentionally digging in at my church, working on projects that bring me joy, putting aside projects that steal my joy, choosing home more than choosing traveling, saying no to so many things, so I can say yes to what is most important: sitting at the feet of my good and faithful and kind Savior—the true vine, the true root, the true tree.

I can’t shake the heaviness. It’s been there for weeks, months, a year. A funeral shroud. “Where, oh death, is your sting?” Oh, it’s here. All here.

I’ve been thinking of Mary in the garden these days, weeping by the tomb, the empty tomb. Standing by the evidence that her Lord had risen and she didn’t even recognize the man who asked, “Why are you crying? And whom do you seek?”

But he knew.

And that’s what I’m stumbling around all these days. He knew and he still asked. She sought him dead in a tomb and found him raised in newness of life, and still mourned. Couldn’t help but mourn because what she wanted most in the world was gone.

Foresight is the luxury of the hopeful.

Tonight one of my pastors said the same word for steadfastness in Titus 2 is the word for hope. How often is my steadfastness directed toward lesser hopes though? I set my face like steel, my heart like stone, and will accept nothing less (or more) than my savior exactly where I saw Him last.

Why are you crying and whom do you seek?

And then:

Why do you seek the living among the dead?

When I look at the sprawl of this past year, the death of hopes and dreams and plans, every thwarted hope, I’m trying to sort through all the loss and find one living thing. One shred of life among the dead. Like Lot’s wife, I take one more longing look at the loss. Hoping for what? Steadfastly searching tombs for a savior who will always be seven steps ahead of me?

Where are you and why aren’t you where I saw you last?

Today I read, “In the new age of the resurrection, the Lord’s first words to an individual person were to ask, ‘Why are you crying?'” And then I wept. Because all I have felt like is faithless Mary at the empty tomb for weeks, months, a year. Begging my eyes to be playing tricks on me. But never have I noticed the first words Christ spoke were words of acknowledgement, “Why are you crying?”

Because he sees.

It was Mary who did not see and it is me who does not see. But he sees. His steadfast (hope-filled) love endures forever. And he sees.

And then he calls her name: Mary.

Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward we are strong at the broken places.” I wrote that quote on an index card when I read it in high school and didn’t know how prophetic it would prove to be in my life.

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Someone said, a few years ago, “Teach your kids they’re broken, deeply broken,” and the internet swarmed and stung in response. No one wants to believe deep inside the horrible, awful, no good truth. That the gears inside of me will keep getting stuck and rusty, jamming up in inopportune places and too small spaces. No one wants to believe the brokenness on the outside points a terrible truth about the inside.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

It’s not a prosperity gospel to believe that the brokenness on the inside of us results in wars and rumors of wars, gunned down black boys on city streets, cancer, and genocide. It is not a transactional brokenness: you broke me, so I’ll break you. Or, more honestly, I broke me, so He breaks me more. But it is a cause and effect of sorts. Deeply broken people don’t turn the other cheek, not only in war, but also at home when the floor doesn’t get swept and it’s his turn to do the dishes and someone was uncaring or uncouth. It starts with the small fractures and leads to the tremors and quakes until we are all shattered pieces and wondering how we got here.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

The world does break everyone and it is not for nothing to say we are stronger at the broken places. I heard it said recently that good eschatology says “The bad gets worse, the good gets better, and the mushy middle is done away with.” I groan for that and so do we all.

The mushy middle is what breaks us, that pliable and soft already/not yet we live in. We groan for the culmination of the kingdom, the new heaven, the new earth, but we’re still here, where missiles fall every four minutes and Christians claw their way into a helicopter from an Iraq hilltop, and journalists are tear-gassed and officers act hastily, and my friend has a tumor and it’s cancerous, and where the tears won’t stop falling this morning because we are broken, yes, it is true. We are deeply broken.

But, on our behalf, so was he.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.

Earth and Sky
A beautiful collision of grace and grief
by Guy Delcambre

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When I first met Guy what I was struck most by was his weary constancy. Here was a guy going through the motions of life, fatherhood, writing, breathing, and doing it without the woman he thought would be beside him for the rest of his life. I never heard him complain. I watched him put one foot in front of another, fathering, writing, leading, working, breathing. He writes in the same way.

