Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Mom’s Broken Heart

She called with the most devastating news. Her 15-year-old great nephew, David, had taken his own life. My stomach dropped. I sat down to be able to hear what she was telling me.

Rhonda and I are breast cancer friends. Despite living in the same community, we’d never met until we were both diagnosed with the same kind of breast cancer within a week of each other. We had the same set of doctors,  same insurance, same treatment plan, same prognosis. We met and have clung to each other these past seven years.

At my last radiation treatment, my skin was burned and my fatigue relentless. Rhonda used her old patient key card to get to the radiation waiting area. Because she’d been through it all, she knew I would be there after that last treatment to gather my things, change and leave.

She had pink roses and fudge. Fudge! You bet I’m going to cling to a friend like that who  breaches security to bring flowers and chocolate. I could sob now just thinking about it.

When a friend like that tells you her sweet great nephew, a boy she’s known his whole life, held as an infant, played with as a toddler and a big boy, seen grow into a teen, celebrated birthdays, holidays, family milestones and vacations with has taken his own life at age 15, you listen, you cry, you go to God in prayer for her, his parents, teachers and friends, the whole reeling family.

David’s death was tragically connected to cyberbullying. I hate thinking about bullying. I don’t like visualizing children being cruel to each other. I hate hearing stories about that taking place in our neighborhoods, families, schools, churches, anywhere. It is especially hard to get my mind around cyberbullying because I don’t understand all those dynamics about how people communicate these days. I know when parents figure out one medium, like Facebook or Snapchat, we are already behind because new cyber-ways to communicate pop up daily.

I’ve known several families over the years who have lost children. Some of them, despite their grief, have bravely risen from the loss to make a difference. David’s parents, Maureen and Matt, and his brothers, Cliff and Chris, started speaking out almost immediately against cyberbullying and the responsibility we all have to wake up. They founded David’s Legacy, http://www.davidslegacy.org, a non-profit to end cyber-assisted bullying, promote kindness and change laws. They have made great progress in a short time.

Maureen, David’s mom is coming to our school district, Grapevine Colleyville ISD, on Wednesday, May 16  at 6 p.m. at Dove Elementary in Grapevine to share her story and to raise awareness for how we can help our children and youth and prevent cyber-assisted bullying. Event Flyer

She is flying in from San Antonio just to speak to us and flying home late that night in order to work the next day. Why? Because her broken mom’s heart does not want us to lose one more precious child to this.

May is the fullest of months. We all have so much to do. This event is open to everyone in our community not just the Dove Elementary family, not just to GCISD families, teachers, parents, grandparents but everyone.

I do not like to think about bullying. I do not understand this cyber world our children and youth use to communicate. But, when my friends hurt, I hurt. When moms and dads with broken hearts speak to us through their tears for change, I will listen.

Lets pack to overflowing the cafeteria at Dove Elementary in Grapevine on Wednesday, May 16 at 6 p.m. because David’s voice deserves to be heard and we need to listen.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and co-founder of Connect in GCISD. 

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That Silent Saturday

In Christianity, there’s not really even a name for that Saturday. No one seems to know what to do with the day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is such an awful, awkward, painful day.

I’ve heard it called Holy Saturday, but not much. Even the Bible doesn’t have much to say about that day. Matthew’s gospel has Pilate demanding that the tomb be sealed and guards watch it around the clock, just in case someone tries to steal the body. All the other gospels are silent on the topic.

The torture of the agony of Friday ending in death’s finality. The tears, the earthquake, the ripping of the heavens, life over as they knew it. Hopes and dreams crushed. And, then, can you imagine? Saturday happens and it is just silent. God is silent. Time, I imagine, agonizingly slow. There are no answers, no revelations, no angels. Just nothing.

What I want to say today is this, don’t gloss over that horrible Saturday while you are getting ready for Easter. Don’t use it as only a day of gathering Easter supplies and food for tomorrow. Don’t just use it to pull together your Easter fashion ensemble.

