When Andrew's health suddenly went spinning out of control recently, sending him perilously close to death at age 34, members of our congregation upheld him and his family in all kinds of ways.
He's now come through the valley of the shadow of death and appears to be on a long road back to stability, but his wife and extended family will never forget what it has meant to be surrounded by a loving community.
For a moment, forget dogma, doctrine, worship styles and all the rest that define religion. When crisis comes, what matters is the presence of a loving faith community that can bear you up on eagles' wings.
When, after a handful of surgeries over a few days to remove infection, it finally looked as if Andrew had reached a plateau from which recovery might be possible, his wife posted this note on the CaringBridge website -- a site designed to keep friends and family informed about people in a health crisis:
"No matter how much you try not to, you can't help but wonder why this happened...why to Andrew? This is something that happens to other people, not us. But this will forever change us, and I think it will likely be an inspiration to others also. Things that were important at the beginning of last week, just don't mean much now. If I have learned anything this week, it's patience and perspective -- something I won't soon forget. So hold your loved ones close each day, and prioritize your life with no regrets. I know we will."
Earlier she had posted this note: "I am constantly amazed by the outpouring of love from our community. So many people have offered so much. Thank you to co-workers, friends near and far, family near and far, and all of the prayer groups who have graciously lifted us up."
In fact, eventually Andrew was able to react to all the support he was getting from his church family and friends. His wife wrote this on CaringBridge: "Last night I read all of the well wishes to Andrew, and he was absolutely amazed. He wanted me to share his love with all of you and to thank you for praying for him for days on end. From Andy: 'I want you to know I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your prayers, love, compassion and positive vibes. I'll tell you nothing is motivating me more than God, my family, getting back to work and getting to the JT concert.'" (I'm a little slow with pop culture references, but I gather he means the late July Justin Timberlake concert in KC.)
Perhaps people outside of faith communities can find such immediate love and support in times of crisis. But it's what congregations are ready to do as a natural response to the ways in which they feel loved by God. And if they can't or don't offer this kind of support -- prayers, meals, hugs, transportation, babysitting, you name it -- they don't understand their role.
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IT'S THE INTERNET'S FAULT?
A new study says there's a connection between increased use of the Internet and decreasing adherence to religion. Maybe. But my first reaction to this conclusion was to wonder whether it might be an example of "post hoc ergo propter hoc," or "after this, therefore because of this." But to verify that no doubt would require hiring someone to do another study, so why don't we just put my reaction aside and move on?
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P.S.: If you know some high school students struggling to make sense of the world and their place in it, invite them to a free showing (with dinner) of the film "King's Faith" this Friday evening at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Meyer and Wornall in Kansas City. For details in a pdf, click on this link: Download King's Faith Flyer And share the flyer, please.
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A SECOND P.S.: It's time to sign up for one or both writing workshops I'm offering about getting from pain to hope through writing. The first will be April 29-30 at Heartland Presbyterian Center in Parkville, Mo. For that one you can find all the details you need right here. The second one will be the week of Aug. 11 at Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico. For details of that class, click here. Come join us.
A FINAL P.S.: Do you have my new book yet? It's Woodstock: A Story of Middle Americans, and I think you'll find it engaging. You can read about it here. If you want an autographed copy, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll tell you how we can make that happen.