Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vacation Reading

During vacation last week I read the book The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer. The book is a memoir of his life and the place a neighborhood bar played in 'raising' him into a man. He grew up fatherless and had three primary living situations: alone with his mother, with his mother, aunt, uncle and cousins at his grandparents’ home or at his grandparents’ home without his mother. His grandfather was not a good man so he ended up identifying with his uncle who worked at the bar. J.R. becomes attached to the men at the bar and the acceptance he found from them. He writes, “Everyone has a holy place, a refuge, where their heart is purer, their mind clearer, where they feel close to God or love or truth or whatever it is they happen to worship. For better or worse my holy place was Steve’s bar. And because I found it in my youth, the bar was that much more sacred, its image clouded by that special reverence children accord those places where they feel safe.” He is a skillful story teller and writes about his past with honesty, kindness and sorrow. As you might imagine alcohol, and the damaging impact it can have when it is the focus of a person’s life, is a large part of the story.
One of the things that struck me as I read was that he did not hurry to get to the redemptive part of his life. He actually leaves that, for the most part, unaddressed. As the narrative of his life unfolded I was struck with the sadness that surrounded him. He did not pretend about this and he describes the way he tried to cope with it. He didn’t hide or cover up the painful parts of his life or the way he falteringly tried to deal with the pain. He was also candid about the ‘salvation’ alcohol and the bar brought to him. Reading it made me realize how we do ourselves a disservice when we marginalize painful, even largely sinful, parts of our lives. Not that I think sin should be glorified but we don’t have to be afraid of it. We should be sober about it and certainly aim to avoid it, but when recounting episodes where it is or has been alive in our life (it is always alive to some degree), it can be helpful to slow down and unpack what was really going on. As we are not afraid of sin and can discuss it meaningfully it can aid in a growing freedom from sin. It can become clearer why we gravitate to it, how we use it to hide or blame, and how our life is not all black or white. In addition, we are being sanctified in the midst of sin. If he was to write off or marginalize his connection to the bar it would be impossible for him to see some of the grace that pursued and upheld him through the years his life revolved around the bar. The miracle of what he realizes and becomes seems more glorious as it emerges out of the background of the bar. We so often have to find the good, or prove that God is working or make our life a justification that God is real that we overstate or over appreciate the good and naively believe that things are better than they are. When we can be more honest and more courageous and talk about the good and the bad together the good often emerges as a surprise, as a gift, as something to be nourished and cherished and held onto for the nugget it is.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

One Year

Proverbs 10:7
A good and honest life is a blessed memorial. The Message
The memory of the righteous will be a blessing. New Living Translation

For Daymark and many people connected to Daymark today is a large day. Today marks the one year anniversary of Dewayne's death. In many ways it is a hard day - to realize we have moved through one whole year without Dewayne. Although my memories during the year have alternated between painful (I miss Dewayne and I miss who he was to his wife, parents, sister, friends and those he counseled) and warm (I remember his laughter, his kindness, his thoughtfulness) I am certaintly not at the point where I can declare only that which Proverbs 10:7 says. The memory of the righteous will be a blessing. Although that is the truth and who Dewayne was in righteousness was a glory to behold, it still hurts at times. At the wake as someone very close to Dewayne saw his body they began to sob and cry out about all the things Dewayne had left to say and do. It expressed the depth of my cries exactly. As I first got to know Dewayne years ago I was struck by his passion and heart and giftedness. Through the years as I watched him grow and then got to see him offer his gifts through Daymark it caused me to look toward the future with such hope about all he would do and say. At times the absence of his saying and doing and being has been sad. Some of that sadness has been a grace because it draws me to God and reminds me we are not home. Some is still just sad especially as I have talked and walked with those who Dewayne touched so deeply. I am genuinely more owned by the largeness and beauty of his soul and often as I remember him I smile. In his article on grief Dewayne wrote... The backwardness of the gospel finds itself at work in your sorrow and memory; it is through your grief healing is encountered. I think that has been true this past year and yet I know their is more healing to happen. Dewayne's greatest gift to me was that he helped me to trust and wait for that healing to unfold and appreciate it as it did. So I will keep aiming to rest in that as I journey on.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rejoicing in What is True

Given that I have not written anything in almost a month this is not turning out to be much of a blog. Perhaps this next month it will read a little more like a blog!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Co 13:4-7

I've thougth a lot about the lack of love I see in myself, the church and the world the past month. Genuine love is so beautiful and so refreshing that it is a sad thing for it to often be in short supply. An ascpect of this that has hit me lately is that loves does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth... I've seen all over again that when I refrain from accepting what is true about me how unloving I can be. A couple of weeks ago a situation arose between Dawn and I that really frustrated me. I was hurt and wanted to let her know it. I went to talk to her with the intent of helping her recognize her failure of me. Several sentences into the conversation I found myself doing the opposite (I think Jesus did it for me because it certaintly wasn't my plan) and I began to name some meaningful ways I had hurt Dawn. I also began to describe what I thought the impact of my relating had been on Dawn. She wept. And said she felt less crazy. Do you know I can't count the amount of times I have genuinely apologized to Dawn in 19 years. Oh somewhere around 10 years ago I got I hunch I was going to have to keep aplogizing but I didn't actually know that meant forever. When the Holy Spirit has enabled me to do it well it usually brings some quite beauty into my life. The last couple of weeks with Dawn have been tender, and quiet and beautiful. I like that.
Sin blinds us and makes us noisy. Judging the log in our own eye helps us to see more clearly. When we stop celebrating the way evil is getting us to raise our own banner by being impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, proad, rude, self-serving, angry, keeping a record of wrongs and we actually agree with and rejoice in - name with vigor, passion and courage - the truth about how we unlovingly sin against those we love, it seems life is quieter, more tender and airy. I think perhaps my absence from the blogging world (in addition to being too busy) was due to paying attention to the log in my own eye. It takes a lot of attention and energy. I am glad I was able to do that becasue the subsequent quieteness has been glorious.
I think the church would look more beautiful if we started letting judgement begin with the household of God (1 peter 4:17). I also thing we would be more powerful as well.