Monday, February 27, 2012

…a coast change and lots going on…

I’ll get back to the series on Care-Taking soon.

In the meantime, please check out Katherine’s blog (if you haven’t already) to view a recent highlight, Casa Colina’s Tribute to Courage Gala.

What a tremendous honor!

Casa Colina is one of the top rehab hospitals for brain injury in the U.S. As Katherine said in her speech Saturday night, she would not be where she is today had she not been privileged to receive treatment there. The staff is beyond incredible. Many of Katherine’s therapists were in attendance at the event. There are no words to express how very grateful we will always remain for their loving, selfless, joyful service to our child. (Uh-oh. Tears.) It was also a tremendous honor to have in attendance Dr. Gonzales, the UCLA surgeon who saved Katherine’s life (along with a cast of thousands.)

We have a long way to go in this country in terms of health care. Rehabilitative medicine is absolutely critical. Astronaut Mark Kelly (Gabby Gifford’s husband) made salient points about our obligation to wounded veterans. Gabby was also wounded while serving her country. She is in worse shape than media would lead you to believe. Please keep this wonderful couple in your prayers. Their situation is heartbreaking.

The evening was a reminder that

Life can change in an instant.

Brain injuries are devastating. Please read the most recent prayer request and join me in praying for this little girl and her family. 

Katherine and Jay with Dr. Nestor Gonzales

Captain Mark Kelly

Katherine, Jay, Captain Kelly, and Dr. Loverso, CEO of CC

Katherine with two of her favorite therapists.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Please check the latest prayer requests. (Click on the praying lady on the right, and scroll down to the bottom.)

In doing so, I am reminded to pray again for the many previous requests. So many, many heartbreaks.

This world truly is "a vale of sorrows." 

Thank God...

this is not the end.

this is not all there is.

the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not put it out.

Thank God...

there are treasures in darkness.

there is sorrow, but joy comes in the morning.

there is weeping, but there will be laughter.

Thank God...

that He carries us when we cannot stand,

and we can hold each others hands

and pray.

Please join me in praying for these two hurting families.


"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (II Corinthians 1:3-5)

"Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." (Romans 8:34)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Grace Intermezzo

I must interrupt the series on Care-Taking to share how I’ve taken care of myself today.

I’ve stayed (mostly) in bed reading Brennan Manning’s last book, All Is Grace, from cover to cover.

After a finicky start this morning, it’s turned out to be a gorgeous wild and windy winter day. But I’m not allowing myself to feel guilty about not getting out into it. Sometimes retreats are more than luxuries; they are necessities. This past brutal week required recovery time. So I’ve skipped out of my own story for a couple of hours to wholeheartedly enter Brennan’s. This last book is the story of his life.

Brennan is quite possible my favorite (self-styled) Notorious Sinner. I stumbled upon his Ragamuffin Gospel in a bookstore years ago without prior knowledge of the author. I was tearing up before I left the parking lot, just glancing at a page or two.

Soon after, a friend loaned me some of Brennan’s tapes. I put one in while driving to a nearby town.

Had to pull over to the side of the road.

Maybe it’s because I’m really a Notorious Sinner myself, not just an Average one, as I wrote on my first blog. Maybe it’s because Brennan makes the reality of grace so crystal clear to someone who’s still a bit muddled and befuddled about the whole thing.

But this man gets to me in his brokenness and honesty and tenacity… in his saintliness and his depravity… in his eloquence and inconsistency.

His message gives me hope.

In 2006, I was privileged to hear him speak at Bel-Air Presbyterian in Los Angeles. By that time, he was already in his decline, suffering health problems that would soon end his career as a speaker. I suppose we gave him a standing ovation when he ended his talk. Or at least applauded wildly.

Instead of taking a bow, he turned and applauded the cross behind him.

(I know this story is in the archives somewhere.)

It’s not me, he was saying. It’s all Him.

All is Grace will most likely be Brennan’s final word to the rest of us ragamuffins and notorious sinners. It’s almost a confessional, the former priest setting out his sins for a final review before departure. I don’t recommend it as a first Brennan book. Start with Ragamuffin or one of the other early ones. As Phil Yancey writes in the introduction, we must “look to his other books for a full picture of the treasure inside.”

