Paradox: With Thought

Life is a paradox.

If you break down paradox into it’s roots, it’s para – alongside of, or with; and -dox – thought.

Paradox. With thought.

Interesting how when we think of paradox – what Webster defines as “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true” we don’t think of it as “with thought.”

Does anyone else find these events paradoxical?

Sunday, November 16:

I sit in my boyhood church in Southern Wisconsin and listen to the pastor speak on Psalm 23 – The Lord is my shepherd.  I’m tired, but I make it through and think about the Psalm throughout the day.

I drive to my grandparents after the service and sit a spell with my grandmother as we talked through her upcoming biopsy to determine if she has cancer.  We spoke and I held her hand in mine, and she looked at me with those blue Icelandic eyes, and told me how happy she was that she has had such a full and rich life and how she couldn’t ask for more.  The lump rises in my throat and I hold back tears.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want…

Then she asks, “Andy, how’s your love life?”

Precious.  I smile and laugh.  For her I’ll divulge details anytime.

I take the backroads and drive with the windows down to take in the fall air.  It’s cold, but I love the smell of the fall.  It’s the only season I truly believe is worth exporting in the Midwest.  I arrive at a celebration of my mother and sister-in-law’s birthdays.  My brothers and new brother-in-law watch the Packers thrash the Bears.

This is a good thing.

I also get another good thing – with my 2 month-old nephew.  He decides to snuggle his little head in my arms.

I think he decided he liked me.

That or he had gas.

Or, since he’s my nephew, it could be both.  He is a Bilhorn.

I drive home to Chicago and think to myself I’ve seen the span of life on my ride home.  Four generations in one day.  I couldn’t ask for more.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

Monday, November 18

Maybe I should have asked for more.

I get the news that a student at NU has been found after a week in down the lake in Montrose Harbor.  Sadly, the death was self-inflicted.

That same day, I get a call from the father of a former student I mentored for two years who also took his own life.  He has arrived from Hong Kong and tells me he is going to be in Chicago and would like to grab dinner.  I say of course.

I hesitate for a moment, and then tell him of the recent student death.

He thanks me and decides to go to the upcoming funeral.

…he leads me beside still pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters.

Wednesday, November 19

I’m asked to speak on Following Jesus in the midst of doubts and questions.  I reopen one of the more difficult chapters of my life story for students to see how God is able to heal the deepest sense of loss.  I talk about when Jesus’ best friend died, and how he wept.  I don’t talk about the happy ending, but I linger in the midst of the tragedy.

John 11 is probably the most well worn chapter in my Bible.

I talk about the healing that comes when we are honest with Jesus to the point of it really mattering.

I get a call from my cousin – the initial tests on Grandma Lois are positive and upbeat.  Looks like everything is OK after all.

…he restores my soul…

Saturday, November 22

I am reading for my upcoming class (700 pages in one day – new record) and stop and dwell in my new favorite author – Frederick Buechner.  Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale.

I read about the gospel as tragedy – that before there is good news, we must first encounter the bad news.

I find the words in his book are nearly the same I spoke from John 11 on Wednesday.

I pause and get goosebumps.

I then walk to dinner with the father of my former student, and we speak plainly about recovering from tragedy.

Our wounds are still healing.

…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…

Monday, November 24

I drive to a set of meetings and my colleague’s 10 month old boy catches my eye.  He distracts me and I was welcoming a nice distraction.  He sees me, starts crawling toward me, and I pick him up and we go for a walk.

He reminds me of my nephews.

I think about Grandma Lois and I wonder how she’s doing.

I think about the father of my former student and I wonder how he’s doing.

The little dude smiles at me – and I smile back.  He doesn’t have gas.

But the Packers sure stink – they get thrashed by the Saints on Monday Night Football.

This is a bad thing.

Tuesday, November 25

I’m cooking dinner for good friends down the street who have a 2-week-old newborn and she’s beautiful.  She’s biracial, and born just after Barack Obama was elected president.  Perhaps the nation will be ready for Cora – because if she’s anything like her parents, then a new way of thinking will be required for this child.  She will break the mold, right Myron & Alyssa?

She embodies the hope of a new world.

…Your rod and your staff, they comfort me…

I get to hold her, and she’s perfect.

She smiles at me.

I think she has gas.

I get a call from my cousin telling me that what was first good news is now bad news about my grandmother.  It turns out to be cancer, and the initial diagnosis was wrong.  She does have cancer.

I cancel a coffee date, much to the chagrin of my grandmothers curiosity.

I reread John 11.

I have 1000 friends on facebook – but I feel very alone…and that’s not a bad thing right now.  I’m OK with being alone with Jesus in John 11.

There’s a knock on my door – the downstairs neighbors and their 5-year-old son bring a loaf of pumpkin bread and wish me a Happy Thanksgiving.

I smile and find another reason to celebrate through the offering of a small child (coaxed by his mother, of course.)

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

I am about to travel to Wisconsin to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Will the Psalm continue?  Will goodness and mercy follow?

I hope so.  Because sorrow and joy have certainly been bedfellows in the last ten days.

It’s a paradox – it requires thought and reflection.

Life’s a paradox.

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3 Responses to “Paradox: With Thought”


  1. 1 Thomas November 26, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    i’m praying it does, andy. i believe in the long run God has something good in store for us to take out of all the hard things we go through–it fuels me.
    have a happy thanksgiving, andy

  2. 2 Lisa December 2, 2008 at 5:49 am

    nice reflection. thanks for sharing.


  1. 1 Lenten Reflection: Peeling Paint. Bureaucracy. Nasal Blockage. Carefully Taught. Bathroom Tours. Rent Free. « Less is More Trackback on February 26, 2012 at 6:33 pm

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