Posts Tagged ‘Gregory Boyle’

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).”

Yesterday I got up at 2:45 am to do my job. I was expected to be at a local hotel in the wee hours in order to escort a group of international students to their departure airport four hours away.

We arrived at the airport without incident. However, the next couple of hours were  definitely not quiet ones.

As the 18 folks in our charge checked their luggage, you could see their mixed emotions. In addition to being bleary-eyed from no sleep, they also were conflicted about leaving and going home.

In my view, some of them were holding back. They didn’t want to face the goodbyes.

Shortly thereafter, we took the students to their gate. However, we had to go through hell and back to escort them further.

First, we had to leave the security scanners and go back to their airline to get badges. This took forever, and a lot of walking.

After that ordeal, we had to go through all the security a normal traveler does, including half-disrobing, to get to their gate. And more walking.

We arrived about a half an hour before boarding began. This group of sweet people, normally outgoing and musical, were generally somber and reflective.

As the boarding began, so did the waterworks.  Students approached me with hugs, culturally significant gestures of respect and  kind comments.

What affected me the most, though, were the tears. With some of them, gushers came from their eyes.

I had determined beforehand that I wasn’t going to let loose emotionally. After all, I was their professor, their leader.

I was a professional. Furthermore, someone had to keep calm, didn’t they?

I refused to emotionally get wrapped up in the moment. In hindsight, this was a big mistake.

These people loved me, and I loved them. I will probably never see most of them again.

If I wasn’t crying then, I am now.  I am weeping over a lost opportunity to show them I cared.

The apostle Paul did in similar circumstances. He was saying goodbye to some leaders of a church once, and told them they would never see him again.

Paul knelt and prayed with them. They in turn wept and embraced him (Acts 20:36.37).

Oh, I wasn’t a total clod with my students. I returned their hugs and told the as they left, “God bless you guys.”

Yet, I didn’t weep. I should have. It would have been appropriate, more than that, really.

Some macho creed and a desire not to appear emotional kept from crying with them, though. It was stupid.

Catholic priest Gregory Boyle, in his book about ministering to gang members in Los Angeles (Tattoos on the Heart), relates a story of how a former gang member stood with him in grief.

Freddy comes by his office after the killing of coworker, himself a former gang member who was shot down by rivals. Freddy asks the priest how he is doing.

“I know your heart is breaking,” Freddy tells him, crying as the words come out. “I wish I had a magic wand to pass over your pain.”

The priest the homies call “G” writes:

“As an adult, I cannot recall every crying with another person more fully than at that moment. We both just lose ourselves in sobbing. Usually, I’d put myself as the homies say “on check status”, but even I couldn’t pull this off at the moment. I’d been holding this enormous, outsized grief “in check” for so long  and had sudden permission to release it in the gentle urging and vast heart of Freddy.”

Freddy goes on to tell “G” that if he had a choice between a million dollars and alleviating his pain, he would choose the latter. Further, Freddy tells the priest the reason: “G” had stood with the homies amidst the pain of the barrio and “swept them up”.

Freddy tells “G” that if he could, he would sweep “G” up, too. The priest, eking out a response in the middle of sobs, replies,”You just did.” 

When it comes to relating to and helping people, Boyle notes that it is more important to be faithful than successful. It is more important to stand with someone, to identify with them.

Boyle writes,”It’s as basic as crying together. It is about ‘casting your lot’ before it ever becomes about ‘changing their lot.”

My students are gone. I can’t go back. There is no “do over” when it comes to my farewell with them.

However,  I still have a family I live with every day. They’re humans with real problems, fears, distresses, and pain.

I can become more compassionate and caring with them, not just in action but in expression. I don’t always have to be stoic.

In fact, I think they could use some show of passion from me, especially when it comes to their pain. Maybe once in a while it would be good to let myself go in their presence.

This means I have to be vulnerable with my wife and kids. That’s a tough one for me.

It means first of all that I will have to look inside and determine how I actually AM feeling about their pain. Will I find real compassion there? Oh God, I hope so.

Getting in touch with myself and my emotions is a good place to begin in order to SHOW compassion to others.  It’s a fearful thing, but with God’s help I intend to do it.


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 “Let love and faithfulness never leave you;  bind them around your neck,  write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man (Proverbs 3:3,4).”