Stay in it. Pray through it. Try to feel it because the Silent Saturday is as much a part of the Christian faith as all our other milestone days. In fact, I believe most of our Christian life is lived in the silent, awkward Saturday seasons.

Like when death has been pronounced and the body taken away; or when the divorce papers are signed and submitted; when the diagnosis comes and you have no clue how it will unfold. Hospital waiting room moments or right after you hear them say that you are no longer employed. Our faith lives are full of silent Saturdays.

What we do in the silent, painful, awful moments of life is as important as what we do on Easter.  Actually, maybe how we handle Saturday matters more than how we do when the angel assures us that “He is not here. He has risen just as he said” Matthew 28:6

This awkward, awful, no name, no information Saturday has something to teach us about life and faith. Stay in it and learn.

Breaking News: I Care

Have you ever had one of those seasons with so many conflicting emotions swirling around inside you that you feel you might just explode or implode? I feel that way lately.

It is Holy Week. This is the first Holy Week in many years that I have not worked in a church. I am newly aware of how distracting being on a church staff can be especially during the peak seasons of faith. It is hard to focus on Holy Week when you are working in a church because you are busy doing church so that everyone else can experience the wide range of emotions from the Palm Sunday Parade, the Last Supper, the Cross and finally the Resurrection. Yesterday was the first Palm Sunday in decades that I was really able to pray and meditate about Palm Sunday.

As I walked, I thought about all the people waving branches and walking alongside Jesus. I tried to imagine what he was thinking. I tried to think about all the conflicting political issues of that day; all the agendas. I couldn’t help but reflect that not much has changed. Religious leaders entangled in politics. Power plays. Injustices.  Politics colored by religious agendas. Human rights in question. Chemical attacks. Tomahawk Missiles flying. Warships poised. Much discussion over what to do and who is right. A massacre in places of worship. And, that is just this week. Lord, have mercy. Seriously.

Holy Week contains every emotion. After the seeming Joy of Palm Sunday, came that little incident where Jesus lost his temper in the temple courts, overturning the tables of the money changers. No matter how much we’d like to believe Jesus was above anger, this shows he wasn’t. Matthew 21:12-13 Next thing we know he is cursing that fig tree causing it to wither and die. Matthew 21:19-22.  This all happens in this same week when everyone betrays him. He cries out to God, sweats blood mixed with tearful angst. The week gets worse for him from there.

In an interview on Beautiful Writers Podcast, I heard one of my favorite women talk about writing, faith and the wide range of emotions of our time. Anne Lamott confessed she gets hopeless regularly. She said when left to her own devices she dreams of  her next book being be called “Doomed” about how things are bad and only going to get worse. But then she says this, “Thank God, I am not left to my own devices. Thank God we are called to stay in community and in solitude so we can to stay grounded on that fact that Holy moments are happening in our midst.” When asked how she does this, she said, “I just take an action. I give money to organizations I believe are making a difference. I put feet to prayers and show up somewhere. I look up. I go outside. I flirt with older people and little kids. I just do the next expansive and loving thing.”

Her words reverberated through my soul. Thank God, we are not left to our own devices in Holy Week or any other week or we would surely get stuck in a “doomed” part…the anger, the fear, the betrayal, the angst, the death and miss the rest of the week. Thank God we can take the next expansive and loving action.

On Saturday, we had a job fair in our community for those seeking employment. Because I wanted to take a step toward the light, I offered my time for the afternoon. I was assigned resume reviews and mock interviews. I sat with people of all types from teenagers to professionals and we talked about how to polish resumes, sell themselves and shine during an interview. I met people of all cultures, religions and walks of life. I used every bit of my work, life and people experience to meet people where they were and to encourage them a little.

