Heavenly Thoughts…

One of the most important tenants of the Christian faith is the hope of resurrection. The Jesus message brings huge value for today because it invites us into a story that challenges how we do life: beckoning us to a way of life that is marked by compassion for the outsider, hospitality toward the stranger, mercy toward the weak, dignity for all, love to each other, sacrifice as a means to life, and so much more. But without resurrection these ways of living come to a violent end marked by death–and end that is not fitting with the story being told. Because the reality, clearly, is that our bodies and this world are decaying. They are. But in the story of Jesus there is a promise of new life, a promise of a restored and renovated creation where everything will be brought back to its original purpose and intended beauty.

This is the day I live for.*

That day…

I dream of a day where my body won’t hurt. Where going to the bathroom won’t be a chore (yes in that day I’ll still be going to the bathroom because…)

I dream of a day where everything I eat will be exquisite and deliciously fresh. Where the food that goes into my body makes my body and my tongue satisfied beyond belief. Food will forever continue to be the gift God intended it to be but without all this extra jiggly stuff added on.

I dream of a day where fighting will end, where peace will not even be something we fight for because it will be our one and only reality. There will be nothing outside of an existence where people are not stepping on other people to gain, destroy, and control. Peace will control us.

I dream of a day where we laugh a lot and laugh often. Where the tears that stream down our face are from good jokes rather than sorrow, pain, or grief. I imagine that we’ll discover that God gets more of our crass jokes than we ever gave him credit for–that’s the day I dream of. (cards against humanity anybody?)

I dream of a day where everyone is welcome around the same table to feast on the aforementioned food. There is no exclusion based on race, economic status, sexuality, or politic. We will all feast together because we have all been invited to the same exquisite table to feast around, because we all belong, because…because we’ve all accepted the dinner invitation.

I dream of a day where creation isn’t falling apart. Climate change, hurricanes, hail storms, they will all be relegated to a place of grief over our past rather than a worry in our future.** Creation will be what it was forever intended to be except it will be more alive now than ever before. New colors, new trees, new animals will fill the horizon as we experience life unabated.

I dream of a day where our choices are not marked by destruction. We will no longer make choices that destroy ourselves, destroy our bodies, and destroy our hearts. Instead our choices will be marked by exploration, by intrigue, and by love and fascination of self and otherness.

I dream of a day where I will be married to my wife forever. We will live and walk in unity, keeping the commitment to each other that we so desperately do not ever want to break. We will continue our exploration of life, romance, and otherness together as we journey deeper into eternity.

I dream of a day where there’s time to read–where there’s always time to read.

I dream of a world where reality television has been unmasked for what it really is: cheap programing.

I dream of a day where orphans and widows have a seat of honor and are cared for with extra respect and dignity.

I dream of a day where i can ride a bike again.

I dream of a day where we still have cars. Better cars. Cars that don’t break down as often.

I want to dream more. I want to dream lots of things. I want to dream bigger than what I’ve shared above. And I know, (I’m banking on it), that my dreams won’t even touch the amazingly beautiful reality that we’re going to be invited to enter into one day…now that’s something worth dreaming about!


*  Though, if you know me and my wife and my family and the lives we try to live I hope you’ll know that I have not fallen out of the boat on this side! I have not given up on the truth that in living for today we have the gift of truly seeing and experiencing every day as a glimpse into eternity. I truly believe that we can bring pieces of that futur reality into today. So lets not miss that when I say that I live for that day because much of that day can be brought into today! (talk about good news right?)


**  Yes, in my future dreaming there is still a place for some grief and sorrow. We cannot live a new existence if we’ve forgotten who we are or where we’ve come from!

Do I Want to Die?

After getting our first good test results (ever) two weeks ago I went into a pretty deep depression.


Getting the good news sent me into an emotional nose dive that I still find myself fighting against succumbing to it.

That’s right, I was sad to find out that I might not be dying as soon as I thought.*

It took me a while to understand what was going on–why would good news bring about such negative emotions? Why was I feeling so lost at a moment when I should have been in the throes of elation? It just didn’t make sense until I realized something. I realized that after a year of living in complete ambiguity, never knowing what to expect from one day to the next, never being quite sure if I was surviving or actively dying, and never being able to count on functional health from one week to the next it didn’t matter whether it was good or bad all I craved was being able to count on what to expect for tomorrow…even if that was death. Living in that in-between place for so long was miserable and taxing and…well…when I got the diagnosis of 3-6 months, as terrible as it was/is, at least for the first time in a long time I knew where I stood. Sure I was dying, but at least I knew what to expect!

I don’t think this was a conscious thought necessarily, I don’t think I would have been able to actually articulate that I was glad I was dying. But what I discovered was that when I got the positive MRI result it immediately called into question the very thing that had been giving me solace. I don’t think I knew that I had been taking so much comfort in knowing what to expect until it was lost. Now let me quickly clarify that without a doubt all of this is an illusion, all of this is about perception not about reality. We cannot ever, in fact, know what to expect concerning tomorrow! (right?) And to make it even more silly is the fact that my good MRI scans do not even change anything about the 3-6 month projections in the slightest! In reality what these new and exciting scans do is powerfully remind us that there’s always hope.

