Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live faithfully...in the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Alaska...fog

I'll post pictures later, but wanted to check in as vacation comes to a close. Tomorrow my son and I will fly to Fairbanks, and then home to Seattle. Labor Day weekend was a wonderful time of rest with friends and family in the mountains, and on Monday my son and I were off to Alaska.

As good as the travels were, the week has been subdued, tainted even, by the reality of a great loss, a young man whose wedding I performed years ago who died of cancer, leaving his wife, and 4 children under 6 years old. He died today, just as I was descending off a mountain on the outskirts of Anchorage through wind and fog. Somehow, the fog seemed appropriate this week as metaphor for so much that is life: a glimpse of glory through answered prayer and gifts of beauty and intimacy, friendship and laughter, and then the fog rolls in. God's presence becomes muted, distant, and we wonder what, if anything we actually saw, when we thought we saw clearly. Yet we hold on to the memories and the memories become the stuff of faith, of hope.

My friend took a nasty turn very quickly, and what appeared to be the road to recovery suddenly became the pathway of heartache and loss. His last words to his family were imploring them to make certain that his children would know Christ, as he wouldn't be around to raise them.

The loss, the fog, the uncertainty - these things effect us all differently. For some, they cling the more tightly to the hand of the shepherd. For others, they give Him the finger and walk away, never to return. Others conclude that there is no shepherd. Others weep, but fling themselves into the arms of the shepherd as a wounded child runs to her mother. I think Jesus longs for the latter... if we'll let him care for us.

Lord, as I return to everything, I'm wrung out with the juxtaposition of beauty and loss, hope and confusion, longings and longings denied, laughter and tears. May you be shepherd, father, friend... as the leaves turn and another season of life awaits. Amen...

3 Comments:

At 6/9/08 11:21, Blogger Greta said...

I was in Africa when my dad told me over a static-filled phone call that my grandma's cancer was terminal, and that she might be gone before I made it home. Shortly after, I remember being on a bus ride, reeling from the news, and wishing I could be alone. Instead, I was surrounded by my Malawian co-interns-- literally, I was packed in, with two on each side and a row of them in front of me as well. They were singing praise songs in Chichewa-- I'm still convinced that the way Malawians sing worship music has got to be one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. Although I itched to get away from them all at first, gradually I relaxed and let the music soothe me, and remind me that I was being held close by something complicated and present and fierce and beautiful.

The image that came to mind then was the same image you reference at the end of this post: I pictured myself as a screaming, upset child-- mad at the injustices of the world and lashing out at anything that would touch me. I pictured a mother holding that child tight, singing softly to it, and holding it close until at last the child's thrashing wore out, and the child just relaxed, whimpering, needing to be comforted and held by the already-present arms.

Fog can distort and darken and confuse, it's true-- and I believe God allows us to experience all of the above, connected with His name. But it can also feel like a close blanket, and I believe that He functions in that way as well. And, I suppose, the fog always seems to clear eventually-- and it usually makes way for a beautiful day. I hope this family gets to experience that comfort.

I did get to see my Grandma again-- praise the Lord. Thanks for the post Richard.

 
At 7/9/08 22:08, Blogger bunabear said...

In the midst of all the political mumbo-jumbo, the real life story of the death of the young man who left a young family, really helped put things in perspective.

Our prayers are with the family.

Thank you.

 
At 10/9/08 19:29, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thought of a 32 year old man dying, leaving kids under six fills me with grief for the children. THis is where faith is so damn difficult. Having grown up without a father, my heart bleeds when i hear of children that lose father's. Where is the hope for these? In the body of Christ I suppose, but as someone that came to Christ later in life, I never saw the body of Christ in action for me and I think that the church doesn't realistically call men out to be men to those that need that guidance. I have wondered for years why there is such a strong women's ministry at Bethany but barely a hint of a men's ministry (I know, I should start one right?) I hope this family finds a man to be that force for the four children.

 

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