Mourning With the Mourners

Friends, readers, and earnest grievers: I watched the news of Ferguson unfold last night on CNN. The prosecuting attorney, Robert McCulloch, walked to the podium and delivered a recitation of grand jury deliberations that ultimately ended in the revelation that Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown, would not be indicted.

I watched the scene on the Ferguson streets unfold, cross-checked every statement of every pundit with my Twitter and Facebook feeds. I sat in the safety of my home with the safety of my internet, and I watched Ferguson burn.

I am a lawyer by trade and a writer by craft, so you can imagine my temptation to throw my two cents into the fray...

Continue reading this editor letter at Deeper Story.

 

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Photo by Lisa Widerberg, Creative Commons via Flickr.

Silence

Silence Some seasons of silence speak of an extravagant knowing, how our cousins and kin need food, laughter, and mercy more than mere platitudes.

"Grief and joy are not equal opposites," he says, by which he is asking permission to wield inappropriate hope. We nod in unison, eyes toward the carpet.

There is stewed pork in the dutch oven; fat and collagen have melted through meat, and it is as tender as the memory of a moment. This is an Ebenezer to the passing of kin's lights.

By supper we say we are sorry; we are here for everything or nothing. Is this God? It is the least of love, the most human thing mustered.

Some seasons of silence speak of an extravagant knowing, how our cousins and kin need food, laughter, and mercy more than mere platitudes.

On the Occasion of Mourning Death (Gather You Fires, Part II)

This week, my community lost a life too soon. I am sorry for his passing. (This is part of the Collective Poems.)

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On the Occasion of Mourning Death (Gather You Fires, Part II)

The memory of the frailest soul lost burns like a tiny sun, and we together carry many tiny suns, are warmed by many tiny suns.

Gather you sun-bearers by the funeral pyre; gather again– awakened in the collective– rare though we gather, here as we gather, together in memory; We are.

We are nothing if not for remembering the way face reflects joy immeasurable, or soul reflects God uncontainable, or death reflects hope interminable.

We are nothing if not for carrying the legacy of that joy, stretching the legacy of that joy, remembering the legacy of that joy.

We are nothing if not for marking ourselves with ashes, for remembering that, as the poet said, lights are again and again. Memories are unsnuffable things if we let them be.

So gather you fires best– awake in the collective– together in sorrow, together in feasting, in communion wine— and there find that memories are more than ashes. And by this, even the fallen are at last part of the brilliant, unforgettable constellation.

What God promises: Comfort to the Suffering

We’re continuing our series on the creeping prosperity gospel. This week, we’re exploring “what God promises,” and today, John Ray has agreed to share. I've watched John and his family wrestle with suffering through the loss of his daughter Olivia. You can read more about her story here. Consider his words and join us in the comments as we work this out.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." ~Matthew 5:4

It starts around the time school kicks back into gear. As summer days slowly shorten and as fall starts to move in, so does the gathering grief. It comes, like a large rough stone dragged by a chain over a rutted road. Heave. Clunk. Heave. Clunk. Heave...a smothering panic blankets our home; oppressive, suffocating, inescapable.

In many ways the anticipation of the anniversary is worse than the actual day itself. Maybe it is because there seems to be grace for making it through the day we lost our young Olivia, just like there was grace in the weeks and months following her passing. There was revelation. There was comfort that matched the terror. There was peace of a potency that matched the poison. There was news that was truly good, shattering in it’s incarnation, utterly disorienting in its clarity, news that was sufficient to counter even death.

It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t nice, it wasn’t happy, but it was real.

Looking back I see everything that is important in my life has been shaped by suffering. This suffering--whether inflicted through pain and death, insult and loss--is the thing that has opened me to understanding, to experience, to really value the beauty of the Gospel.

And I have found no other way to experience it.

I know I am not the first to grasp this. I know I still really don’t understand it. But I do know we are a society drunk on manipulating promises of peace, joy, health, wealth and comfort in ways that avoid the very thing necessary to truly understand and experience them. Our constant pursuit of comfort through safety and control prevents us from understanding the one necessary element to obtain it. Not only do we avoid suffering, run from it, we also demonize it. We treat suffering as if it is not the evidence of obedience or an opportunity for grace; instead, we treat it as a sure sign of sin, faithlessness, or ignorance. It is the thing to be avoided at all cost. “It which shall not be named”.

We run from being the kind of people who hear the Good News as it is intended to be heard; comfort for those who mourn, satisfaction for those who hunger, reward for those who suffer. Instead we make the Good News into a promise of the Good Life here and now, a way of having Jesus “pimp” out our already overstuffed lives.

I write this knowing there are many who deeply suffer and feel this promise must not apply to them. There are those who fight through every day and the comfort of which I write seems so far away and impossible to find. There are those for whom no amount of assuaging can compensate for the pain, the loss. To you I offer no formula or instruction, only my own witness and presence and the acknowledgement that your pain is real.

And I offer the testimony that as I emptied every ounce of pain and anger and terror into the hands of God, those hands held and hold me still. That is his promise. That his hands will hold you still.

Cover photo by D.Boyarrin, via Creative Commons.