Good grief and what’s really important

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Mom & everybody boarding this little sea plane to get the birds-eye view of Coeur d’Alene

My mom said the other day ‘there’s nothing like paralysis to make you hyper-aware of what’s really important and what to let go.’ That’s a theme that has been on my mind for some time now, long before 2016 started. Not to minimize my Mom’s new paralysis in any way, yet in life we often encounter some form of figurative paralysis in all shapes and sizes. It is in this grief or grieving process we are moved to sort out what is truly important and what to let go. The grieving process is necessary to make sense of life. We sort through trash and all the treasures, leading hopefully to a life of truth and integrity.

Our of my best memories over the past 12 months was having my Mom (while in great pain) and Dad travel across the country to attend Samuel and Sarah’s wedding. The following day we drove to Idaho to the little city of Coeur d’Alene which surrounds a beautiful mountain lake. When Sam asked if anyone was interested in a sea plane tour of the area my Mom was a definite yes! I’m so glad we did that. The whole weekend was abounding in joy. Today that sea plane ride may be a little more difficult, but I believe with a ‘can do’ attitude much and more is possible.

Most of us have seen incredible art, whether in a gallery or in a photo, where literal trash is repurposed into a thing of beauty. The creative process undoubtedly took time; took a different way of viewing things; took an imagination to see something ugly transform into something of beauty. Some say ‘time heals all wounds.’ I don’t believe that. My Mom still tears up talking about her Daddy 26 years later. I do believe that in time we often find beauty has been transformed out of ashes. How and when that happens is different for everyone. We cannot really know the depth of someone’s grief. We can be with them in and through it.

My Mom and Dad’s world has been rocked, but they are still here and holding on to ‘the rock.’ Psalm 78:35 – And they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer. We are grateful and blessed to be walking this journey with them. We are excited to continue walking with them creating beauty along the way.

 

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Happiest of Birthdays!!! **29**

 

IMG_2564HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALLI! I am so grateful for you, and thrilled to see and know the person you have become. You are a talented, compassionate, intelligent woman, capable of great empathy. < In a world in which empathy is in short order.  As always, you inspire me to be a better person. Thank you for the gift you are to our family, and for this great gift to our family…..

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We love you!

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Mom! You can do this! We all love you and support you! 78 is great! 

Happiest of birthdays to the most amazing woman, my Mom.

Image 2 - Version 2How do you sum up anyone’s life in just a few words? Mom’s life has been a complex journey through childhood, marriage (58 years and counting), motherhood (particularly when you have 5 little ones under 8 early on), grand motherhood and her faith. And her latest challenge as of 4 weeks ago, learning to live without the use of her legs.

I will attempt, on this her birthday, to celebrate her spirit, her character, her spunkification (a new word we coined over the past weeks), and the rich life of a greatly beloved woman.

She’s a cool Grandma. She’s clever, she has an amazing laugh, think shoulder shaking, she is one of those people who know how to love unconditionally. She is luminous in her love for others.

My Mom is beautiful in spite of her pain and her recent medical issues. Beyond her pain and heartache there is a youthfulness about her. Especially when she breaks out in one of those shoulder shaking bouts of laughter. We are looking forward to the return of the shaking laughter!

It has been an honor to spend the past few weeks with my Mom. Of course, a tour of rehabs and hospitals is the best idea of a great time, said no one ever. Nevertheless, it has been a wonderful blessing to talk, share memories, encourage, show love, and advocate for her. It has also been an unintended opportunity to spend time with siblings, family, and friends. A time to witness how well-loved she is.

‘In a way, life is a mosaic. God gathers all pieces, and fragments, our gifts, and our talents, our pain and heartache. He takes memories and experiences and assembles them into a beautiful work of art that declares the greatness of His plans and purposes for each of us.’ All of the countless moments in her life have joined and intersected to show us her true spirit and life. Her astounding sense of humor, in a situation that would beat anybody down, is evident to all who came into contact with her, from the custodial staff to the Neurosurgeons. Across the weeks there were many who cared so gently for my Mom, and others who continue to do so. We are grateful to them all, but none can compare to Wilma. We met her at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She is a woman of faith who can give a pep talk like none other. We hope to carry her spirit with us in the weeks ahead. She will not be forgotten. Mom loved her.