This week I taught my English class for internationals how to write a haiku. I don’t really care for poetry that much, but I have always liked this form.
Perhaps it is because of its simplicity. As someone said to me recentlyt, anyone can write a haiku.
The original form of haiku is written as written in Japanese is very terse. Therefore, to communicate the idea of the style in English, the form,  i.e. the stanzas and syllables have to be even shorter than they are in Japanese.
After I read my students  a sample of my own work, I had them to do it. From what I could tell, they did a wonderful job. One Indonesian girl ran up to me and proudly showed me her work.
This must be my week for Japanese culture because I ran into a version of an old Frank Sinatra hit done recently by Japanese-American singer Hikaru Otada. She adds new life to a song I never have cared for in the past.
Utada seems to be an admirable young lady.  That great everyman source Wikipedia says of her breakthrough in the late 1990s:” Unlike other pop-stars at the time, she was more focused on becoming a singer and songwriter while other Japanese female singers were attempting to become idols.”
Ms. Utada apparently knows that to be a success she has to hone her craft and work hard. She doesn’t seek to just be “famous for being famous”.
It’s a real temptation for Christians today, including yours truly, to discard the work ethic  required to be exemplary believers and aim instead for becoming Christian pop culture “heros of the faith”,  without meeting up with the disciplines required. We want to be Christian divas, God knows why.
Hiraku’s opening to the classic song “Fly Me to the Moon” shows she knows what it takes to make life work:
“Poets often use many words
  to say a simple thing
  But it takes thought and time and rhyme
  to make a poet sing.”
To make a Christian life “sing” requires superior character (I Timothy 3:1-13). This is not obtained overnight, nor does it come easy.
So you want to be hot stuff in Christian circles?  Be careful what you ask for. It’s a worthy goal, but it may take a lifetime.
This is because we came into this world in plebeian fashion. We have a lot of sin and experiences from our youth to overcome.
Upon birth into this world, we were hit by a flying curse (Zechariah 5:1-4).  Thanks be to God, we have Him to heal the torment caused by it.
Hikaru Utada, introduces this healing from God:
“With music and words
  I’ll be playin’
  For you I have written a song

  To be sure that you’ll know what
  I’m sayin’ I’ll translate as I go along.”

God does the same for us. He wants our lives to be an expression of Him, if you will, a beautiful song.
When we come to Jesus Christ, He puts a desire in us. Jesus gives us the longing  to soar from the plight of the curse:
” Fly me to the moon
  and let me play among the stars
  Won’t you let me see what spring is like
  On Jupiter and Mars

   Fill my heart with song
  and let me sing forever more
  ’cause you are all I long for
  All I worship and adore.”

 We don’t even know what our hearts are singing, but God does. He translates for us as we go along:

  “…In other words
  hold my hand
In other words
  darling kiss me

 “… In other words
  please me true
  In other words
  I love you.”

  Our souls crave love which seems to be in this world at a considerable distance away . We want God to fly us to the moon and beyond, where His loving arms await . It seems so unattainable because of the curse.

We want a Lover of Our Souls who will be faithful. We love Him, although we don’t know why, and we want to hold His hand.
We know we won’t find this faithfulness in our fellow humans.  We aren’t as true as we should be.
Yet, I believe and hope against hope that life can be a poem, one we write together with Jesus, despite the curse.
Catholic priest Gregory Boyle writes,”What the American poet William Carlos Williams said of poetry could well be applied to the living of our lives: ‘If it ain’t a pleasure, it ain’t a poem’.”
Does life have to be all suffering all the time? I think not. I think perhaps this is not what God had in mind at the Creation.
Boyle’s colleague in a ministry to gang members says,”God created us because He thought we’d enjoy it.” Boyle himself adds,”God so loved the world that we’d find the poetry in it.”
However,  a life of  lovely lyrics requires our participation. We won’t get it by sitting on the sofa watching karaoke.
Hikaru Utada this year took a sabbatical from her music career. Why?  To focus on self improvement.
According to the Japan Today website, she wrote on her blog,“I want to study new things, and see and experience things in this big world that I don’t know about.” 
To me, this girl is “all that”. She knows it takes a heart to learn and a will to focus to get  to where she wants to be, not just as a musician, but as a person.
God wants to fly us to the moon. Indeed, He used Brian Littrell of the music group The Backstreet Boys to express what’s in His mind:”Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”.
When thinking of this quote, which I saw on a plaque in a bookstore the other day, I consider the source. Littrell is a committed believer in Jesus Christ.
He was born with a heart defect which has threatened his life on several occasions, according to Wikipedia.  He finally had a hole in his heart repaired in the late 1990s.
As believers in Jesus, we all require heart surgery.  God has performed that through Jesus Christ.
Apparently we’re now capable of shooting for the moon and the stars. We are able to be noble in this life.
“Noble is
what I want to be
It doesn’t
fall from trees, my friend
takes a choice to aim
for glory”.
While we shoot for the stars in this life, we know one day we’ll get there:
“Some glad morning when this life is o’er,
I’ll fly away;
To a home on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away). 

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

When the shadows of this life have gone,
I’ll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away). 

Just a few more weary days and then,
I’ll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away) 

In the meantime, well,…you know.



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