{A letter to our pastor as he leaves our congregation for another. “Shellie” died about a year ago.}


Of all the words about the spiritual life, or simply life for that matter, that I have witnessed to be true in my almost but not quite 52yrs now, these may be the truest. They come from the writer Frederick Buechner: Here is the world. Terrible and beautiful things will happen. Don’t be afraid. While Buechner said Here is the world, he could have just as easily said Here is your life, and maybe that’s what he was really getting at because while most of us find the world somewhat interesting, what most of us are most interested in is ourselves. Call it selfish if you will, I call it human.

Tyg, I’ve heard you say a great many things in my time here as a member of the family of Trinity Lutheran. Some I’ve agreed with, some I’ve thought, Well, I don’t know about that, and some I’ve only pretended to listen to while maintaining good eye contact. But if I had to compress them all down into something that faithfully captures the essence of you, then it would be not the exact words but rather the spirit of Buechner’s truth: Terrible and beautiful things will happen in life. Don’t be afraid. It is a truth I have heard you speak to all of us in a variety of ways, and also a truth we have in the past and continue to this day to see you live. Your favorite day of the year – Ash Wednesday – (what kind of kookiness is that?) is a testament to this, and your constant reminder to us that we are dust, albeit lovely and brilliant and funny and shy and opinionated and merciful dust, but still dust, a dust to which we all of us will one day return to. In recent memory we witnessed as you had to put your money where your mouth was when Shellie died, this terrible, terrible thing that happened to you, but also to us. I still find myself, on occasion, looking for her face in Safeway.

While Buechner said Don’t be afraid, he could have just as easily said Keep taking chances because that’s what it means to stay alive and not let fear hamstring you. And we’ve witnessed this in you as you’ve walked away from that terrible toward some beautiful things, some dreams and visions and risks you’re about to take which may work out and may not. The beauty of it is that you keep taking chances. Now some of these gambles some of us may not agree with, may not even come close to understanding. In other words, we’d never do that. But its your life, not mine or anyone else’s. It brings to mind that day when Peter was a little too concerned about John’s story and how it would play out. He asked Jesus, and I paraphrase, “Well, what about him?” and Jesus replied, “Yeah, what about him? His story may be a part of yours, but its not your story. You follow me, I’ll take care of him.”

Thanks, Tyg, for living out before us the sermon that terrible and beautiful things will happen, none of us get a pass. But also, and I believe Buechner was intentional in his word order, that beautiful is the last word in that phrase, that beautiful gets the final say, that somehow, in some way, the darkness cannot overcome the light, that after Ash Wednesday comes Easter. Yes, go live into what’s next for you. We’ll do the same here. And while we hope not but know better, that no doubt there will be terrible moments ahead, we’re also betting on beautiful ones, for all of us. We’ve no idea what they will look like for you or for us, but we believe they’ll be there. And yes, while your story is not my story, it has been a part of it, and for that I am thankful. Plus, of course, all of our stories are wrapped up in God’s story, and that one ends beautifully ever after. And for that I am thankful, too.

There is no word in the Navajo language for goodbye. They say, translated, “Until I see you again.” I’ve always loved that. So until we see you again, we say this to you as we’re also whispering it to ourselves: Don’t be afraid.


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,317 other subscribers


  1. Kay Hanevik on February 3, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    Beautiful words John. You captured what Tyg has been sharing with us. We must be strong, we must keep moving forward, we must keep our eyes and ears open to hear Gods call. Then what are we going to do about it. One of Tygs favorite thong to reminds us to do.
    I worked by his side, just the two of us for a couple years. We were a good team. I will miss this connection more thsn you can imagine, but I will not want him to ignore Gods challenge to not just talk the talk but for him to walk the walk. His heart has been with the homeless, the hungry, the lost and lonley for years. He was picking up hitchhikers when he first got here.
    I love this man, always wiill, and will continue praying for him daily .

  2. Lori Jean Whitaker on February 4, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    ?? thank you for your offering of words. Thank you.

  3. Chuck Cook on February 4, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Perfectly said John!

  4. Susan Jakoby on February 5, 2019 at 6:48 am

    There are not really words for how beautiful and fruitful these words are.

  5. Linda Bacs on February 5, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Thank you for the beauty you share, John❣️

  6. Bob Mansfield on February 5, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    As always your words are the right ones for every occasion, especially during the difficult process of saying, “Until I see you again” to Pastor Tyg. Thanks for posting your letter.

  7. Jacky on February 7, 2019 at 10:18 pm

    You have said it so well, John, what I have not been able to say for days and weeks now after the sudden destruction of my home and so many others living in Paradise, CA on 11/8/18. Terrible to experience and witness, the leveling of a town by fire, and the scattering of thousands across the state and country. Yet as I watch and listen, so many are slowly finding new directions, renewed relationships, and locations never dreamed of , near and far. Do I sense a beauty coming out of the ashes? Perhaps a little.
    I can say no more except to thank you again for sending out words from that place in you that is in me also.

Leave a Comment