Editor’s note:  Donna Chase was with our youth at the Montreat Youth Conference when they heard about the passing of Rev. Dolly Jacobs. Dolly had been with the group earlier that week. Our 10 am service this Sunday, August 15, will be a Service of Witness to the Resurrection honoring Dolly’s life and ministry.


Donna Chase,
Director of Spiritual Formation

In a recent Instagram post, church historian and theologian Kate Bowler describes what she calls a terrible, beautiful day.

As a 40-something wife, mother, and college professor who has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Kate has many of these days and shares them with her friends and followers in hopes of helping folks keep perspective and faith real. She says the mantra came from a quote that she often relies on from theologian Fredrick Buechner. It says “Here’s the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” Kate goes on in the post to remind us to Keep your eyes open and your hearts soft.

Our time at Montreat with our youth was a terrible, beautiful week. We were reminded that life is so wonderful, and life is so hard. Life is so fragile and fleeting and life is so hopeful and eternal. We experienced the highs and lows of community life in relationship to God and others. We shared meals, hiked waterfalls, sang songs, laughed until crying and then cried until laughing. We heard inspiring speakers, worshipped and prayed together, played games and discussed scripture. We sat in disbelief, held each other tight, walked in a fog, questioned God and one another. We told stories and shared our convictions and our doubts. We felt our hearts break and then we began to slowly breathe. We wavered between pushing through and wanting to give up, between rallying and letting go, between going home and staying put. In the midst of this beautiful, terrible week we were together as the Body of Christ.

Breathe, Push, Joy is a spiritual practice rhythm that Valerie Kaur, activist and creator of Revolutionary Love, suggests that we consider in times of deep loss or transition. To breathe, says Kaur, is to create space in our lives to think and see differently, to enliven our imagination, awaken to pleasure, move toward freedom and let joy in.

To push is to choose to enter grief, rage or trauma as part of a healing process. Pushing requires us to discern the right time to breathe and rest and the right time to push through painful sensations, emotions, and thoughts to birth new possibilities in ourselves and others.

Joy is the gift of love. To let in joy is to give our senses over to what is beautiful or wondrous in the present moment. Joy returns us to everything good and worth fighting for. It gives us energy for the long labor.