There’s a weightiness to his words, not because they are weighty words but because they carry strength and endurance within them. They are the badge of a man who has sunk beneath the waters of suffering, who has subsisted on the bread of affliction, and who has seen the goodness of God in the land of the living and the dead.

In Guy’s new book, Earth and Sky, he writes of his life with his wife before her death, and what to do after she was taken from him so young. There is a tangibleness to the wrestling Guy does in the book, and I don’t think it’s just because I saw a bit of that wrestling in real life. I think it’s because Guy put his heart into the writing of this book—not for fame or for a name, but for his daughters. He suffered well because he was watched closely. I said to him one day a few years ago that they were learning how to grieve from him, watching him, and I couldn’t think of a better example.

If you are grieving or you know someone who is, I recommend Earth and Sky in the same way I recommend A Grief Observed, because sometimes what we need is not all the answers, but a friend to walk alongside when the answers don’t come easily.

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February 28th is my dead brother’s 28th birthday. Is that what they call the Golden Birthday? He always was the golden boy. The dead often are.

I don’t believe in celebrating the birthdays of the dead, but this one in particular sticks to my ribs, to my heart, and in my soul in a different way than all the rest. It is a benchmark birthday.

Andrew was 14 when he died and it has been 14 years since he died. Life has gone on as normal for 14 years, but now we are on the other side—the side that will have experienced more of life without Andrew than with him. It is a strange thing to celebrate or commemorate, and yet I do.

A few weeks ago a friend said to me, “Sometimes I think about all the things he’s been spared from, just by going on ahead of us,” and I had to agree. A lot of living—and dying—has happened in these 14 years. I am glad he was spared, and I am also glad I was not. God does know what is best and I trust Him in that.

There are things about Andrew that are forever memorialized in my mind, his wide mouth and smiling eyes, his lanky legs and heavy steps, his long fingers and, most of all, his kindness. Andrew was kind to everyone he met, a simple, unaffected kindness. The sort you get from hardly anyone and want from almost everyone. He had time for you, for everyone. He might have taken all the time in the world to get to you, but when he did, he had time.

For many years I felt the injustice of being the one left behind—me, the one who is always in a hurry to get everywhere, him the slow almost plodding one. And yet he got there first.

The irony is never lost on me.

The thing about dying, I have heard, is your life passes before your eyes. All the choices you have made and all the ones made for you, a clear succession of days, weeks, months, and moments—encapsulated in a second. A rush of every fear, joy, hope, and terror you’ve ever felt.

The thing about singleness is that the best way to live it is to live it hard, to die, yes, but to live, really live. The unmarried person is concerned with how to please the Lord and the Lord is the shepherd of the widest pasture known. The thing about marriage, I’ve heard, is the best way to live it is to die a thousand deaths, over and over and over. To lay every dream, desire, and fortune at the feet of a tangible other—an other who has dreams, desires, and fortunes of his own. It is an invitation to come and die.

In all my years of singleness I saw the portion before me, wide open pastures of expectation and anticipation; sometimes riddled with fear of the unknown and sometimes full of risk and reward and sometimes frustration at what seemed to never be. I teetered on the edge so many times because one wrong move seemed to set the course for my life. Come live, my Savior said, come to me and trust me: LIVE. Open wide your heart, your abandon, your treasures, your lot, and live. Come live with me and be my love, like the poet said.

In only a few months of anothering, I see only the portion behind me. My life passing before my eyes, all my fears, regrets, joys, expectations, and I see God bidding me to come and die. I uncurl my fingers from the gold of what I have built and what I have trusted in, what works for me, and what dreams have come. Come die with me and be my love, the vows could say.

Why are you writing this on Sayable, you are asking me, I know. Keep this stuff between you two. Tell us only the joys and hopes, the good things we dream of our futures. But I cannot, my friends, because I promised you Sayable would be about the gospel and this is the gospeling done in me today. Today, this week, the gospel has asked that I lay down me, all of me, every part of me I have crafted and found pleasure in, the parts I have imagine that God Himself finds pleasure in—I lay it down.

