Recalling Sandy Hook by Joshua DuBois

The White House is not supposed to be a place for brokenness. Sheer, shattered, brokenness. But that’s what we experienced on the weekend of December 14, 2012. I was sitting at my desk around midday on Friday the 14th when I saw the images flash on CNN: A school. A gunman. Children fleeing, crying. It’s sad that we’ve grown so accustomed to these types of scenes that my first thought was I hope there are no deaths, just injuries. I thought, Maybe it’s your run-of-the-mill scare. And then the news from Sandy Hook Elementary School, a small school in the tiny hamlet of Newtown, Connecticut, began pouring in. The public details were horrific enough: Twenty children murdered. Six staff. Parents searching a gymnasium for signs of their kids. But the private facts we received in the White House from the FBI were even worse. How the gunman treated the children like criminals, lining them up to shoot them down. How so many bullets penetrated them that many were left unrecognizable. How the killer went from one classroom to another and would have gone farther if his rifle would’ve let him. That news began a weekend of prayer and numbness, which I awoke from on Saturday only to receive the word that the president would like me to accompany him to Newtown. He wanted to meet with the families of the victims and then offer words of comfort to the country at an interfaith memorial service. I left early to help the advance team—the hardworking folks who handle logistics for every event—set things up, and I arrived at the local high school where the meetings and memorial service would take place. We prepared seven or eight classrooms for the families of the slain children and teachers, two or three families to a classroom, placing water and tissues and snacks in each one. Honestly, we didn’t know how to prepare; it was the best we could think of. The families came in and gathered together, room by room. Many struggled to offer a weak smile when we whispered, “The president will be here soon.” A few were visibly angry—so understandable that it barely needs to be said—and were looking for someone, anyone, to blame. Mostly they sat in silence. I went downstairs to greet President Obama when he arrived, and I provided an overview of the situation. “Two families per classroom . . . The first is . . . and their child was . . . The second is . . . and their child was . . . We’ll tell you the rest as you go.” The president took a deep breath and steeled himself, and went into the first classroom. And what happened next I’ll never forget. Person after person received an engulfing hug from our commander in chief. He’d say, “Tell me about your son. . . . Tell me about your daughter,” and then hold pictures of the lost beloved as their parents described favorite foods, television shows, and the sound of their laughter. For the younger siblings of those who had passed away—many of them two, three, or four years old, too young to understand it all—the president would grab them and toss them, laughing, up into the air, and then hand them a box of White House M& M’s, which were always kept close at hand. In each room, I saw his eyes water, but he did not break. And then the entire scene would repeat—for hours. Over and over and over again, through well over a hundred relatives of the fallen, each one equally broken, wrecked by the loss. After each classroom, we would go back into those fluorescent hallways and walk through the names of the coming families, and then the president would dive back in, like a soldier returning to a tour of duty in a worthy but wearing war. We spent what felt like a lifetime in those classrooms, and every single person received the same tender treatment. The same hugs. The same looks, directly in their eyes. The same sincere offer of support and prayer. The staff did the preparation work, but the comfort and healing were all on President Obama. I remember worrying about the toll it was taking on him. And of course, even a president’s comfort was woefully inadequate for these families in the face of this particularly unspeakable loss. But it became some small measure of love, on a weekend when evil reigned. And the funny thing is—President Obama has never spoken about these meetings. Yes, he addressed the shooting in Newtown and gun violence in general in a subsequent speech, but he did not speak of those private gatherings. In fact, he was nearly silent on Air Force One as we rode back to Washington, and has said very little about his time with these families since. It must have been one of the defining moments of his presidency, quiet hours in solemn classrooms, extending as much healing as was in his power to extend. But he kept it to himself—never seeking to teach a lesson based on those mournful conversations, or opening them up to public view. Jesus teaches us that some things—the holiest things, the most painful and important and cherished things—we are to do in secret. Not for public consumption and display, but as acts of service to others, and worship to God. For then, “your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” perhaps not now, but certainly in eternity. We learned many lessons in Newtown that day; this is one I’ve kept closely at heart.

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Thinkin’ about my daughter~


One of my favourite photos I have taken of you.