And so I sat in bed sick (from those blasted UTIs) and sick (from those blasted emotions) trying to figure out why I felt the way I did–feeling betrayed by my own emotions, feeling confused by the strange feelings that were emerging, and annoyed by the fact that I was such a mess. Things would be more simple if I were just dying…right. I know, I know, you don’t want me to say that (and you definitely don’t want me to mean it) but the complete and honest truth is that the draw to normalcy, to consistency, and to clear expectations is a koolaid that’s easily drunk. Even if that koolaid is to die from cancer.

Again, there is no question whatsoever that the reality is that we’re all living from day-to-day, that those of us who think we can do life without the messiness of the unknown are living in denial, and that uncertainty or ambiguity is a part of being human. But oh, don’t we crave control?! Don’t we crave even the illusion of it?! Apparently I’ve been craving it so much that even death had an appeal simply because I could count on it!

I’m choosing not to write this blog from the perspective of “and now I’m all better”, “that was then, this is now”, or “I’m so glad I got over that”. The truth is that it’s still hard. I’m still fighting the sickness daily (both the emotional side and the actual infection side). Hopefully I’ll be better soon. Hopefully (and this would make all of this so much easier) the cancer will just go away and I can be done with all of this for good…don’t you think that would be ideal?


* Though the doctor was clear that while this gives us great hope, it does not directly change our timeframe.

In the Hero’s Journey Nothing Is Wasted

I don’t understand how school teachers do it. Granted, most teachers are not being taxed by cancer in their bodies, but wow did speaking yesterday wear me out! Five to six hours of constant dialog with high schoolers about death wears a guy out! Oh, I should back up and say that yesterday I was given the opportunity by my wonderful friend (and newly famous poet) Jenney to speak to all six periods of her high school english class. They had been spending a great amount of time studying a literary device called The Hero’s Journey which, if I understand it correctly, is a commonly found pattern or way of crafting a story. It is marked by the invitation to adventure or to take part in a story, by trials along the way, it says that you receive help from friends along the way but that they cannot solve the dilema, and leads to eventual freedom where you can then help others…at least I think I’m somehow capturing it.*

So Jenney invited me to share some of my story because of how it so directly connectes to The Hero’s Journey concept. The kids were forced to read some of my blogs (I’ve got to drive traffic somehow right?), they crafted an amazing set of questions, and then invited me to dialog with them.

As a recovering homeschool nerd speaking in a high school is a pretty foreign context. Can I say naught words? Can I wear a hat? Can I talk about my catheter? Can I mention Jesus? How honest can I be? Do I need to be ready to do a song and dance to entertain the teens? So many questions–and yet, in the end, we all just talked. We talked about death. I talked a lot about my children and my wife a lot. We all cried quite a bit. The students wanted to know how my life changed, they wanted to know how I’d live differently if I survive, they wanted to know if I’m afraid to die, they wanted to know what gave me hope, they wanted to know about reincarnation, they had so many good questions. I was very impacted by their ability to be present and emotionally available for such a deep conversation.

It was strange to find myself, near the end of every period, talking about the kingdom of God. Ok, so I didn’t actually say “kingdom of God”, but it’s what we talked about. At some point in every class we talked about hell, about how we all know hell in our lives or in the lives of those around us. Whether it is through divorce, sickness, addiction, or broken relationships we’re all experiencing the reality that this world is not right. I invited them to call it what it is, to recognize that cancer sucks but that there is hope for every single story (the Hero’s Journey). There is hope that every single story can be redeemed, that beauty can come from ashes, that what God does is he turns shit into something beautiful. I told them that even a story of death can be one of love and beauty if we’re willing to enter into it fully and allow it to become so. This doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t suck, it doesn’t mean that it’s not incredibly hard–but it does mean that nothing has to be wasted. This is all Kingdom of Heaven stuff. Essentially we, as a class, talked and dreamed about God’s ultimate reality coming to earth and eventually being fully realized post death. Kingdom.**

As I sit here knowing that literally 10’s of thousands of people are praying for God to heal my broken body I cannot help but cling to that kingdom idea: nothing is wasted. If prayer works how I think it works then I will most definitely be healed. But I’m not convinced that prayer works how I think it works (shoot, even using the word ‘works’ with regard to prayer clearly shows that my natural tendency is to use it as a tool rather than to see it as a dialog. I want to wield prayer like a magic wand more than anything else!). I’m not convinced that my theology on prayer is correct. I am convinced, however, that God is good. Everything builds off that. And speaking yesterday with those amazing students reminded me yet again that

  1. This world is broken (some of those students have tragic stories!)
  2. Things don’t always get reconciled in this world how we’d like (though we fight bravely to make it so!)
  3. That God desires to enter into every story and make it a Hero’s Journey where absolutely nothing is wasted
  4. Our hope ultimately is in a new body and restored world where everything is finally as it should be–as the Hero originally intended.

*If someone has some insight here and wants to post with more clarity I’d greatly appreciate it!

** I’m not going to lie, if you’ve heard me speak in different settings or if you’ve read my blog much…this is my spiel. I say this same thing in different formats over and over again…and yet I still feel like I’m needing to hear it myself. So my apologies if you’re wondering “haven’t I already heard Ryan say this?” ’cause the answer is a resounding YES!

Does Hope Live Paycheck to Paycheck? Seriously? Does it?

If you watch Hulu at all you’ve probably seen this video. I don’t want to say anything negative about Rethink Church ’cause I know absolutely nothing about them and I don’t really have a practice of talking bad about churches–even churches that I might disagree with, it just does not seem very productive to speak poorly about my family (Right? Even if your family sucks you still don’t shame them publicly)

But in the video one of their big questions is “Does hope live paycheck to paycheck?


What does that mean?

Does it really live paycheck to paycheck?

…I’m not reasking the question rhetorically, I’m seriously wondering if it does. I don’t know?  Does compassion live paycheck to paycheck? How about kindness? Does kindness put more money in savings? How can we help hope stop its overspending?

Or maybe the idea is that those with hope literally stop living paycheck to paycheck–once they find hope they start making better decisions and start saving more money. Is that the idea?

Or is it a metaphor for how we live our lives when we have no hope. If you’re someone who has little hope in your life do you find that you “live paycheck to paycheck”? Or, in other words, do you find that you’re living moment to moment, expending everything you have as and leaving little legacy behind?

Hmmm…neither of those two options really resonate with me. One would suggest that once you give your life to Jesus you’ll save more. But the reality is that following Jesus invites you to give more and to put your hope in relationship and resurrection not in savings (not that I’m against saving). The other ‘metaphorical’ option doesn’t really resonate with me either simply because it’s tedious and not very clear.

From my perspective here’s what hope can bring (this is by no means an exhaustive list!) Hope:

  • Gives us meaning because it gives us a larger identity that we can find ourselves in
  • Gives us energy because it helps remove that feeling of “what’s the point?”
  • Disappoints. It does. To hope is to raise your expectations and to believe that something beautiful will happen. But on this side of life that isn’t always the case.
  • Is bigger than today. Hope on this side of life disappoints–that’s why those from the Jesus way of life place their hope primarily in resurrection, new life, and a restored creation.
So I still have not solved the mystery before us: what the hell does the question “does hope live paycheck to paycheck” mean! I like hope. I like paychecks. I like that this church is trying to engage in a hope-dialog. I like Hulu. I don’t like commercials. Therefore vis-à-vis, quid pro quo, using the properties of transsubordination, etc. etc. we must deduce that the definitive answer is yes.

Hope in the Face of New Tumors

I’ve been toeing the line lately between hope and reality. There may be a better way to say that or capture what I mean by it because I realize that the truth is that in many ways what we put our hope in IS the reality. But in my context the reality is that I’m dying of cancer. We found out yesterday that there are two new tumors in my spine. They’re small but they’re there (that’s a lot of there’s in one sentence!). One is in my neck and the other is in my lower thoracic spine. Bad news. I also found out that my lungs have not yet fully recovered from the pulmonary embolism back in July, there’s still some residual clotting which means that I must continue on my blood thinners for another three months when we’ll check again. Bad news.

The reality is that this tumor seems to be an active little guy. The reality is not very hopeful. AND YET there is reason to hope. I’ve become convinced lately that hope (for me) can’t come through an ignorance of things as they are. Pretending that this isn’t bad news or watering down the news to something that feels easier doesn’t allow me to hold onto hope in a way that feels authentic. We each find our own ways of dealing with reality in its brokenness (because life is broken isn’t it!) and for me it’s beginning to come through a recognition of the ‘badness’ and a choice to hope despite it.

Ultimately my hope is not in healing. My hope is in resurrection, in a body that won’t decay, in a world that will be restored as God intended, a life lived in communion with others and the Communal God–in the restoration of all things. But I am also choosing to hope for healing, to hope that God chooses to let me experience a glimpse of that future reality today: a whole, healthy body allowing me to live a whole and healthy life.

The more I recognize the brokenness of my reality the more beautiful God’s redemption can and will be. Two new tumors? Ok. So if God chooses to bring healing it’ll be an even greater story. I don’t like it but I think I’m OK with it. If God can bring healing from one tumor…what’s a couple more? And regardless, like I’ve said from the very beginning–God desires to tell a story through each and every one of us regardless of whether we’re aware of our bodies decay or not–the question is what kind of story will we let him tell?

Lastly, and with great joy, I can also say that while there are two new tumors in my spinal cord I have absolutely no new symptoms to validate any new growth. Physically I have been healthier the last month than ever (this is all relative to how poorly I’ve felt over the last nine months of course)! It’s been a great season of health for me and it’s worth celebrating! And because I’ve got no new symptoms to validate the MRI results we are not going to change my current treatment. We will reevaluate in two months and we will continue to monitor my body, looking for any new symptoms. Until then we’ll continue on with my chemo treatment for five days on and 28 days off. Thank you for your prayers and support.