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Prayers, please...

Today, something a bit unusual - I ask for your prayers. My sister Kathy was diagnosed with cancer about nine months ago, and things took a turn for the worse about a month ago.

On Saturday, I talked to my sister's hospice nurse, who told us she had "hours or days" instead of "weeks or months" as we'd all been thinking, and thankfully, I was able, due to the generosity of a parishioner who gave me a companion ticket, to quickly fly out to Indianapolis Sunday almost immediately after church. I was able to spend good time with her Sunday evening and Monday afternoon, and even have some conversations with her, and even to pray "last rites" over her/with her.

Kathy died late Monday night/early yesterday morning, peacefully, with her husband Doug and my nephews and my niece by her side.

She (the oldest of my four siblings) was only 65, so there is an element of shock and tragedy in this - especially since this is the same family who lost their oldest daughter/my niece, Susan, to murder in 2007, just weeks before she was to be married. It will be painful to return to my hometown church again this Saturday, a place of joy growing up, but where too many of our recent memories are sad ones.

For my wife Mary and me, this week is an especially poignant one, because today we drive to Boone, North Carolina to drop Elizabeth - our third and last child -- off at Appalachian State on Friday morning to start her freshman year of college. Mary and I will then drive directly up to Indiana for the funeral.

One thing I know for sure: "God's power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine."

The way we power through such life events is not on our own power or strength or internal resources, but by leaning heavily on our family, our friends, and our faith.

Regarding our faith: people often say, "I ask your prayers," and in response, people often say, "you're in my prayers." Well, please know that I really do ask, right now, for prayers. I sense prayers. I feel buoyed by prayers. That's always true, but it's especially true in times like this.

And finally, speaking of prayers, I want to express my own prayers of gratitude, for my colleagues in ministry on staff and on The Falls Church vestry for their support, their patience, and their understanding. What an honor and blessing it is to be part of that marvelous faith community.

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