Mom only loves unconditionally; everybody. Her strength is greater than I think any of us realized. She has dealt with pain for decades. At times it would get the best of her, but she continued to love. There aren’t many that can love so freely. She loves hard, never leaving anything until tomorrow to say or do. She fully embraces the people who are in her life. Having this time with family opens our eyes to the greatness of her soul. Not only does she whisper over and over her love for each of us. But her need to lift her weak arms and wrap them around us when we see her is comforting. She loves the wonderful people who have married into our family. They are her family and she loves them like her own. We are all grateful and privileged to give back to her a portion of what she has given to us.

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She is deeply loved. And she loves deeply.

I wish for her on her birthday and beyond, the joy and peace that passes all understanding.

Love you Mom.

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Refuse fear, choose mercy

By Jeanne Damoff       via Ann Voskamp

What she said…^

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In a World of Increasing Terrorism, What is the Biggest Threat to the Church?

When Jeanne Damoff traveled to Kazakhstan in 2013 to speak at a conference for mothers of disabled children, she wondered how she would be received. She’d never shared her story of beauty from brokenness with women from a vastly different culture, many of them Muslim. But they not only listened, they welcomed her into their hearts and homes, and God began to dismantle the tidy boxes and boundaries she didn’t know she’d built. That happy shift in perspective has opened opportunities to embrace a wealth of unexpected “neighbors,” both around the globe and in her own backyard, where she currently volunteers with Seek the Peace, promoting literacy, building friendships, and serving alongside refugees resettled in Dallas. It’s the most humbling grace to welcome my brave and wise friend, Jeanne, to the farm’s front porch today…

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“Who is my neighbor?”

A lawyer asked Jesus that question, and as Jesus often did, He answered with a story.

A man was robbed and left for dead. Two religious leaders passed him by, but one man — a Samaritan — saw him and made a costly choice.

He chose mercy.

It’s hard to make sense of a lot that’s happening in the world right now, and the temptation is to follow the example of those religious leaders — to put on blinders and keep walking straight ahead, because what can we do in the face of so much suffering and fear?

Fear is a fog that clouds the brain and freezes the heart.

And before we know it? We’re like the lawyer in that story, desiring to justify ourselves in the limits we set on love.

A friend of mine sent me several reports from a Hungarian couple who are missionaries near Budapest and served the influx of Syrian refugees that arrived at the Keleti train station.

After days of providing food, clothing, and services to exhausted and grateful families, the wife observed a gradual shift in the appearance and behavior of some of the arrivals. “One thing we all have noticed. Some of these people looked different than the group yesterday, and all last week. Today’s migrants were mostly men, some who did not look that needy. Sometimes it was rather frightening. What do all these men want to do in Europe? We still served them with love.”

Reports like this weigh heavy on my heart, until I remember one, unchanging, overriding truth.

None of this comes as a surprise to God. And really? It shouldn’t surprise us, either.

Ever since our first parents were banished from Eden, humans have been aching for Home.

The biblical narrative reveals a long line of sojourners and exiles searching for a place to belong. From Abraham to the early Christians dispersed by persecution, God’s people have known what it means to be strangers in a strange land.

Human history is one long, epic story of the desperately needy seeking Refuge.

And God’s hand has been evident every messy step of the way. Indeed, God told Abraham it was His intention to bless all the families of the earth through him.

Though the scattered Christians probably would have preferred to remain in the Pentecostal glow of the Jerusalem church, God wanted them to carry the seeds of the gospel far and wide.

Sometimes we have to be shaken into our purpose.

We like our borders.

We crave stability and safety — the kind we can build a fence around and protect with security systems and strong locks on the doors.

But God consistently calls His children to live generous, hospitable lives.

With the doors open.

And when we choose to hide inside our blockades, He lovingly intervenes.

I recently heard a man say the biggest threat to the church isn’t the world’s brokenness getting in. She can build walls to keep the world out.

The biggest threat to the church is that she will succeed in building those walls.

We are His body, and regardless of what our governments do or don’t do, the church must welcome all comers. And yes, this means risk. It always has.

