Friday, January 28, 2011

Death's Sting is Fleeting and Weak

I find it hard to put into words the depths of feeling I'm experiencing right now. My long time-friend, mentor & spiritual example Mark Macallister took his own life earlier this month after a long battle with depression and chronic pain. He leaves behind his amazing wife Jody and two beautiful and wonderful kids, Levi & Bree. This picture shows their family together and at peace.
My heart hurts quite a bit right now due to the tragic, senseless and sudden loss of so bright a light as Mark shone to the world around. He was gregarious and compassionate and had friends in such a wide range of places I was almost always surprised when someone I knew said "Oh, Mark? Yeah, I've known Mark for years". He would never be the one to shine a light on himself, always demuring and deferring to others in a humility that was so natural and secure.

Mark exemplified to me the heart of love and care for others that is the best description of the word "Pastor" I know. It was primarily his influence in my life that opened to me the possibility of giving my life away to others in this pastoral way as well.

Living as followers of Jesus, Mark and I shared a hope that there is something beyond this life -- something which defies description although better men than me have certainly tried. I do take comfort in knowing Mark is "in a better place" although that rings so hollow in my ears because his current experience is so much richer than that little phrase could possibly convey, but also beacuse that little phrase sounds so trite and weak when placed against the pain of his loss to my heart.

I do also take comfort in knowing that death itslef was never supposed to be part of our story -- and so it will be done away with in the final analysis. And so I have a deep appreciation for John Donne's classic poem as well. I'd heard the opening line many times of course, but seeing "Wit" with Emma Thompson really galvanized within me an appreciation for the epochs-long wrestling match with death we humans have undergone.
Death be not Proud
By John Donne

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
Requiesact in pace Mark, until we meet again when death itself has been put away.

~ Keith

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Week at an Abbey

I recently spent a week at an Abbey in Mt. Angel, OR.
I thought I was going there for some solitude; some silence. Apparently I was wrong.

I did spend a significant amount of time alone, and being quiet, and that was nice. It was restful and restorative -- but I learned some things about solitude and silence I was not aware of before. Some I learned from my reading, and some I learned from just being there, alone. A Monk's room is sometimes referred to as a cell -- and it has been said
Go into your cell,
and your cell will teach you
everything you need to know
I wish I had more to say about it here, but I had such rich time journaling and reading and being alone with God that I feel no need. =)

If there are specific questions anyone has I am happy to answer them either here on the blog in comments, or privately in eMail -- but simply chronicling my experience here (which is what I might have done in the past) strikes me as something which would somehow take away from the experience.

~ Keith