21 January 2005

Weeping for Katie

The first time I met Katie I was struck by several things. She was a beauty with few rivals. She was sharp, witty, with a refreshing sense of humor. She listened to people when they talked. She looked you in the eye, smiled and processed your own words, ideas, and life stories. She was not your typical beautiful girl. There was much to her. Too much for any one person to know.

I remember a prayer group (which she was a faithufl member) we held at my apartment my senior year of college. The two hours was filled with laughter, tears, deep questions, etc. Near the end, someone asked Katie to pray. I could not help but thinking "There is something inside her that is eternal, something so good."

A few months after this, we learned that Katie had a rare form of brain cancer. She's been battling for the last two plus years. She rode with Lance Armstrong to raise money for research. Last week, she literally picked herself off of the deathbed to marry her highschool sweetheart. Five days later (yesterday) she stopped breathing.

She's still alive to be sure, though in a form I cannot prove. Today, the Rochester College community mourns for the families, friends, and parents of Katie. "It seemed to me, you lived your life like a candle in the wind."

For all who have been ravaged by the chaos, disciples around the planet join you in your suffering and long for the day when this reality will pass away; when God will make all things new.

Please visit www.katiekirkpatrick.com for the life narrative of Katie.

15 January 2005

Following Jesus isn’t easy. I used to think it was. I used to think this religion thing was a piece of cake. Go to church a few times a week. Smile a lot and learn the right vocabulary, “good to see you”, “if I was any better I’d be you”. Any thinking person can jump into this culture and learn the jargon and the right ritual activity. Youth group activities, small group devo, Sunday afternoon trip to the nursing home…but only once a month…we have plenty of men to do the other Sundays. Easy. I thought being a follower of Jesus was like being an American. All I had to do was fulfill a few duties, a sorted amount of responsibilities: pay taxes, attend a Fourth of July party, memorize and repeat the pledge, love sports (after all sports is our true religion), listen to country music, partake of apple pie, wave a flag, know the Presidents from 1950 on, and, of course, remember the words to the Star Spangled Banner. See, that’s easy. Make a list, execute the list on a semi-regular basis and there I am-- a good ol’ American patriot. Now that’s a simple list.

Then I did a terrible thing several years back—I read the Gospels. I know, I know, why would someone who’d been raised in church his entire life (by a preacher no less) do a thing like that? Well, I figured that I should know why it was I told the church one balmy Michigan Sunday “I believe that Jesus is the son of God and I will follow him from this point forward. I choose to be baptized.” That’s quiet a confession you know. This isn’t just signing up for boy scouts, trying out for the football team: When I started thinking about it, this is a scary proposition. I’d rather be a fan of God. Jesus could be the mascot, the church could be the audience, and then I’d get my religious fix for the week. Or I could be an admirer of Jesus, reading a lot of books about him, learning more theological language to prove my spirituality. Or, better yet, I could become a believer of Jesus. I could memorize all the important passages (“for God so loved the world…”)—you know the good stuff. I’d have all the right answers. After all, having answers is easier than practicing sacrifice.

But when I read the Gospels, I realize there is cost of following Jesus. A young rich man who graduated suma cum laude from Vanderbilt approaches Jesus and declares his desire to join the movement. Jesus, to our surprise, tells him he’s not ready. “You don’t know what you’re getting into. You want to really be a part of this movement? Sell everything you have and give the profit to the poor. Only then will you be ready and fit to be a part of my new religion.” Ouch. So much for seeker sensitive.

I think this is why Jesus chose to speak in rabbinic parables, a familiar form of teaching with intentional, brief stories. Jesus knew the difficulty of the Kingdom message he uttered, and so he taught in a way the people could capture the cost.

10 January 2005

Father Joe

Tony Hendra has recently written a spiritual autobiography entitled Father Joe (www.tonyhendra.com). The book (ala Tuesdays With Morrie)is filled with power, grace, and wisdom. It is unapologetically authentic about faith, and all the monsters that come with such a journey.

Father Joe (a Benedictine monk) is Tony's friend, spirutal guide, and replacement father. Through substance addictions, loneliness and promiscuity, Father Joe remains the calm, truth-telling voice in a life filled with apparent success.

I'm not going to write anything (for real write) until much later in my life. Until then I will encourage others to read people like Tony Hendra who understand the complexity of the journey, the paradox that is "believing what is unseen to be more real that what is seen."

My father, unlike Tony's biological father, has always been open, honest, and humble. He is the hardest worker I know and the last one to ever tell you about it. He is a hero to his wife, three children, and one grandchild. But not the hero you might expect. A hero who goes unnoticed, unassuming. Steady as the seasons in Kentucky, my dad is a pure picture of what it means to be in Christ.

For Father Joe's (and Phil's) living every day with others on there mind, thank-you from those of us who are still addicted to our own lives. The ones who are convinced that this play called life stars us as the main actor, the center of the universe.