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Posts tagged "Cancer"


Gravy: A Prayer for You at Year’s End

I preached a funeral for a friend a few weeks back — ironically, a day before Thanksgiving. I was under strict instructions not to speak the name of the disease that had ended her earthly life (hint: it starts with “c”; a six-letter word that acts more like a four-letter word). I couldn’t ignore that word’s presence altogether, since it had surely been a contributing writer on the screenplay of her life. But I never uttered the word and did my best to give Jesus top billing.

Raymond Carver managed to accomplish something similar in one of his final poems, “Gravy.” He looked back over the last sober decade – the love he experienced from Tess Gallagher, the vital work of writing and teaching and living. It is a mere 125 words. And not to nag you like your 10th grade English teacher or anything, but I do believe it would reward the time you spend reading it:

“Gravy” by Raymond Carver

No other word will do. For that’s what it was.
Gravy.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure Gravy. And don’t forget it.

May I pray this prayer for us?

Lord Jesus, another year is gone, and only you know what awaits us. For those things we fear are “building up” and “breaking down,” we pray for healing and endurance in the days to come. And as we reflect on 2019, Lord, focus our minds on the gravy — the moments we weren’t promised, the work that kept us “alive,” the remarkable disasters we mysteriously avoided, and most importantly, the grace that raised us up when we were “going nowhere but down.”

Gravy. Pure gravy. Please pass the gravy. Amen.

The Death of Control

My wife has one unrelenting addiction: “Jeopardy!” If there is time, she will watch, and if I am there, I will sit through it. In his 35 years on the syndicated nightly show, Alex Trebek has become an icon. His hushed superiority, muffled humor, and obvious judgments of the players and the game are, now, […]

How Do the Sick Participate in Christ?

Grateful for this reflection from our friend Jason Micheli.  More so than the stab of regret, what cancer injects into your life is perspective, as fresh as it is swift. The philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, perhaps the ablest critic of Christianity, charged that we view God through the eyes of our tribe, our culture and tradition, and […]

Another Week Ends: Divine Dad Jokes, Social Media Dark Ages, Millennial Marriages, Cher’s SOS, and a Swimming Pool Full of Sprinkles

1. It’s the experience economy, in case you haven’t heard. In a previous vocation, that was the mantra by which we were expected to “pivot” our future plans. The new experience entrepreneurs have likely set up shop in your neighborhood too: we just got our first axe-throwing range to compliment our smashing-pottery-therapy studio and our […]

Chewing Tinfoil, Wanting God: Christian Wiman’s He Held Radical Light

What is it we want when we can’t stop wanting? Christian Wiman’s new essays resist review. Reviews of art are always a strange effort, anyway. An exhibition of paintings or a play or a concert or a novel or a poem, all are experiences, experiences of difference—when our action is displaced but our hearts and […]

The Jeffersonian Ideal and the Unexpected Solution to Racism

As you may know, Mockingbird HQ is situated here in happy, wealthy, intellectual, pastoral Charlottesville, Virginia. When I moved to Charlottesville for college almost 15 years ago, it was considered “America’s Happiest City” and one of the best places in America to raise a family. It still is. For this reason, and others, there is a […]

Another Week Ends: Minimizers, Teachers & Solvers, Super Bowl Winners & Self-Help Fixers, Unhappy Undergrads and Cradle Episcopalians

1. Kate Bowler’s new op-ed in the New York Times this week is one for the ages. Bowler, who we’ve written about before, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at 35, having just had a baby. She is also a professor at Duke Seminary, her research and first book on the history of the […]

Five Golden…Themes! What We Loved Talking About in 2016

In lieu of a weekender, today we give you something of a year-ender, 2016’s five golden (or not so golden)…themes. By all means, tell us in the comments what themes you spied in the headlines throughout the past year. 1. Donald Trump. It goes without saying, but nothing frenzied the network television companies and newspaper writers […]

The Prosperous Gospel of Stage 4 Cancer

In church yesterday, we read the “Temptation in the Wilderness,” the passage where Jesus is tempted to turn stones to bread, to throw himself down from the Temple in a spectacle, to kneel to the devil in exchange for infinite power. Jesus has fasted forty days, but he does not waver. The sermon at our church focused more on the […]

It’s Funny ‘Cause It’s True: Tig Notaro Has Breast Cancer

I’ve been thinking a lot about what we can learn from stand-up comedians. I recently came across an amazing, tragic, deeply personal, and therefore hilarious stand-up set by Tig Notaro, which aired on This American Life last October (you really should listen to it here). I am approaching this from my perspective as a preacher and […]

Battled Out: Cancer’s Civil War of the Self

I gave myself to sin, I gave myself to Providence, And I am there and back again, in the state I am in. –Belle & Sebastian The Good News is so called because of the comfort it brings, the rest it gives to “the weary and the heavy-laden.” But what about the heavy-laden who kind […]