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December 18, 2006

Prayers for the James family and Christ our Trailblazer

My heart is so heavy today for my friends Frank and Carolyn James as they grieve the loss of Kelly James and as they agonize over whether Brian and Nikko are still alive. As Frank said at the press conference a little while ago:

"This is a difficult day for all three families. Our hope was that Kelly, Brian and Jerry would all be rescued safely and that has led these families to become very, very close. We’re persuaded that Kelly has been found. But I feel like I have two other brothers still on the mountain, and the James family is deeply, deeply grateful to the rescue efforts to date. We wish the rescue workers godspeed in their ongoing efforts to bring Brian and Jerry down that mountain safely ...

"We find strength in your support and we join all of you in your prayers for the safe return of Brian and Jerry ... As Christians, we find peace that Kelly is with God ... Kelly always told us he felt closest to God when he was on the mountain. That is what drove him to climb. We find enormous comfort in knowing he lifted off that mountain from a place he loved, and from doing something that he loved very, very much ...

"Thank you for all of your support. The family is very grateful."

I know the families would all appreciate your ongoing prayers.

I wrote this poem about Mary of Bethany a few years ago and dedicated it to Carolyn James as it was inspired by the lessons she taught me and by her book, When Life and Beliefs Collide, which everyone should read. I am comforted today by Mary's story. Jesus invites us to sit at his feet and know him deeply. He knows that we will need to know him deeply for the days ahead. He grieves with us in our moments of deepest trial. And he has not only wept with us in our grief, but he has drunk the cup of grief to its dregs so that we do not face sorrow or death alone. In short, he is the trail-blazer who forged ahead to meet and conquer death and rise again so that we might not grieve as those who have no hope. I pray that Kelly's family will find comfort in Christ, the trailblazer, who went ahead of us on a journey we were not fit to take to conquer death that we may live again.

Triptych*: Mary of Bethany

Rembrandt should have painted you
In red, brown, and golden hues,
Bathed in a soft warm light.
You would have been a masterpiece,
In three still frames.

Due to his oversight, I carry you
Folded in my mind like
A beloved photograph, or rather three.
For you see, I cannot think of you, but
In three still frames.

To the casual observer, each frame
Might look the same. For you see,
In each you have the same position,
In each a similar disposition,
In each, one face holds your attention.

Frame one finds you at the feet
Of a man you called friend and
To the dismay of the men in your day,
Rabbi, as you sat before him, not as
Servant, but as pupil.

In my well-worn copy, I,
Cannot see my Savior’s face, by grace
I only glimpse his back.
But o’er His shoulder, I do spy
You lost in the one thing needful.

In frame two, I see you weep
At the feet of a Jesus who came too late
To save the Lazarus you both had loved.
Jesus knew, but did you
That frame one was all about frame two.

For a shaken world could not be
Taken unless you’d sat at Jesus’ feet
And knew the one who’s in control.
Later he would rouse the dead, but for now
You trust and he weeps with you.

Frame three finds you once again
At the feet of Jesus. A broken
Alabaster jar poured out in lavish love
Foretells what you alone understood:
A broken body poured out.

And strangely you ministered to him
Who would cover your own sin
And for this he said you would be
Remembered wherever his gospel
Should be preached.

Ah Mary, Rembrandt should have painted you,
But perhaps he better knew
We’d only need one face.
That is the one thing needful;
You indeed have chosen it.

*A triptych is a work of art divided into three pieces or frames. It is most associated with Christian art and was often a part of altar pieces in churches and cathedrals.

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