T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral is a play about the 12th-century martyrdom of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. As King Henry II’s soldiers approached, some of the priests locked the doors to the sanctuary in an effort to save his life, but Thomas commanded,

“Unbar the doors! Throw open the doors!

I will not have the house of prayer, the church of Christ,

The sanctuary, turned into a fortress.

The Church shall protect her own, in her own way, not

As oak and stone; stone and oak decay,

Give no stay, but the Church shall endure.

The church shall be open, even to our enemies. Open the door!”

The doors were opened — and Thomas was murdered.

In Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear, Scott Bader-Saye wrote, “Thomas knows that in some way his martyrdom will be gathered up into God’s purpose, made part of God’s great ‘figuring’ of history . . . . Eliot places in the mouth of Thomas his own conviction that God’s good and joyful purposes will finally be made complete. It is this conviction, this hope, this trust that allows Thomas to let go of the fear of losing his life.”

So, here’s what I want to know. What are we afraid of?

Are we afraid of suffering?

Because God has promised we will suffer, and when we suffer according to His will, we fellowship with Jesus.

Are we afraid of death?

Because death will eventually come to us all, but God is big enough to keep us in our obedience until His purposes have been accomplished in and through our lives.

Are we afraid for our children?

Because the best gift we can give them is to follow Christ’s example in costly obedience.

Are we afraid of engaging the “stranger”?

Have we become so settled and complacent that we’ve forgotten we ourselves were once separated from Christ, strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world?

Have we forgotten that —as long as we are here on earth — we, too, are refugees?

Are we afraid that they will invade our space?

That our comfortable, tidy church communities will get messy?

Because our churches don’t belong to us in the first place and were never meant to be comfortable or tidy. If the gospel is anything, it’s messy.

Do we really believe Jesus meant what He said? “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

That Hungarian missionary wrote of the men who didn’t appear to be in need, “We still served them with love.” Then she added, “The best part of today was to see the body of Christ coming alive.”

But we’re not in Hungary. We’re watching the Syrian refugee crisis unfold from afar. How can we be “the body of Christ coming alive”?

What can we do to help?

First, we can refuse fear.

Politicians may leverage fear for their own purposes, but the church doesn’t trade in that currency. If we claim to be a people of love, then we need to embrace Jesus’ definition of that word. (John 15:13)

We can petition and pray for our government leaders. They need wisdom and courage, and they need to know we’re willing to do our part.

We can confess our selfishness, repent, and give sacrificially of our time and resources.

We can find out if there are refugees resettled in our area (there are in mine), and look for opportunities to get involved.

We can donate money or requested items through WeWelcomeRefugees.com or other ministries.

We can present our bodies as living sacrifices to God, lay down our willing yes, and then keep our eyes and ears open, because He will take us up on the offer.

We weren’t created for self-seeking comfort and ease. It lulls us to sleep.

We were made to shine light in darkness, to love and serve our enemies, and to wash the feet of the least.

Like the Samaritan, we can choose mercy. And if we don’t, can we honestly claim to love our neighbor?

Terrorism is on the rise, and the world is facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II, but none of this comes as a surprise to God.

And nothing is too difficult for Him.

We can be on the right side of His story — knowing our lives are gathered up into God’s purposes, and flinging our doors wide for such a time as this.

Because Refuge still waits with His nail-scarred hands stretched wide to welcome the sojourner Home.

Set our foundations on the holy hills;

Our city found

Firm on the bedrock of the Truth; our wills

Settle and ground.

Cause us to stand to our own conscious clear;

Cause us to be the thing that we appear.

~Amy Carmichael

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Jeanne Damoff is a daughter, sister, wife, mom, mother-in-law, and grandmother. Light has swallowed up her darkness, and she loves to help people discover beauty and purpose even in their most broken places. Her ambition is to be small in her own eyes, to be present in every moment, to see God’s image in every person, and to discover His gifts everywhere.

Jeanne is an exquisite author and speaker, volunteers with local refugee and special needs ministries, serves as intercessor and counselor for The Lulu Tree, and powerfully blogs for First Aid Arts and at The View From Here. Jeanne and I pray you’ll consider bravely & boldly joining us in truly miraculous places like Seek the Peace and First Aid Arts and the work of WeWelcomeRefugees.com.

