Impossible Life

I’m posting this from St. Michael’s Maryland where I’m performing the wedding for my niece, Jenny Robinson and her love, Greg Ruchti in a couple hours. This has been a week full of family life including last Sunday’s deep breath of life at Oakhurst Baptist Church in a service led mostly by Lauren reflecting on how the story of her life has been so shaped by growing up in this place of great stories. Karen, Kathryn and I all played supporting roles. Like Lauren, much of what I know about life, I’ve learned in that most amazing place of grace and hope. (Check out it’s website–especially the Covenant– at

Most of what I know about congregational strengths I first observed in this special place. So if you’ve read Deeply Woven Roots, you’ll know. But it continues to evolve–as does live–in ways that are adaptive and unpredictable. Already, having been in Memphis for only two years, we see so many new faces and note the absence of others we’ve come to love across the years. Jake Swint passed on a few years ago i his late 80’s after being such a key part of our life. We had hoped his wife Kathy would read a poem, but was not well enough to attend. But a congregation lives on the blessings of all those who have contributed to its life–and on the hopes for all those who will. Both ends of the web extend out of sight and mind and memory, but are felt in ways that are more real than the bricks.

Here’s the prayer for the world I prayed last week:
God of impossible graces; God of life,
We confess that the gifts of communications have informed our fears far better than our hopes; disclosed the failures of mercy for more than it has shown where the arc of history bends towards justice. As we read the paper we richochet from one urgent fear to the next; one collapse to the next injury only to be distracted by a disaster in a place we know so incompletely that we can barely be curious. And then we gather in this small room to raise up our praise and doubts. We need your help even to ask for your help. So we begin our prayers for the world with a plea to sort out the distractions and mere curiosities from those events where you would have us know your intentions and draw us along side of your work of life.

Dampen our superficial desire to be everywhere even as you feed our fire of passion to be where you can use us. Help us see where you are already in motion and learn to trust even more the breadth and surprise of how many like ourselves you have already called into motion; how many already stirred to give their best word, and quiet witness where there would otherwise be only lament.

There is no suffering where you are not already present; and no possibility of life where you have not already drawn a partner—even like one of us—to your unfinished creation. But we cannot see what we do not expect; cannot hear a story we do not think possible. Our readiness to despair marks our unbelief just as it freezes us in place.

So even as we pray for the world, we can sense you moving in the most surprising place—inside and among us here giving us a mind of hope and informing our imagination that perhaps you have not given up on the restless world or even on us.

Thank you; thank you, for this most impossible grace and for the world in which we experience it.

About garygunderson

Vice President, FaithHealth, Atrium Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. Secretary Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group). Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative
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