Features | Devotionals/Meditations | About LQ
Outdulgence and other Worldly Pursuits | Dancing About Architecture: Reviews
PRISM Editorials | PRISM Features/Interviews
Memories, Tributes and Dirty Fingernails (con't)
printer friendly version
I learned that you should never bet against Dwight in the NBA finals (his Pistons beat my Lakers).
I learned to count the cost before committing to design a website for free. BUT, the thank you steak made it all worth it.
I learned that even though I've never seen the lady, that Holly Benyousky if the best looking 60 year old woman in the world. I mean, 59 years old.
I learned to love U2 again, and that that time I threw away all my "secular" CD's 15 years ago was really, really silly...but far more common that I thought. The buying back is common too.
I found a hero/mentor-from-afar that helped me sort through the struggle with my faith and the American church...and mature in my worldview...and then over the years I had the privilege of an ever deepening friendship with one of my favorite writers.
I learned to expand my musical boundaries...to never get too satisfied listening to the same things.
I learned to appreciate the film High Fidelity on a whole new level.
I learned more than I should probably ever have known about my favorite authors and artists. I'll be writing a tell-all book shortly.
I learned that good intentions are not enough...the gospel must be lived out.
I learned to pray for the voiceless and powerless more often.
I learned to value a frail, honest voice more than someone belting out a song at the top of their lungs. Also, you can't beat authenticity.
I learned to say I love you more often to my friends.
I learned most of today's worship music sucks.
I learned that piousness must be confronted with irreverence...and the ridiculous deserves ridicule.
I learned honesty with yourself and others is more important than strength. Weakness and frailty should never been confused with sin. (Related: I learned we shouldn't expect cancer patients to be strong and noble in their battle...just let them be themselves.)
I was tipped off to a lot of great music and film.
I learned that the pursuit of beauty and truth is noble in and of itself.
Above are my thoughts in response to this request from Pete Berol. Last night, after hearing of Dwight's passing, and the initial shedding of tears, I wrote the following tribute. Itís somewhat long and rambling and probably as much for my own therapy (kinda like his cancer updates, no?)....but I wrote this for my friends that didn't know Dwight but who regularly heard me talking about him...so they'd know why I was always quoting him...and so they'd know what Christendom had lost. If you are interested...
I lost a dear friend this week. It pains me to write this, but Dwight Ozard passed away on Monday, November 14.
Monday night, after hearing of Dwight's passing, and the initial shedding of tears, I wrote the following tribute. Its somewhat long and rambling and probably as much for my own therapy...but I wrote this for my friends that didn't know Dwight but may have regularly heard me talking about him...so they'd know why I was always quoting him...and so they'd know what Christendom had lost. If you are interested...
Where do I start?
If I make a short-list of the most influential people in my life, Dwight would be near the top.
I discovered Dwight in 1993 when I visited Chicago for a conference convened by Evangelicals for Social Action (Ron Sider's organization for those of you that know Ron). Dwight was a new ESA employee and in charge of the conference. At that conference ESA debuted a new magazine, PRISM, dubbed as "America's Alternative Evangelical Voice".
Dwight was a music critic...one of the early few willing to writing blisteringly honest reviews of Christian Contemporary Music. Whether it was promoting the latest Springsteen or U2 album, or trashing the latest worship album for being formulaic and simplistic, or highlighting some little known indie artist...Dwight always celebrated artist's willingness to be honest and vulnerable, and to seek truth and beauty....while freely pointing out that which needed to be criticized.
Let's just say...if it was up to Dwight...the CCM scene wouldn't be filled with a bunch of safe, sanitized music that doesn't challenge or offend...rather, like Jesus, it would be a haven for darings artists willing to speak truth to power, to challenge the righteous, the status quo, the prevailing thinking.
The artists he counted as friends fit this mold (and are among of my favorites): Steve Taylor, Rick Elias, Rich Mullins, The Ragamuffin Band, The Lost Dogs, The 77's, Mike Roe, Adam Again, Gene Eugene, Daniel Amos, Terry Taylor, Steve Hindalong, Derri Daughtery, The Choir, Charlie Peacock, Randy Stonehill, and more...
He'd willingly challenge the theology of a Christian artist (or their musical or songwriting talent), or promote a "secular" artist that was honestly seeking truth and producing quality music. He helped me regain my love for U2...and consequently rediscover my favorite band. (And buy back all their albums...after I threw them all out during my early 20's pious phase...some of you may understand.)
So as you might have guessed, over the years his writings influenced much of my record collection. He actually held quite a sway over my buying habits. I could hear about a new artist from several sources and develop a passing interest...but then if Dwight said "you should by this disc"...well, I usually did.
Okay, enough about music....Dwight was about much more than music.
In 1994 Dwight took over as editor of PRISM Magazine. He held this role until 1998. My wife Elizabeth can attest that during that period, when PRISM arrived in the mail...we pretty much had to put our evening plans on hold until I took ten minutes to read his opening editorial...and then scan the music reviews. His editorials (see here for an archive of some of them) were like a letter of home...that magical balance of encouraging me in my spiritual journey while simultaneously kicking me in the pants.
This was a very formative time of my life as I worked in full-time Christian service. Dwight's thoughts on the church and culture, and the need to not divide everything into the sacred and secular, to truly make the kingdom a place for the least of these, to reject earthly power and embrace our fallenness and truly understand what it means "when we are weak he is strong". He was one of the people who taught me to swear when the situation called for it (along with a pastor friend who shall remain nameless)...and the importance of irreverence in the face of piousness...especially my own.
He grew up in the church...and had a great love for what the church could be, but a great frustration with what it often is. His on-line writings are under a heading "Lover's Quarrel" to reflect this tension. Much like Steve Taylor's music spoke to me on this subject in my teens and early 20's, Dwight's writings helped me make sense of my place in the world as a restless follower of Jesus.