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Advent Declaration on Gun Violence

Source: Advent Declaration on Gun Violence

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Falwell, Muslims & the Offense of the Cross

Another beautiful response. #hopeful

Faith Improvised

Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, an evangelical Christian institution, ignited a firestorm in his comments about carrying guns and killing Muslims:

“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he says, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he said, “and killed them.”

“I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course,” he said. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”

Some Christians may feel that comments like these are acceptable. Others who wouldn’t say such things aloud may share the sentiment.

We see a world in chaos. We see mass murder and violence. We hear of plans for domination in the name of Islam and our fears are ignited. We grow suspicious of…

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We Can’t Do God’s Work with the Devil’s Tools

#Encouraged.
“The cross is for those who preach these messages of hate and violence and applaud it even though they claim to represent the Prince of peace.

The cross is for those who use their imaginations to bring about restoration and reconciliation among former enemies.

The cross is for those fear foreigners and spread hate, and remain so lost in their survival instincts that they can only function by dehumanizing those they cannot understand.”

Ed Cyzewski: Author // Freelance Writer

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Let’s stop at the foot of the cross for a moment.

Let the xenophobic hate of politicians fade away.

Erase from your mind the rhetoric of those who cling to guns out of fear and suspicion of their neighbors.

Let’s bring our thoughts to the foot of the cross.

Look on God’s Son as he gasps for his final breaths in the company of criminals, soldiers, jeering holy men, a single friend, and his mother who has long ago run out of tears to shed.

He could call on the armies of heaven to defend himself, and yet he allowed the soldiers of a cruel army to torture him and put him to death in the most painful way possible.

He didn’t fight for a kingdom in this world.

With the nails in his hands and feet, hanging above the ground, he still pleaded for God’s mercy on his executioners:…

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The Shadow of Death: A Response to Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Superb. “But if we are the Body of Christ, then we each have the chance to answer that prayer (of peace) for others.”

The Pietist Schoolman

Calling out Christian college presidents isn’t really how I wanted to spend Advent, but then I didn’t expect one such leader to devote part of a chapel talk to encouraging his students to carry concealed weapons. But that’s just what Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. did on Friday, two days after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

In a sense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, Liberty has allowed concealed weapons on campus since 2013. “I think somebody that might want to do us harm will not feel good about coming to Liberty University,” said university general counsel David Corry at the time, “because that person might encounter more than just law enforcement that’s armed.”

Candlelight vigil at Virginia Tech after the 2007 mass murder Among other factors, supporters of the Liberty policy change in 2013 cited the 2007 massacre at nearby Virginia Tech (seen here during a candlelight vigil) – Wikimedia

As someone who works in higher ed, it’s terrifying to…

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I wonder…

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“I wonder if we would have immigrants from Guatemala if the CIA had not illegally helped to overthrow a democratically elected government in 1954, that was committed to improve life for poor people. I wonder if we would have immigrants from El Salvador if the United States had not supported a repressive, and violent government during the 1970’s and 80’s, when thousands had to flee for their lives, and many thousands were killed. I wonder if we would have immigrants from throughout the Americas today if the United States had not illegally, and repeatedly intervened in many countries’ internal affairs to protect the interests of multinational companies. If only they had had walls high enough to keep us out, we might have fewer immigrants today. Illegal is illegal. Jesus once said something about reaping what you sow.”

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Border stories … thoughts on refugees

“But, both of us can be pretty sure that any talk that smacks of hate, any action not defined by compassion, any Facebook post meant to displace love with fear – wreaks like fish vomit.”

Central Europe Field

DSC_0942Can I be blunt?

I usually try to finesse words, make a little romance, ask the syllables to play nicely together in straight and pretty lines for a quaint bedtime tale.  But, tonight, there is tear gas, and babies are crying, and people are sleeping in the open. There are living, breathing humans who will soon be picking their way through kilometers of undetonated land mines into Croatia. There is a dad with two kids who walked on a broken ankle with a tiny hand in each of his to reach a gate before it closed.

And for what? Why? What is the moral of this story?

There are so many theories out there about why the Middle Eastern world is leaving homes and uprooting families to make a terrifying journey to Europe: Economic. Religious. Extremism. War. Prophecy. We all have our theories and our fears.

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