Here is a small comfort: I imagine in those moments before dying, when your life is passing before your eyes, how much life can fit in a moment? It may feel a lifetime, but a moment is so small. What you realize you are losing is so minute, so temporal, and I find solace in that tonight. My rights? My dreams? My preferences? Mere vapors, here today, gone before tomorrow.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
Luke 9:23-24


It is raining when I wake. I stretch my legs, hooking my toes over the end of my bed. I have not been able to shake the brokenness I feel these days. There is good news and bad and it comes simultaneously. The world is broken and we are in the world, and sometimes of it too. A new niece was born yesterday and a man who is like a father to my brothers died last night.

I was brought forth in iniquity.

There are those who excuse those words as poetry. But what is poetry if not man’s attempt to make sense of what seems senseless or too mysterious for simple words? What is poetry but God’s way of making beautiful what seems ugly? When science fails me and theology is too wondrous for me, I take comfort in mystery, in poetry.

An unsettling verdict, a drug overdose—”this world breaks every one of us, and later we are strong at those broken places.” Hemingway did not believe in original sin, I don’t think, but even the best and worst of us knows the cracked and creviced face staring back at us from the mirror. Are any of us whole? Really whole?

A week of conversations on brokenness, where baggage on original sin and depravity and hope circle and devour—it leaves me feeling brokenness more acutely. No one is unscathed, and especially not the one who thinks he is. We all walk with a limp and better that we acknowledge it than try to hide it. You’re broken? Me too. Let us walk more slowly beside one another then, the journey toward the kingdom is not a sprint or a race, there are no winners—or losers. His glory is our collective trophy.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
a broken and contrite heart, you will not despise.

Brought forth in brokenness, brought forth in wholeness—either way, what He desires is the cracked and creviced child. The one who knows her sin and her faults, her needs and her Savior. The one who knows his helplessness and his fears, his limps and his Healer.

What need have we for a Savior if we can find a scrap of wholeness on our own?

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 15:51-57

When you have experienced loss in aching ways there comes a time when you are expected to be finished with your mourning. One year, two, the imaginary line is drawn and you feel guilty mentioning the thing that you once held more dearly than anything else.

You might be grieving a friend, a husband, a brother. Perhaps a relationship or a home or a job. But what you are grieving and what you have lost are different things. What you have lost is security, the knowingness, and no matter how much warning you are given, there is no way to prepare for a mourning of this kind.

So you dip your head, you close your eyes, you let your hands rest in the soapy dishwater until they are wrinkled, the skin as translucent as your heart these days. People are patient and careful with you, afraid of your fragile skin and see-through heart. And you are grateful for the ones who say nothing, simply put their warm hand on your cold and crooked neck. And you are most grateful for your own bed, your covers which wrap you tightly because it is security you miss more than anything.

But there comes a time when people begin to wonder about your overgrown grass and glassy eyes. “Isn’t it about time…” they say, with their heads nodding like bobble heads in the backs of New York City taxi cabs, plastic and too large for their bodies.

And so you begin cutting your grass and looking people in the eye again. You nod to them in the grocery store, even if you don’t remember they brought you five casseroles in a row once. You no longer talk about what you grieve in the present tense.

Years later you casually mention what you lost once, surprising yourself with the cavalier tone—are you turning into a bobble head too? But you still go home, wrap yourself in your covers, knowing joy comes in the mourning and in the morning too.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers,
about those who are asleep,

that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
I Thessalonians 4:13

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This has been sitting in my draft folder for a while now, but over this past week several people in my life have lost loved ones and so I thought it apropos to post. Grieving looks different for everyone, but we are still called to mourn with those who mourn. Pray we would mourn well alongside them, with hope against hope.



I am thinking of the first communion these days, more part of the Easter story than the Christmas, but how can we love the birth if we do not love the death? I am thinking of that cup of wine, the sign of the new covenant, the blasphemous words of a man at a table with 12 friends: drink this new way of doing things, this new kindness of God. Drink it in remembrance of me.