Oh, how blessed I am to have a wise, honorable, and beautiful daughter. O.K. I have two, but today is Alexandra’s day. I want to celebrate today! It seems like yesterday that my journey as a mom began, and yet, here we are following the journey of another human being, filled with boundless compassion, creative ideas, and drive to bring heaven down to earth in every way possible. This kid has been my mentor. She has given me incredible food for thought along the way and has opened my mind to greater ideas and greater ways to love.

Love you so much Alligirl! We wish you the happiest of birthdays! ~Eternally grateful for you.

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Why do Christians get so defensive about God?

images“When Christians get so defensive about God they end up not defending God but defending themselves. It is their own honor at stake, their own pride, and security, their reputation—not God’s.

When our only motivation for defending God is a concern for ourselves, we end up looking ridiculous to outsiders.

What if Christians actually laid down their honor, their pride, their instincts to get defensive? What if we beat our swords into plowshares and answered every attack with love, with a still small voice that never wavered, but never raised?

It would mean that we are finally imitators of Jesus, and every last one of the accusations leveled against us—that we are hateful, hypocrites, selfish, narrow-minded and backward—would no longer be true. Jesus, who we claim to defend, was ambivalent about his public approval rating. He often eschewed clear declarative statements about his beliefs by teaching in parables that required thought from his listeners. He demonstrated his greatest strength by offering no defense when his life depended on it.

So are we really being Christ-like in our rush to defend Christianity by declaring what God thinks about any number of thorny social issues? Are we imitating Christ by advertising who we think is going to hell? Are we turning any hearts with our “defense?” Ancient people believed that their gods needed human support in the form of sacrifices–animal or even human—in order to live. God, however, makes abundantly clear in the Bible that He is not like that. He does not need our sacrifices. He is self-sufficient.

But it seems that modern Christians often forget this, believing God needs us to speak for Him, to defend His honor, as if He cannot speak for Himself.

Turning from a defensive posture often requires rethinking our concept of God.

When Elijah went to the mountaintop to search for God, a hurricane force wind came out to meet him. Following it, came an earthquake, and then a forest fire. But the story says simply: But God was not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire (1 Kings 19). He wasn’t in the natural disasters. Elijah had to listen intently because God came to him as a still, small voice.

So often, Christians want to demonstrate God with our version of those natural disasters and to shout loudly with fiery force. Christians want to declare to America what God thinks—and to speak out boldly and lobby the government for an agenda.

All that is accomplished with that approach is destruction. It’s a disaster. The voice of the Holy Spirit is drowned out in the noise. It is when Christians demonstrate God in a still, small voice, in the context of love and friendship that God can actually speak to people.”

Still catching up. 🙂


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Catching up on reading

UnknownI have a long way to go to catch up on my reading, but I have to start somewhere. Right now I am cleaning out my email inbox and found a little gem by Michael Wear. He’s a great person and a thoughtful writer. Recently he wrote a book, Reclaiming Hope, and he also has a wonderful newsletter of the same name.

This quote is from his latest newsletter and it’s beautiful:

“Above all, one has to find by thought and experience that love can be trusted as a way of life. This can be learned by interaction with Jesus in all ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. He can bring it to pass that we rely on love; and that is why he boldly asserted that the only mark of being his student or apprentice in life was how his students love one another (John 13:35). And it is, again, why one of his best students could say, on the basis of a lifetime of experience: “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Love is not God, but God is love. It is who he is, his very identity. And our world under a God like that is a place where it is safe to do and be what is good and what is right. Living in love as Jesus defines it by his words and deeds is the sure way to know Christ in the modern world. On the other hand, if you are not reconciled to living in love as the center of your life, and actually living that way, any knowledge you may have of Christ will be shallow and shaky at best.”

Sooooo, don’t sell love short. Let it resonate, GOD IS LOVE. There is no love outside of God. Think. about. it. No love outside of God. God is love. Without God, love would not exist. Now that’s powerful.


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Where some Christians go wrong

“One of the saddest things to happen to Christianity is the infiltration of the Word of Faith Movement. Those that adhere to this “theology” follow the most extreme of heretical doctrines. Word of Faith preachers are commonly seen on TV and many have amassed a large group of followers. People are so naive as to buy into their beliefs. Generally speaking, they teach that God wants his people to be healthy, wealthy, and happy all the time and that if you say the right words (I mean literally speak in the correct “formula”), in faith, then God is obligated to deliver. God is approached as some sort of Cosmic Genie in a bottle.