So okay, I like the guy, you get the picture? By my mid 20's I'm a big fan.
Then we became friends.
Mid 90's I rode bike from Harrisburg to Philly to visit a friend attending Eastern Seminary. (PRISM's offices are in the basement of Eastern Seminary). I set up an appointment to meet Dwight...just thought I'd take the opportunity as an avid PRISM reader. We started e-mailing here and there...and in 1998 Dwight got me into the Cornerstone Music Festival in Illinois for free by talking me into volunteering for PRISM. I got to know him and others more that week...and had a great time. I met his lovely wife Sheri, and we continued to stay in touch via e-mail.
Soon after that festival, Dwight left PRISM to work for Habitat for Humanity in Georgia as Director of Public Affairs. His role there was to develop relationships with Hollywood celebrities and get them involved in house building projects to promote Habitat's work. Among the favorite people he connected with were Harris Wofford, Pat Boone, Graham Kerr and Sarah Michelle Gellar.
He loved to tell the story of hanging out with Sarah Michelle Gellar late one night after a building project...as she shared about just having read the New Testament and honestly wrestling with how to apply it to her life. (Sometimes he'd add the part about this being on his wedding anniversary and he's away from Sheri in some far off location with...Buffy.)
Oh yeah, and those of you that think I'm a name dropper...you ain't heard nuthin' till you hung out with Dwight.
Then, in or around 2000, he was hired by Tony Campolo as Tony's successor and he and Sheri moved back to Philadelphia. As Executive Director of Tony Campolo Ministries he was to become the public face of this ministry...and take over much of the writing and speaking from Tony. It was his dream job. I knew that within a few years many, many more people would know of Dwight as his speaking and writing became better known.
But then six months later he got sick. Cancer. Multiple Myeloma to be exact. The next four and a half years were cycles of declining health, significant procedures, hope for the future, and then reoccurrence. Dwight and Sheri lived through a roller coaster ride called hell. And yet just about every e-mail ended with some variation on the following:
I've been overwhelmed by the knowledge that literally thousands of people are praying for Sheri and I (and even for my staff and for Tony)... and have felt safe and sure in those arms... Thanks. And even as I've felt so at home, I've wondered about those who get news like this and have no support base, who don't feel at home in the church. I've thought, especially, about how people with HIV-AIDS must feel--and if they get the same sense of embrace that I received. No need to preach here--I just invite you to think about that with me, and when you pray for me, remember too to pray for those on the margins of our society, those who have no family, no support, and no love.
In the midst of his suffering, he always drew our attention back to "the least of these"...the hurting, the sick, the poor, the neglected.
Through this time Dwight started telling me how much he loved me...a lot. He didn't take such things for granted. He never knew what the next day held and would not want a word of affection to go unmentioned. I learned to tell my friends and family "I love you" more often.
Dwight was thankful for the graciousness of Tony Campolo Ministries, who kept him on another six months or so until it was clear he couldn't consistently fulfill his role there.
He then went freelance as a writer, speaker and non-profit consultant, starting "Dwight Ozard Consulting Services", which allowed him to work when able, but not providing much of a consistent source of income. With him back in the Philadelphia area our bond of friendship strengthened...Dwight asked me to help him design his website, I agreed, and we worked together to design it and get it up and running. And Elizabeth and I got to be good friends with Dwight and Sheri through many trips to Philly for a meal or one of the Ozard's famous dinner parties.
Dwight and Sheri are amazing cooks. The way Dwight tells it...or told it...(sniff)...when he first got sick, he laid around watching TV for six or seven months...mostly watching the food channel. It kept him grounded in day to day life. He figured he needed a hobby, so he became a gourmet chef.
At the center of his life and theology....Dwight believed that Christians should live life to the fullest. We are called to celebrate the goodness of God's creation. But, rather than indulging for selfish reasons...the good life should be lived in such a way as to share with others....not in-dulgence but "outdulgence"--the good life focused outwardly on others through extravagant hospitality ("outdulgence" is a term Graham Kerr coined...and a book on that subject Dwight was to have written with Graham, although sadly he was too ill to do so).
So let's just say, we ate well at the Ozards. I remember the evening Dwight and Sheri had Elizabeth and I over for a thank you dinner for all my work on his website. He plopped down in front of me one of the largest and juiciest steaks I have ever seen...and I ate the whole thing to everone's amazement. (Hey, I was up late many nights working on that site...and this was my reward...and I wasn't going to trust leftovers to survive the two hour drive home.)
Dwight celebrated with me when I got hired as executive director of a Christian non-profit working with homeless single moms...and he was a source of encouragement and counsel. On Monday I was wrestling with an issue about the time I got word of his death. After an initial shedding of tears...I mentioned to Elizabeth: "This is the kind of issue I could have called Dwight about..."
I'm feeling this loss on many levels. Imagine a guy going from hero/mentor-from-a-distance...to close personal friend. How lucky am I?
I'm admittedly a little pissed too...because I know Dwight had so many great books, articles and sermons in him...and I was looking forward to digesting them all. (Other than leaving behind loved ones, I think this was one of the hardest things about his illness for him too). But I'm also thankful for all the time I had with him...and the body of work and relationship that influenced my life in so many ways.
Oh, there is one more reason I love Dwight...he introduced me to Johnny Cash. For that I am eternally grateful. And sometime soon I'm going to go see the new Johnny Cash movie with Dwight on my mind and heart. I wish Dwight could see it...but then again, maybe he's hanging out right now with Johnny Cash and John Coltrane...two of his favorite "profane saints" (Dwight's term).
Thanks, Dwight, for your faithfulness...and friendship. I love you. And miss you.
Grace, peace and dirty fingernails,
<<Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Next>>