“As often as you do it…” That’s what he said. It’s odd that a man who was saying, “I’m doing away with your rituals and sacrifices, your habits and your rules,” was also saying, “do this often.” But this is what I think about last night falling asleep: He has set for us pleasant perimeters. He says do it often, but remember it’s not your religion anymore.

He knows us so well to use a word like often.

We need this, with our hearts so prone to attempting and trying, to sacrificing the modern lambs of our time, our tithe and our truant hearts.

We need this, we who do not understand that the kindness of God draws us to repentance and anything less is a marauder of faith and a shortcut to legalism.

I drink the cup this past Sunday with no resolve in my heart to do better next time or try harder tomorrow, no attempts to force a change of heart or fall into an apathy of my soul. I drink it with the freedom to drink it often, as often as I need a reminder of the new covenant, as often as I need the kindness of God drawing out my repentance. I drink it in gratefulness.

Someone said to me a few months ago: I’m only grateful for the Old Testament because it shows me where I’d be without the New Testament. I think about this often. That’s really what Jesus was saying, drink this small cup, this sip of wine, do it to remember where you were and where you are now.

Doesn’t that taste good?

(Published originally this past year on Grace for Sinners)

Whenever tragedy strikes, for the young boy who has lost his dog or the recent Connecticut shooting, it’s in these hollow places our theology makes itself known. We may say we are not theological, but Tozer once said that “what a man thinks about when he thinks about God is the most important thing about a man,” and so we are all theological.

It is in these dark moments that we think about God the most. His existence or His absence, the strong tower or the hollow void—we shout our questions out and wait for an answer, or don’t. We think about God and so reveal ourselves.

Mere hours after the shooting on Friday crosses formed on the school property, candles were lit, and people kneeled down, heads bowed. Churches filled for vigils and our President read from the Word breathed words. Children singing Silent Night opened Saturday Night Live, and today a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah circulated from NBC’s The Voice.

It seems that when tragedy strikes we all find ourselves pulling at the familiar spiritual things, bringing forth faith in an agony akin to childbirth with none of the beautiful reward.

But sometimes our hallelujahs are empty because we don’t know the God with whom we’re pleading.


After my brother was killed, I can’t remember whether it was days or weeks or months after, a family friend erected a cross, painted it white with his name on it clear: Andrew David Ferguson. My father put that cross in the ground less than a mile from where we lived. I was there when my brother died, misshapen on the wet highway, and the cross is nearly forty feet away.

I passed that cross for years and it’s still there, I’m sure, overgrown with weeds and tall grass—and every time it is not a reminder of my brother, but instead my father. My father, though he tried to get there quickly from seven hours away, was not there with us on that rainy April morning. The cross is a reminder of the void—not of my brother and the tragic way he died, but of my father, the one I wanted to take care of us, explain this, clean this mess up, make sense of it.


And so in moments like these, when we are all seeking sense, building towers of thought and politics, I understand the fumbling words people say and don’t mean, the beautiful heretical tributes, the plastic crosses and empty prayers, the haunting hallelujah song and the comfort we find in trite verses. I understand we are all trying to make sense of it all—using whatever we understand to make our way there.

We are all looking for a Savior in the hollow places. We are all betraying our theology of belief or unbelief. We are looking for someone to make a way, make sense, make whole.


So be gracious in days like these, hold the gospel near if you believe it is truth, and if you don’t, come near, come and drink. God is not a God who promises answers, even to His children, but He does bind up the brokenhearted and set free the captive.

He was once a Father who set up a cross in a moment of unspeakable tragedy too.



If you’re interested, I have a guest post up at Everyday Awe today on The Worth of a Soul.

“He shouts, breaking in, throwing his grand cloak over our unrighteousness, our unworthiness, our most tender parts and our weakest shames. She’s mine! He says. He’s mine! He says. I’m claiming this weary soul. I’m calling its worth.

A new and glorious morn.”

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