Saturday, April 20, 2019

A Resurrection-Shaped Life

In this article I am sharing some reflections on Episcopal Bishop Jake Owensby’s book, A Resurrection-Shaped Life: Dying and Rising on Planet Earth (2018), and relating it to my cousin who was buried yesterday.
Characteristics of a Resurrection-Shaped Life
1) Those who live a resurrection-shaped life are hopeful. Owensby’s slim book is neither directly about Jesus’ resurrection nor the resurrection of Jesus-believers in the future. Rather, it is about one’s manner of living in the here and now.
Owensby asserts that “it’s in the depths of loss and sorrow that hope brings us to new life” (p. 51). Jesus had said to his disciples, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matt. 5:4). Even though they did not understand this as they mourned Jesus’ crucifixion, they experienced that blessedness when Jesus was resurrected.
So, “the resurrection of Christ gives new meaning to our experience of grief” (p. 52). Those who live a resurrection-shaped life embrace, and are embraced by, the blessing of hope even in the midst of grief.
2) Those who live a resurrection-shaped life are joyful. Perhaps it is largely because of their hopeful attitude, a resurrection-shaped life is characterized by joy as well as by hope.
Owensby (b. 1957) doesn’t write much about joy in this book--except for his several references to Joy, which is his wife’s name. But joy definitely seems to be a by-product of a resurrection-shaped life.
The third chapter of Owensby’s book is “Recovering from Shame and Blame.” (I was pleasantly surprised to see this chapter just after posting my article about shame on April 5.) Those who live a resurrection-shaped life have learned to overcome shame. That is because, as Owensby writes,
Overcoming shame involves changing our minds about ourselves. And Jesus came in part to help us do precisely that. Jesus changes our minds about ourselves by changing our minds about God (p. 36).
3) Those who live a resurrection-shaped life are helpful. That is, they regularly engage in loving service.
To cite Owensby again,
Life centered on caring for ourselves turns to dust. A life devoted to the growth, nurture, and well-being of others stretches into eternity. A resurrection-shaped life is love in the flesh (p. 102).
And this gets us to my cousin Carolyn, who was my oldest first cousin on the Seat side of the family.  
The Resurrection-Shaped Life of Cousin Carolyn
Carolyn Houts passed away on April 12 and her funeral/burial was yesterday, on Good Friday. Carolyn, who celebrated her 77th birthday last month, died peacefully, sitting in a chair waiting for the delivery of her Meals on Wheels lunch.
After serving for nearly 34 years as a Southern Baptist missionary to Ghana, Carolyn retired in 2010 and had lived in Grant City, Missouri, since 2011. My blog article for 7/5/10 (see here) was about Cousin Carolyn, just as she was returning to the U.S., and I hope you will read it (again). 
Carolyn Houts (1942-2019)
As I said in the eulogy that I gave at her funeral yesterday, it seems quite clear to me that Carolyn lived a resurrection-shaped life. Hopefulness, joyfulness, and helpfulness were definitely characteristics of her life.
As we observe the celebration of Easter tomorrow—and I realize there will be a great variety in the way readers of this blog will celebrate Easter—my deepest prayer is that we all will not only know what a resurrection-shaped life means but will, in reality, be able to live such a life.
Happy Easter!


  1. Here is the link to my short review of Owensby's fine book:

  2. The first response I received to this morning's article was from Thinking Friend Dan O'Reagan in Louisiana. Before 6:30 this morning he sent the following comments by email:

    "Happy Easter. . . . if there ever is a good time to have a funeral, it is Good Friday when Carolyn's body would be laid in the grave on the same day of the week and the same time of the calendar year as Jesus' body was laid in the grave. I can imagine that she was welcomed home by her Savior who, thinking of her years in Ghana, said to her, 'Welcome home, good and faithful servant.' They are celebrating 'her first Easter in heaven.' (The preacher in me tells me that would be a good sermon title for a funeral message this time of year). Only her resurrection will wait until the Risen Savior will return and we shall all be raised. Hallelujah! Then we can all sing, 'Up From The Grave WE Arose.' Then all of us can and will have a Resurrection-Shaped Life."

  3. I am late posting these comments by Thinking Friend Jo Beth Fielder, our good friend who lived for many years in Fukuoka, Japan, when June and I did:

    "Appreciated this, Leroy...the additional thoughts about, and photo of your cousin Carolyn; also thoughts about Owensby's book about living the resurrected life 'in the here and now.' It all fits in well with a scripture I've thought a lot about this Easter season, John 16:22, one of my favorites."

  4. The shape of Easter gathered some new metaphors this week. Last Monday, as a horrified world watched, Notre-Dame Cathedral burned spectacularly. Ironically, the honeybees survived much better than the roof. On Maundy Thursday, Attorney General Barr released the redacted Mueller report, unleashing legal chaos. Perhaps there is some deep connection between washing hands and redacting. On Easter Sunday, as I was struggling to comprehend the complexities of the pilgrimage of my church's current crop of preschoolers, terrorists in Sri Lanka were blowing up churches full of Easter worshippers.

    Then today, after I thought Easter week was over, the most amazing thing of all happened. This morning I did some reading in the January/February 2019 double issue of The Smithsonian titled "America at War" I was overwhelmed by "the Priest of Abu Ghraib" by Jennifer Percy. In it she told the extraordinary story of the life and death of Joshua Casteel, who combined faith and service in a way that took him being the best new interrogator in Abu Ghraib after the scandal broke there to being a conscientious objector after a transformational interview with a terrorist suspect. He was given a CO honorable discharge, and went back to study, doing everything from religion to theatre. A few years later he died from aggressive cancer, possibly caused by the pit fires burned near him while in Iraq. Even in this, he found peace. You can read more here: