Tag Archives: Bishop Chuck Murphy

When God Isn’t Good

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“Live (and die) so that anyone who knows you knows God is good.”

The night before we left to meet family for Christmas, my husband John and I drove 45 minutes to Pawleys Island (Pawleys for short), a community where we bought a creek lot this past summer. We wanted to decorate the property by hanging an ornament and putting spotlights on the live oak that shades it. One of appeals of buying in Pawleys was its close proximity to The Abbey, a church we joined just months before we made our purchase.

On the way there, John said, “They’ve called in hospice for Chuck.”

“I hated to blurt it out tonight,” he said, “but there wasn’t going to be a good time to tell you.”

Bishop Chuck Murphy was our rector at The Abbey until he resigned three weeks ago. He died a few days later.

Chuck was diagnosed last January with stage 4 brain cancer. Most of us anticipated him living many more years because he had powerful believers praying for and expecting his healing.

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At Chuck’s funeral, Philip Jones, his successor as chairman of the Anglican Mission in America, told the story about Chuck saying to Margaret when they were 18-years-old and dating, “I don’t want to be 65 and not have made a difference in the world.”

Chuck ministered to thousands of people, probably tens of thousands. He oversaw the planting of more than 200 churches in America including The Abbey, where we started attending about two years ago. We also worshipped under Chuck’s leadership for six years at All Saints, another church in Pawleys. His bold regard for scripture changed the landscape of Anglicanism and impacted the world, and John and me too.

Bagpipers accompanied Chuck’s family to the entryway of the church. During his service, a trumpeter played Revelle. We sang, “What a Beautiful Name.” Twenty plus robed clergy traveled to pay homage.

Things were said like “Chuck left a legacy of family, leadership, and character.”

“He flew 40,000 feet higher and saw beyond what most of us see. He had a singular focus on the Kingdom of God.”

“He had little use for the praise of men, but wanted it from heaven.”

“His ways were generous and he was always asking, ‘How can I come alongside you and help make this happen?’”

The day after hearing the hospice news, John and I drove separately to the mountains to haul all the food and Christmas presents. On the way, I bargained with God that if he’d heal Chuck, I’d complete my manuscript. I couldn’t think of anything more important to wager. I pleaded with him when I remembered Abraham’s appeals for a town in the Bible called Sodom. I begged and bargained and bawled.

An hour and a half into my trip, I looked up and saw a billboard, a sign, advertising a can of Glory Foods field peas. I laughed at God choosing one with humor that said, “Peas Be With You.”

I hoped it was a “sign” that Chuck was being healed the way I wanted the miracle to happen. Having him survive and seeing prayer work so powerfully made sense for our church and for us. Attending The Abbey’s been a big part of John’s and my restoration in our marriage and individually. For us, Chuck’s healing wasn’t about only Chuck getting better. It was about us too.

We thought we needed more lessons from his nearly 50-year marriage to Margaret. We watched his three daughters and their families attend The Abbey and sit together Sunday after Sunday.  We learned from watching Chuck act as spiritual head of his household, as well as our church home.

He played his guitar and performed on the church piano, not for the congregation, but his family. I’ve never seen him play except in videos posted by one of his daughters. He believed every word of the Bible and taught it in a way that made me believe it too. He talked about dancing in the streets of heaven with Jesus. He laughed when he preached. I bet he was laughing when he died.

 

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Margaret forwarded this message on January 9th, “Chuck, as he would say, peacefully went down the water flume before us this morning at 1:30, right into the glorious Kingdom of God. Our family is doing ok, but we know Chuck is doing great as he joins his Saviour and Lord.”

My stomach knots up when I think about Chuck not being here for our move to Pawleys and for us to move forward.

It’s at The Abbey where I’ve seen John raise his hands and get on his knees, tear up often, and soften.

It’s where I’ve felt safe and not because we have a security guard walking the grounds. It’s the place I learned to trust and lean into God being good. Genuinely good, not cliché good. It helped to watch Chuck and his family believe in God’s goodness in sickness and in health.

I’ve tried spiritualizing my pain instead of feeling it. Maybe you do this too. I like to think I’ll stop hurting if I pray, talk to friends, read inspirational books, read the Bible, practice gratitude, trust God, journal about it, ask others to pray, worship, listen to uplifting songs, seek wise counsel, do the next good deed. These things all help for a little while.

I thought about a passage in one of my inspirational daily readers. It says, “God is not a terrorist.” I imagine plenty of us question if God is out to get us sometimes. If Chuck was going to die so soon and the pain and loss feel so big, why’d I even stumble onto a post about The Abbey one late night on Facebook? This past week, I almost wished I hadn’t.