Toward the end,  a young woman came in wearing a hoodie that said, “Breaking News, I Don’t Care.” I don’t know everything about job seeking but I do know this is probably not the upfront message job seekers need to lead with. I wasn’t able to give her feedback on her hoodie because she wasn’t seeking any.

In my swirl of emotions this Holy Week, in this current America we live in, in my understanding of faith and humanity, here is what I know: we have to care. We have to wade through all our emotions from apathy to anger to be able to move beyond our own devices. We have to take that next loving step. We have to help each other. We have to hang out with God through a whole bunch of rough and horrible things in order to get to Easter.  Our faces, our clothes and our actions have to say, I care. Otherwise, we are doomed.

I pre-ordered Anne Lamott’s new book “Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy” before she ever even wrote it. It arrived at my house just as this Holy Week began. Thank God I’m not left to my own devices.

The Grace of Holy Tears

When I was just six years old, my grandfather, my beloved Paw Paw, took his life and so my journey with grief began. I didn’t know how to grieve and as you can imagine, my family was upside down. I held it in and made sure I was well-behaved and responsible.

Meanwhile, I looked for my Paw Paw everywhere, in grocery stores, malls, in every passing car and at church. I didn’t understand the mystery of death, how a person can be here and then just not. I still don’t understand it. His death led me to ministry. I didn’t know much at age six but I knew if I could help anyone not take that path, I would.

cindy-6

Six years ago today, I began another, more grown up grief journey when I lost a friend, co-worker, treasured ministry colleague with no warning. One day we were happily engaged in ministry and planning Sunday worship services, the next he was gone, leaving an entire congregation reeling, and me, devastated and suddenly in charge of a whole church. Once again, I held in my grief and was a well-behaved, responsible pastor. It was all I knew to do.

Holding it in was not that good for me. Six months later to the day, I learned I had breast cancer at age 49. Later, I melted in even more spectacular ways. It was all grief.

Doesn’t it seem like we should all be better at dealing with loss?  Everyone dies. Our lives are inexplicably interwoven with people we love. We have all lost loved ones. Why is grief so hard?

Grief is hard because it rubs up against sad, angry, guilty, mixed up, real life feelings. Sometimes we are not so good with feelings. Grief is also messy. It really has no time-table and it pops up at the strangest of times. For a while, I was a grief counselor and I remember a woman sharing that after her husband died, she misplaced a shoe in her own home. She found herself sobbing as she searched for a simple shoe. Later she realized she, like the shoe, had lost her sole/soul mate. A lost shoe triggered her sobs. Grief is also hard because we all grieve on different timetables from one another and we are all grieving the unique relationship we had with the person. No one else lost what you lost.

Listening to all those grieving people taught me that the most important thing about loss is to just go ahead and feel it. If you keep it in, it will circle back around to hurt you. We are not meant to keep grief in.

Go ahead and express what you’ve lost. Let the messy feelings come as they will. Don’t judge yourself because it is weeks, months, years or decades later. Cry. One of my supervisors once told me he believed our tears actually baptize our feelings. Baptize: to bless or sanctify, to make holy, to infuse with grace and God’s spirit.

This morning, six years after losing my friend, I cried as I’ve done lots of times now. I cried because so much shifted on that day. I cried because I still don’t understand the mystery of death. I cried for his family and for the church that lost him. I cried for the way my life changed that day and the challenges I’ve had since then. Each tear, baptized a messy feeling. Each tear felt like it cleansed a wound. Each tear not just a tear but a bit of Holy water, embedded with grace, forgiveness and a peace that passes understanding. Thanks be to God for the healing power of Holy tears for little girls, and big ones.

 

Sloppy Wet Baby Kisses

No matter your politics or religion, we can agree that things are tense and unsettled right now. We can likely agree that we do not know how all that is currently happening will play out in our country, our world or with us personally. Christianity is being bandied about in a myriad of ways and as a Christian pastor, I feel called to speak out. The problem is, I do not know what to say. People who disagree and who think I’m an anomaly of beliefs will only keep not understanding and shaking their heads. I don’t believe my words will change anyone’s mind.