But even now, at the end of a long, painful journey, marred by humiliating scrapes and falls, he attests to the truth of his life’s message:

All is grace.

From his concluding pages:

“Some have labeled my message one of “cheap grace.” In my younger days, their accusations were a gauntlet thrown down, a challenge. But I’m an old man now and I don’t care. My friend Mike Yaconelli used the phrase unfair grace, and I like that, but I have across another I would like to leave you with.  I believe Mike would like it; I know I do. I found it in the writings of the Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon. He calls it vulgar grace.
In Jesus, God has put up a “Gone Fishing” sign on the religion shop. He has done the whole job in Jesus once and for all and simply invited us to believe it—to trust the bizarre, unprovable proposition that in him, every last person on earth is already home free without a single religious exertion: no fasting till your knees fold, no prayers you have to get right or else, no standing on your head with your right thumb in your left ear and reciting the correct creed-- no nothing…. The entire show has been set to rights in the Mystery of Christ—even though nobody can see a single improvement. Yes, it’s crazy. And yes, it’s wild and outrageous, and vulgar. And any God who would do such a thing is a God who has no taste. And worst of all, it doesn’t sell worth beans.  But it is Good News—the only permanently good news there is – and therefore I find it absolutely captivating.

My life is a witness to vulgar grace-- a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wage as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party, no ifs, ands, or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief's request -- "Please, remember me" -- and assures him, "You bet!"... This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It's not cheap. It's free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try and find something or someone that it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.”

That is the best news there is for those of us who struggle with being “good enough.”


Are there any other Ragamuffins out there?

Anyone else who likes to read all day?


Here's some vintage Brennan for an early Valentine's gift:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Care-Taking, Part 2

(Scene from a recent retreat)

 “Love your neighbor as yourself ”

This sentence doesn’t just appear once or twice.

It’s repeated at least nine times in scripture:

Mark 12:33

 In Matthew 22, the self-righteous but loveless Pharisees tried to put Jesus to the test. They wanted to trick him into a wrong answer so they could condemn him.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The second greatest commandment of them all.  Way above not stealing or lying or murdering or adulterizing. More important than 9 out of the Big 10.

But what does that really mean,

to love my neighbor as I love myself?

Do I actually love myself?

Love… actually?

Certainly, I am self-protective.

Self-focused. Even selfish.

But love myself?

Not so much.

I am more painfully aware of my faults and failings than anyone besides God.

He and I have been involved in a long, bitter battle to replace the interior voices of self-condemnation with those of self-affirmation. Routing self-hatred; infiltrating behind Enemy lines with a surge of healthy self-love.

It’s not easy if you’re me.

Civil war.

But little by little, the good troops are winning.

I am beginning to see me as He sees me.

Worthy of great love.

If my neighbor is to be loved “as I love myself,” then I need to cultivate an appropriate, wholesome self-love. Otherwise, my neighbor’s not going to get anything worth having.

Sometimes, though, I feel as if I’m hearing contradictory messages:

Love yourself

Get over yourself

When I question, it appears that the two directives don’t negate each other after all.

Imagine the Almighty replying something like this (to you, too?):

Get over your ego, your pride, your self-consciousness, your insecurities.

Get over your self-focus, self-interest.

Start loving you, (insert your name), the way I love you.


I know your faults. I see your hidden sins. Even the ones you hide from yourself. (You don’t realize half of them!) I know your carnality and arrogance and wrong-mindedness. I see your pride and lust and greed. 

And I adore you. Exactly as you are.

I don’t love the sin that pursues and ensnares you.

But I see you as you will be,

my beautiful, blameless, spotless bride.

(As you are, in my eyes, even now; for the work is finished.)

I see your essential self:

the child I created in my image.

What can you say to a love like that? How do you respond?

What my Father values, I must value.

Even me.

In learning to love myself in a healthy way, I am also learning to care for myself.

We care for those we love.

“Self-care” may sound like self-indulgence to some who enjoy being martyrs. But it is absolutely essential for those who wish to care for others in an effective way. We must take care of ourselves first in order to have what we need to take care of others.

An empty jug cannot be filled from a dry well.

I want to explore what that means in days ahead.