A Kingdom of Healing

Last year when the pandemic was just beginning, mine and Haley’s baby cat, Al, died. He was the first creature that I was solely responsible for and he died sick and helpless in my arms. Meanwhile, friends and strangers alike began to die all across the world to an invisible disease that was ravaging our lives. We, collectively, had to face grief head on.

During a spike in the pandemic and a few weeks after Al died, I realized that I was experiencing not just a profound sadness but also a deep-seated fear. Fear of what was happening in the world, but more personally, a fear of love and a fear of agency. I had opened myself up to love, to commitment, to responsibility, and had lost a precious thing without any sense of fairness. Similarly, people all across the country were experiencing this same feeling collectively, as loved ones were taken too early from this earthly life by a virus. For me, this fear was different than a typical broken-heartedness after a break-up or lamenting a broken friendship. Instead, it was this constant nagging of how it felt impossible to open myself up to love when it would inevitably end in grief, in fear, in death.

I’m in a class this semester on the Gospel of Luke. We were told by our professor to read Luke every day and to let its themes, structure, and theology seep into us. One thing that I’ve noticed during my close reading is the connection between the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims and physical and emotional healing. When Jesus calls the twelve together in Luke 9, he tells them to “proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” and Luke recounts that the disciples departed, “bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.” Later, when Luke sends out 70 others, Jesus tells the appointed to “cure the sick who are there and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Even when John the Baptist sends his disciples to see what Jesus is all about, Jesus responds by saying to go and tell John not what Jesus was teaching but that “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleaned, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.” There is, it seems, a deep, intrinsic connection between this kingdom that Jesus can’t quit talking about and healing and curing.

I keep coming back to this connection when I think about the pain we have experienced as a people, collectively, and in our bones, individually. Our pain comes from a fear that to love in this world means to be broken and in need of healing, eventually. And we’re fearful we will never receive that wholeness.

The good news is that the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of healing, of restoration, of oneness. Not brokenness, instability, and division. The story of Jesus of Nazareth does not end with death on a Roman cross. It does not end in systemic injustice winning. It does not end on Good Friday.

It “ends” on Sunday morning. It ends in healing. Healing of relationships, of creation, of us. An invitation to love fully because death does not have the final word.

When despair grows in me, when the act of opening oneself up to love seems like too daunting of a task and an act to be dreaded, I cling to the promise of healing. To the promise that the Kingdom of God that is both already and not yet, inbreaking and expected, in our midst and on the horizon, is a kingdom where tears will be wiped away as the God makes all things new.

So we must sit with Good Friday. We must face our pain and our brokenness. We must lament, cry out, and wrestle in the dark night of the soul. We must never skip Friday and Saturday and go straight to Sunday. But we also must never let our fear and our grief become ultimate. We must yearn for the resurrected Christ and his promise of healing that awaits us Sunday at sunrise.

a prayer for palm sunday

on palm sunday, the people cry out:

“hosanna! blessed is the one

who comes in the name of the LORD!”

the one who comes and

flips the tables of injustice

heals the hurting and calms the sea

proclaims woes to the rich and lifts up the poor

says “bear fruit worthy of repentance” and “follow me”

rides in on a donkey and prays earnestly

hosanna! hosanna in the highest!

create a spirit within us that desires what you desire, o God.

the humble walk, the healing kingdom, the new creation.

Al “Very Good Boy” Allen

Grieving is weird right now. It seems silly to write about, lament, and ultimately mourn the death of a pet while the world is on fire around you, but I need to do it for my own sake. I have discovered rather quickly that I am a public griever. When I feel like I am breaking inside the only thing that gives me peace is sharing the burden with others. So I hope you will indulge me.

Albert Allen passed away this morning peacefully at the Triangle Veterinary Referral Hospital. He was just over eight months old. We found out a few days ago that the pain and sickness Al had been feeling stemmed from an incredibly rare liver disease that affected him his entire, short life.

Al and his brother (from another mother) Vinny, were mine and Haley’s first pets. They made us a true family. It is not that Haley and I weren’t family before, but I speak for her when I say we felt “whole” with them. We felt new responsibility and now new grief, but a whole lot of love. They came into our lives at the start of the New Year and have been the bright spot ever since. During this time of being at home 24/7, we basically spent every waking minute with the dynamic duo.

Even though they were not truly brothers, they hit it off right away. So many people remarked how they had never seen two cats, related or not, love on each other like they did. They helped bathe each other, but most adorably, they took naps together, cuddled up in a ball. Our hearts melted every time.

Al loved laying in the back room where the sun poured in. He loved hiding under the couch when the sun was hitting him too hard and he needed a break. He loved new people. He loved tearing up blinds. He loved being held. He loved dramatically jumping on the dinner table when he was hungry. He loved sleeping under the covers with one paw on me and one paw on Haley. He loved letting out the sweetest meow when it was time for a treat. He loved trying to find the worst place he could scratch me on my body. He loved flying down the steps in the morning when the first person woke up. He loved watching TV with us for some reason. He loved laying on laundry like it was his palace. He loved wagging his stump of a tail as if he had one as long as Vinny’s.