I believe we need supernatural help. I believe we need guidance that comes from a greater power than any one of us.

I’ve just returned home from a few days with our precious seven month old grandson. He’s learning how to kiss. Do you remember how young babies kiss? They open their mouths wide and come at you. They can’t pucker up yet or smack their lips like older people do. When I ask my grand baby to give me a kiss, he understands me. It takes him a little while to act on it and then, he moves, mouth open, approaching my cheek like a sloth. When he delivers his kiss, it is all drool, super sloppy and the most delightful thing I know.

He will even do it on FaceTime.  I ask for a kiss and slowly, sloth like, the screen changes from his face to his approaching wide open mouth. Those sloppy kisses anchor me. They bring me to the joy of the Present Moment. I know he won’t kiss like that forever. I know now that drool won’t kill me so I just savor it.

And, I think it is supernatural. It is grace. It is new life. This person who didn’t even exist before is now here, kissing me. This messiness is God in the daily sweetness of life.

A few days ago, awash in his sloppy kisses, I remembered a worship praise song called “How He Loves.” The song, in some versions, has this line “Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” The reason it is different in some versions is that evidently some people were uncomfortable singing about sloppy wet kisses in worship. To them, I say, “Are you kidding me?” This is it.  This is faith. This is the supernatural colliding with this physical, pretty screwed up world. It is supposed to be messy.

In the new hit show, This is Us, which is a great show about real life, Kevin is explaining to his nieces about life through a painting. His painting is a collision of colors and textures, lines and shapes. It looks like this super colorful, vivid, rainbow explosion. Kevin tries to explain it and ends up saying “I think life is just one big, sloppy, colorful, magical thing that never ends.”

There’s that word again, sloppy.

Here’s what I’m trying to say as words pretty much fail me. These are uncertain, anxiety-ridden times. If we look too long or too hard on what is happening and what people are saying, we will be lost in anger, paralyzed by fear. We need supernatural help. That help is all around us and it is delivered, strangely enough in the sloppiest of ways. When heaven meets earth, there is messiness, drool and discomfort.

My prayer for all of us today is that we will stop in the chaos and receive a grace beyond us…like a baby kiss. It is the only way forward. .

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Old, New or Just Right?

My one word for 2017 is New. I’m paying attention to that which is New. New ideas, new habits, new routines and embracing discomfort as I go.

I’ve incorporated into my daily to-do list a section for New. I’m making myself read, study and try out what is hard for me or different every day.

At the end of last year, my daughter and I started something New that we had been discussing for a while. We opened an antique booth. We call it Mimosa Rose which is a combination of my awesome grandma name and the name my mom called my daughter as baby, “Little Rosebud.” Mimosa Rose is a place for our shared interest in Old treasures used in New ways.

Mimosa Rose has taken me into to a world I know nothing about. I had to get two different tax id numbers. I had to learn about display. I had to figure out how to inventory items and keep track of things.

When I first signed the contract to have a booth, I felt overwhelmed even though I’ve done plenty of hard new things before like going to seminary, being a woman there, being a hospital chaplain, a hospice chaplain, a pastor, a mom of three, speaking in front of large crowds, etc. Nothing should really scare me anymore but this did. Because, it was New.

I find it ironic that mixed within all that is New, there is always the Old; old ideas, old ways of thinking, old habits.

Our New venture is all about repurposing Old things. I’m having to learn more about social media in order to share this New venture into Old things. Last week I even went to a class…(a class!) because there are so many New things to learn.

Jesus taught us about paying attention to New and Old. He told parables about cloth and wine and cautioned about not mixing too much Old and New or you could ruin or damage what is. I believe mindfulness is the key. Honor what is Old in your life. Honor what is New in your life. Any maybe, your New will intersect with the Old to create Just Right.