Dear Winn – 28 February 2017

Dear Winn:
Well, tomorrow’s Wednesday, the first day of March. And also Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I think I’ve told you before that as a young Baptist boy the only lint I knew was what I pulled out of the dryer vent a couple of times a week. I’m quite sure I never even heard the word until many years later studying for my Master of Divinity degree (yes, the most arrogant sounding degree on the planet). So I always struggle a bit with the season simply because it is not in my native tongue. But I have warmed to the days of bright sadness. So I sorta limp through Lent.
Just the other day I came across this short story by Raymond Carver titled “A Small, Good Thing.” Have you read it? I highly recommend it. I won’t give it all away because I want you to experience it, but the story revolves around Ann and Howard Weiss, a husband and wife who lose their eight-year-old son, and an unnamed baker they had hired to bake his eighth-birthday cake. Near the conclusion the baker tells the grieving couple, “You have to eat and keep going. Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this.” I read that line, Winn, and it undid me.
As I said, bending down on my crackly Baptist knees to receive the sign of the cross on my forehead is always a little awkward, but it seems to me to be a small, good thing in a time like this when there’s so much hatred and fear in our hearts. Sure, the hatred and the fear have always been there, but they feel so much closer to the surface these days, like its all just a click away and we’re all just itching to click. To be reminded, via ashes, of my rather brief mortal performance on the earth’s grand stage is a strange form of nourishment for me, much like eating. And we have to eat and keep going in a time like this, don’t we? Yes…and that’s a small, good thing.
Sometimes I wonder, when the minister rubs the ashes on my forehead, if he or she sees the Easter burning in my eyes. God I pray they do, Winn. I really do.

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  1. Henry Mitchell on March 1, 2017 at 4:43 am

    Now and then, I read your blog, John, just so you can break my hard, proud heart one more time.

    • thebeautifuldue on March 1, 2017 at 1:40 pm

      Henry, I appreciate you stopping by from time to time. I really do.

  2. Kris Camealy on March 1, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Beautiful, John. I’m grateful to bear witness to these letters. Thank you for letting us in.

    • thebeautifuldue on March 1, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      Thank you, Kris. “To bear witness”…I like that.

  3. jane r williams on March 1, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    “I pray they see the Easter in my eyes…” Perfect words of a perfect prayer.

  4. Jeannie Prinsen on March 1, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    I’m also a believer in small, good things. In LOTR, Tolkien said, “Such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.” (I quote that every chance I get.) Thank you for reminding us of their importance again, at a time when they’re much needed.

    • thebeautifuldue on March 1, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      I know that quote well, Jeannie – love it! Many thanks. ~J

  5. abby blackmon on March 28, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    I am so sorry if I am bothering you in any way, but I am a little confused. I posted a comment about this letter on March 6, and tonight, when I came to see if you’d replied, it’s not here?? I am truly sorry if I offended in any way, and would welcome any feedback from you as to why my comment was removed… I do hope I will hear from you… and I cannot wait to open your new book. I’ve been hooked since reading All Is Grace, all those years ago. and, so sorry, again, am not the most tech savvy, and I cannot figure out to underline the book title above! 😐

    • admin on March 29, 2017 at 9:44 am

      Hi, Abby. I remember your comment and I want to say I responded but I’ve no idea where it/they went. Its weird. I don’t ever delete comments so there was nothing you said that got you kicked off, so please don’t think that. My guess, and its just a guess, is that it got lost in the migration of my content over to this new site. I’ve noticed a few things missing here and there, although your comment being gone is the first example of missing comments.

      If you’re open to commenting again, after all this time, even a summary of what you said, I would certainly respond (again:)) Just please be assured I didn’t delete your words.
      ~ John

      • abby blackmon on April 1, 2017 at 8:16 am

        Okay, here goes: (and, thank you)
        John, this morning (Monday, 6 March), I learned of the death of a friend, younger than my own 47 years, and whose oldest child turned 16 two short days ago. She had stage 4 breast cancer, also recently diagnosed leukemia, and was receiving treatment down in Houston. I am a pediatrician. I knew her prognosis was not good, but none of us knew her days’ number was dwindling so very very quickly. This friend’s just turned 16 year old has been one of my 15 year old’s dearest friends their young lives long. . .and what have i done all day ?? cooked. comfort foods. lasagna with homemade red sauce and thick cheese, chocolate chip-oatmeal cookies ( also homemade- I say this NOT to boast, just to say, I actually cooked)…and, cried. true, good-grief, I mean, really really GOOD grief tears for this woman and her family. . .And now, at this terrible, GOOD grief day’s end, as I catch up on emails, I come across this most recent “Dear Winn.” Thank you for the beauty-full, hope-full words during this “brutiful”* time. “We must,” indeed, “eat, and keep going in a time like this, and that’s a small, good thing.” During this season, as we give thanks and break bread with one another and in remembrance of our One, it is a joy to know there are others out there serving Him, politics being moot in His cruciform shadow. I have NO DOUBT of the Easter in your eyes.
        *coiner of word, Glennon Doyle Melton

        • admin on April 1, 2017 at 8:46 am

          Abby, thank you for “trying again.”

          I’m thankful you came across my letter that night. It seems that was well-timed, I’m always grateful when that happens. And I am very sorry to hear about your friend…that is much too young. Yes, those small things are the biggest things, in my opinion, or at least the ones that have the grace to buoy us up during the waves and the darkness. Courage for you and yours as we lean toward Easter…
          ~ John

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