The last picture we have of Al is him being held by Haley with his hand on her face. It was taken in the brief time he came home in-between hospital visits when we thought he was going to be OK. I like to think of it as Al telling Haley that it is all going to be all right and that he will see her again. Either that or he is just really flaunting his new fur boots the doctors gave him.

When we got the boys, I jokingly said they needed to have middle names. I declared that Vinny was now Vinny “Cheese” Allen and that Al was now Albert “Very Good Boy” Allen.” Last night, as I held Al in the vet on the operating table and was an unrelenting blob of tears, the doctor told me we had done all we could do and then looked me straight in the eyes and said “He is a very good boy.” She had no idea about his middle name, but it made me feel a little bit of peace.

A Very Good Boy he was and always will be.

a prayer for mealtime

God, we thank you for this food. Just as you formed us from the soil, so, too, has this sustenance sprung forth from the dirt. Let us never forget this. We pray for the regeneration of its home, the well-being of its tillers and transporters, and the lives of those who have prepared it. We thank you for this table, those gathered around it, and who they are in this world. Thank you for bringing us together in this place. Let us not take it for granted. Amen.

a prayer for bedtime

days are busy, impulse flooded, inertia-bound

trains on tracks that i cannot stop. it is

so hard to turn off, away, or toward you.

mold me, if the sunrise comes

into a creature who cherishes my creator,

believes in Her power, sings with the carrion,

and never forgets to look out of the train.

i pray if my body rests here tomorrow

it will have been a beacon of hope

and a vessel of your presence.

a prayer for the creature (me)

i do not pray for the earth

not the soil, the cliffs, or the sea

called to keep and till, we have

ravaged and plundered, forsaken and forgotten

it does not need my prayers

it needs a new me

i do not pray for the earth

i pray for my body, my God

for my senses to be renewed

for my eyes to see your creation

for my ears to hear the wood thrush

for my tongue to taste the berries

for my hands to climb trees

for my feet to feel the silt

for a body transformed by God’ grace

that feels myself as one amongst many

not one above all

created to sustain, not stomp

to sing, not blot

to live in harmony with the birds of the air and lilies in the field

a prayer for the morning

o God

i pray for conviction

to stand when it is easier to sit

to march when it is easier to watch

to give when it is easier to withhold

to create when it is easier to consume

to think when it is easier to react

to love when it is easier to hate

grant me the bravery and courage of those who have gone before me

to stand, to march, to give, to create, to think, and to love

when it is easier to be comfortable

2010s

My favorite movies of the 2010s in order by release date:

THE TREE OF LIFE (2011)

FRANCES HA (2012)

THE MASTER (2012)

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2012)

WHIPLASH (2014)

BOYHOOD (2014)

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016)

HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016)

LA LA LAND (2016)

MOONLIGHT (2016)

LADY BIRD (2017)

ROMA (2018)

ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)

MARRIAGE STORY (2019)

Eat your hearts out.

boxd.it/4o6oo

1/1-12/31

It is almost the time of year when people begin to fish out an old notebook to jot down a bulleted list of New Year’s resolutions. I’m a sucker for it, too, so do not mistake this as a critique. There is something about a blank canvas that seems so appealing, is there not? All of our bad habits — we can throw them out! All of the things we never have time for — let’s find some minutes for them! All of our dreams — let’s chase them!

I took a class on the infancy narratives this semester and thus have spent a great deal of time studying the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke over the past few months. It wasn’t until after my final assignment was due that I flipped the page in my Bible to Luke 4 where Jesus is now grown up. It’s one of my favorite passages, and I couldn’t help but think how it can serve as a measuring stick for our 2020 and beyond goals as Christians.

In this passage, Jesus stands up in the Synagogue, picks up the reading for the day — Isaiah 61 — and reads:


“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”


He rolls it up, sits back down, feels all of the eyes on him, and proclaims — “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Promptly, he is thrown out of the synagogue and the people attempt to throw him off the cliff.

The first real message that Jesus delivers in the Gospel of Luke explains that Jesus came to

bring good news to the poor

proclaim release to the captives

recover sight to the blind

let the oppressed go free

proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

When we make our New Year’s resolutions as individuals and churches, what if we compared them to this list?

Are our actions bringing good news to the poor or spreading the gap of inequality?

Are we proclaiming freedom or confinement to the captives? Are we putting people in cages or are we breaking chains?

Are we agents of healing in our places or are we powers that bring devastating pain?

Are we oppressing others? Are we indifferent to oppression? Or are we working to fight against those who wield power and harm others? Are we holding swords or plowshares in our hands?

When we think about what our goals are for this new year, I hope we take a sobering look at the words of Jesus. Instead of looking to find a comforting word, we ought to see a lifestyle that pushes and challenges our deeply seated comforts and convictions.