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On the Usefulness of Grief December 11, 2014

Filed under: Reflections — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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This has been the best year of my life… and the worst. The ups and downs have been almost staggering by contrast. At the one end my future is hopeful, filled with grand adventures, new relationships, and sparkling opportunities. On the other is the loss of life as I knew it… both in the form of deceased friends and in the need to let go of “the old way” of doing things.

Both joy and grief have intermingled and both have been acutely felt. Oddly enough, in the midst of these extreme and, oft times, conflicting emotions, a chord is struck. And as I sit here at my laptop, words begin to appear. Expressions of thoughts which are often so deep, they cannot quite be spoken.

Some would attribute this phenomenon with my introverted nature. I learned many years ago that if you sit silently for a long enough period of time, someone else will eventually express your point of view for you. And the less your voice is heard, the more it is respected (or at least listened to) when you have something important to say.

But I think that these words are more than that. Grief, in particular, unlocks something within me that joy cannot. It opens the door of my heart to introspection – to a deeper consideration of those things which I so often take for granted. In grief, I find the root of my joy.

Only in the pain of loss do we recognize the depth of our attachment. It is a striking paradox – as though we must first lose in order to win. Our greatest growth is not found in places of plenty, but in the heat of the desert – where we must faithfully seek for those things which will sustain us.

It is a place of both danger and opportunity. Danger from those thoughts which, if nurtured, have the power to destroy, to dampen joy, to cultivate hopelessness and helplessness, to weaken our resolve. But scattered throughout like an oasis is opportunity – as we examine where we have been, how we have gotten there, and where we are going. Grief is a catalyst for growth… and for change.

A new year is now on the horizon. I don’t know what lies in store, nor do I want to. What I do know is that I may choose what to do with the trials that confront me. I can allow them to cripple me or I can turn them to opportunities. In my grief, I can become more than I am.


A Tribute to Herb June 26, 2014

Filed under: Reflections — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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I’m sitting in an office today. It’s not really mine. It’s a loaner that a couple of friends arranged. An escape from the tiny space I work in at home. It’s quieter here. No one banging dishes in the kitchen. No dog barking at the squirrels. No sound of traffic in the street. Just me and four walls. A place to focus, to think, and to remember.

I’ve left the door open into the hallway and can hear people come and go, all silently as though they were in a library. And, outside, visible through my one large window, is a sky that looks as gray and dreary as I feel. I’ve just lost a friend. No… someone who is much more than that.

Throughout our lives, people come and go. Some leave a mark and others don’t. Very rarely do any of those relationships last for long. But this one has lasted twenty-five years. My heart is not sure how to handle its loss. So much of who I am, I owe to Herb.

We met when I was five years old. He was the pastor of the church my family attended. I remember thinking he looked a bit like a giant teddy bear… even with an electric guitar in his hands. His wife, Jeanette, would give me gummy worms after church each week if I could recite a Bible verse for her. It wasn’t long before I felt that we were friends.

Mentor. Guide. Fellow conspirator. We’ve had some great adventures together. Like the time when he decided to take my on the light rail from Sandy, UT into Salt Lake City. All he had in his pocket that day was a collection of large bills. I watched as he slipped one into the ticket machine and out came the change… in change. Over $20 in $1 gold coins. The look on his face was priceless.

Then there was the night we stayed up past midnight. We’d watched a basketball game together. Or, more precisely, he had watched the game while I wrote in my journal. After the game, we sat and talked for hours. Our discussion wandered from theology and I recall sitting on the couch while he read me lines of poetry from a battered volume off his shelf.

I used to accompany him to the office on occasion. Till my dying day, I will believe that the best hours of my life were spent sitting in a pastor’s office, watching him work. Sitting there listening to the rhythm of church life.

I recall one particular afternoon when my presence attracted an abnormal amount of attention. He’d just accepted a call to serve a new congregation. I’d been in his office all day and one of the church ladies kept glancing at me as though she wasn’t sure why I was there. Finally he introduced me, “This is my daughter, Anna.” He waited long enough to get a good reaction before clarifying that I was his daughter “In the Pauline sense”. I will never forget the expression on the poor woman’s face!

He was a sort of sage full of both the spiritual and the highly practical. And I couldn’t help feeling that if someone really did follow Christ, they would look a lot like Herb. So I did the one thing that pastors don’t want members of their congregations to do: I imitated him. I said what he said. I did what he did. And today I’m sitting here drinking Dr. Pepper… because that’s what he drank.

We didn’t always agree. I didn’t always take his advice (though sometimes I wished I had). But I know that, at my core, much of who I am today is attributable to him and the example he set. So I’ll raise my Styrofoam cup: to the best Christian I’ve ever known. To Herb. I’ll see you on the Other Side.



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