The Word of Faith (WOF) movement is false and twists Scripture in order to support their erroneous views and to continue enriching the Word of Faith leaders themselves. Many of them live in mansions, wear expensive designer clothes, drive the most prestigious vehicles, and some even have private jets. The teachers rationalize their lavish, wasteful lifestyles as being “proof” that the Word of Faith teachings are true.

Word of Faith is not an actual denomination nor does it have a rigid set standard or doctrinal creed or statement. Beliefs differ somewhat from teacher to teacher, but the vast majority profess that children of God have a “right” to the good things in life. All they have to do is believe and ask God correctly for what they want. Entire books have been written on the movement and the heresy and blasphemy taught within.

One False Teaching:

Literal words have actual power contained within them. That’s why people often refer to them as “name it and claim it” or “blab it and grab it.” WOF teachers will quote a verse like Matthew 11:24, emphasizing only the belief aspect of it: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (NIV).

The Bible, however, teaches that God’s will determines the answer to our prayers:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27, NIV).

Numerous faithful Christians have prayed for healing from illness, disease, or disability and have remained unhealed. The leaders of this movement blame this fact on the one seeking God and praying for healing. They will claim something must be “in the way” of their prayer; their faith is not “strong” enough; or some other excuse. It’s ironic to note that many of those same Word of Faith preachers who claim healing is merely a prayer away are forced to wear eyeglasses, get cavities filled, and visit their doctors. It’s both hypocritical and potentially harmful to teach such nonsense.

Another False Teaching: God Wants Everyone to be Rich

Financial prosperity is a common thread among Word of Faith teachers, which has caused some to call their movement, or at least this part of their movement, the “prosperity gospel” or the “health and wealth gospel.”

Adherents claim that God is not only willing, but He is eager and excited to shower His worshipers with money, health, job promotions, large homes, and brand new cars, quoting verses like Malachi 3:10 in an attempt to validate their belief:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (NIV).

There is a huge problem with this though. Among other things, the Bible contains numerous passages WARNING against the pursuit of money instead of God, such as 1 Timothy 6:9-11:

“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (NIV).

Hebrews 13:5 warns us against always wanting more, which WOF clearly endorses:

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (NIV).

Wealth is not a sign of favor from God. The idea is simply ridiculous even at first glance.”

Shared by a friend of a friend.


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A well-kept secret….

Seriouslys-160, NO ONE ever said a word to me about the soulful, wistfulness, and sometimes utter sadness that accompanies the empty nest. When you have a baby, there’s a lot said, and asked, about postpartum depression, but, at least for me, I never heard a word about ‘postdepartum’ depression. I just made that word up. It’s depression after they depart… get it?! 🙂 It’s not where I live day in and day out, yet sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the soulfulness of it all that I feel a huge screaming sense of, ‘where did time go?!’

So much love for these amazing humans. The girls are near-ish, which I’m so grateful for. The one in the middle, that guy, he’s lived far for 7 years. ((Wow)) Praying hard one day he won’t be quite so far away.



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What’s the matter with people? #rhetorical​

love-1281655__340Yesterday (likely not yesterday by the time this is read) was a hard day in many ways. Most pointedly was the heartbreak. Someone I have known and trusted for years abandoned their family. It was like a switch was flipped and in the most callous way. Lives are forever changed. The stench of hypocrisy is unbearable. They now represent everything they claimed to be against, leaving a tsunami in the wake. If only they honored their own twitter platitudes. Twitter platitudes of the hypocritical are meaningless and destructive. I cannot imagine the impact on those closest to the devastation, but it is palpable.

There is so much ugliness in the world, and it takes a fantastic amount of grace and mercy to keep the focus on the beauty. When the ugliness hits so close to home, at times, it is hard to breathe.

Yesterday (likely not yesterday) something ended, that no one asked for. It was thrust upon them without a voice in the matter. When the switch was flipped, darkness enveloped. I don’t know that I have ever been so disappointed in a person. The callousness in which they operated is undeniable and unbelievable at the same time. People are hurt, and they will never be the same. Yet, those same people, in and through their faith, represent all the beauty in the world. Unconditional love may have been ripped away from them, but it is stronger than ever amongst them.