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But it’s like the quote in Shadowlands, the movie about C. S. Lewis’ life, when he struggled to handle his wife Joy’s death. He repeated to his good friend something similar to what Joy had told him earlier, “The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”

Just as poignant even though from a cartoon character, Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Trying to make sense of Chuck’s death reminds me about a mom trying to do the same after letting go of her 41-year-old daughter to breast cancer. When questioned about God’s goodness, she said something like this, “I would never have said ‘yes’ to something like this no matter what good changes I was promised, but I also would never return to the person I was before my daughter died. Watching her die, I learned about benevolence and bravery and being ready to meet Jesus.”

Like the mom, neither would I go back to who I was before The Abbey and before witnessing Chuck and his family deal with dying and death.

Have you ever questioned God’s goodness? This time around, I’m trying not to question since I’ve noticed if we’ll give Him time (even if it’s a decade or so), he’ll prove himself good again and again.

In This Together,
Kim

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It’s Always Something

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“There are no guarantees. There are no promises, but there is you, and strength inside to fight for recovery. And always there is hope.” Gilda Radner

Before I ever finished the first chapter, I threw away Gilda Radner’s book about living and dying with ovarian cancer, It’s Always Something. She sounded cynical and I didn’t like it. In hindsight, maybe I didn’t like it because it’s true …

It’s always something.

My son texted, “I believe 2017’s going to be a great year.” I texted back, “I think so too,” but troubling was a message I’d read about our bishop being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and we’d just joined the church the week prior to the news. My husband and I talked about how, for the first time, we felt like we were going “home” – to a community where we’ve always wanted to live, to a house well-matched for us, and to a church with a spiritual foundation we didn’t even know we needed. “Shaken by the news” was an understatement, but I knew I didn’t want dread to wreck 2017’s possibilities, and that’s when it came to mind …

It’s always something.

I remembered Gilda’s book. Since I threw it away some 20 years ago, but still recalled it, I realized, like it or not, the first chapter made an impression. I found the chapter online and read it again. I still didn’t like it, but I understood more and accepted more because …

It is always something.

As far back as I remember, I’ve wished for all to be right in the world. Just once. Maybe for 24 hours. Maybe just 24 minutes. Like the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “ … on Earth as it is in Heaven,” so I pictured Jesus saying we’d have perfect times here meaning total perfection down to no dog hair on the floor, which is why I chunked Gilda’s book. She messed up the fairytale. Of course, a lot of things mess up fairytales because …

It’s always something.

I worked hard at having a clean house and laundry; a mowed, raked and edged lawn; washed and detailed vehicles; and a spiritually, physically, and emotionally balanced family (my husband, grown children, and their families) – all on the same day. But perfection’s elusive because …

 It’s always something.

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Addiction muddles love stories. A wayward child worries a mom’s heart. Financial difficulties unsettle financial security. Illness ruins retirement plans. The perfect partner doesn’t complete us after all. #whilelovingthepeopleinit

Disruptions happen like not being paid for a job, not landing a job, waiting for medical tests, waiting for a return call, and waiting to feel better, be skinnier, and get stronger. There’s a broken washing machine and dreams that break instead of flourish. There’s stress from car accidents, a car engine that won’t start, inclement weather, and, like our friends had happen, a tree falling on their house that caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage leading to a bout with the insurance company.

It could be a distraction as simple as spilled milk, and in spite of being told, “Don’t cry over it,” …

It’s always something.

Another story I’ve never been crazy about goes something like this: if we put our problems in a pile and have to swap them out for other problems, we’d end up taking back our own. I balked for a long time, but now I’m buying into it. I can’t think of a person on this planet with whom I’d swap lives. Not one, and it’s because I don’t want their problems.

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Our stories are about choice, like Gilda’s story too. She wrote about the bad and the beautiful. Our stories are the same. We live in vicious cycles alongside victories. I’ve been noticing my downward cycles are easier to pay attention to than perfect moments, I’m guessing because I’m human more than holy. I have to be intentional about taking my eyes off difficulties and getting my feet off slippery slopes like the past and future, and onto the present holy ground.

#selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #gettingyourownlifenow

I’m still not sure I’ll read Gilda’s book even though I’ve accepted “it’s always something,” and I treasure her saying, “And always there is hope.” My son’s right, 2017 will be great even with its messy moments because …

It is always something, and sometimes it’s something beautiful.

What I love best about bringing this to light is we get to muddle together and hope together and we get to go through our “somethings” together. I appreciate sharing our passages, whether excursions or episodes, with each other. And while we’re together, please pray for Bishop Chuck Murphy because some of our “somethings” are scarier than others.

In This Together,
Kim

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