Faith and the grace and love of God can bring beauty out of ashes, and I believe it will. In the meantime, we have a God who is with us through it all.

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How do you control the world?


“How do you control the world? …each tradition or philosophy then offers a different answer. None, as we have seen, manages to deliver us from the cycle of danger, fear, and control that plagues us, and in some cases, religion only makes us more afraid and the world more dangerous.

Jesus, however, started with a completely different question. He ignored How do you control the world?, and instead asked, How do you see the world? 

Rather than offering his followers a new system of control through rituals or rules, Jesus wanted to give them new eyes–a new way to see the world.” —-Through the eyes of Love, which is through the eyes of God. How do you see the world?

“Most Christians, like everyone else, expect religion to provide ways to control a dangerous world. …. Instead, Jesus’ message accepts one simple fact: control is an illusion. You don’t have it and you never will, and no amount of control will make you safe or eliminate your fears. So, any religious system promising you control is either delusional or dangerously deceptive. As Jesus said in his sermon, “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life?” …As we come to see God clearly and experience his unending goodness we discover a life-changing truth– we are perfectly safe in his hands.”


Excerpt from: What’s Wrong With Religion by Skye Jethani

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When your #fullemptynest feels eerily empty

fullsizeoutput_e5ddDisclaimer: I know very well, regardless how I feel in this moment, my situation pales in comparison to much of the world suffering that is going on today. Not only around the world, but in my microcosm of the world. Still….

What’s the matter with me?? The question I’ve been asking myself for days. One minute life seems blissful, and beautiful, and fun, and joyful, and the very next minute a giant wave washes over me and flings a big dagger right into the middle of my heart. And I can’t shake it off. This isn’t me. Not the me I’ve known for 57 years. Yet, here we are. In my head I’m shouting STOP! How dare you?? You have a great life. Three amazing kids. Well, now 5, we just had a 2nd family wedding. 🙂 And you have a wonderful supportive husband. Still….

When you have a baby, you’re forewarned by other moms, friends, and doctors, that you may experience some level of postpartum depression. I’m not even sure I did, but if I did, I would have known to expect it, it’s normal. But no one warned me about possible empty nest depression. Suddenly, a couple weeks ago, if felt like I was hit by a Mack truck, even though our nest actually emptied a few years ago. Still….

I have to admit, I am coming down from one of the best times of my life. I had my daughter home for weeks before her wedding. Planning the wedding was so much fun! The wedding was one of the best days of my life! Everything about it was exciting. Her sister gave the best Maid of Honor speech ever. The father-daughter dance was beautiful. A couple weeks later we were in Spokane, helping our son and his lovely bride of 2 years settle into their new condominium. That’s a lot of high packed into a short time. So maybe, a little low is understandable… It’s so eerily quiet now.

It’s a few weeks later as I type this. My smack downs have been fewer. I’ve actually been feeling quite my normal self, until yesterday…. We took a stroll over to meet our new neighbors and deliver home baked cookies and a beauiful yellow mum. A cute young mom came bounding to the door, throwing it open, declaring “I know you people!” I was taken back for a split second before I recognized a girl I had not seen since she had babies. Her 4 children now range from 14 to 7. She is someone we met through our daughter Alexandra years ago when Alexandra was probably the age of her oldest daughter now. She worked with the youth group Alli attended. And. Now. She. Is. 5. Years. Away. From. Having. A. Child. Leave. For. College! Memories came flooding back into my head with the deep realization AGAIN, that time will not stand still. Aside from the daily reminder from my skin that doesn’t quite have the spring in its step that it used to… I mean, that’s enough of a reminder I’m getting older. Still, it is lovely to see her and her little family, and to know that we have wonderful new neighbors.

To top it off, I am in the throes of a major decluttering phase that keeps taking me down a delightful memory lane (a high), but then again I am gobsmacked (a low) by how fast time goes. I mean, people tell you that your entire life, and then one day the Mack truck blind sides.

Trying daily to count my blessings, because as my kitchen pig reminds me, ‘life goes on.’









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Father of the bride


Photo by Nichole Haun Photography

I’m not going to lie… sometimes he drives me crazy (he doesn’t have far to drive), BUT he always makes me proud to have him in my life. No more so than when our daughter got married a little over a week ago. I don’t know how he got through his speech without crying. Maybe the precursor ‘father of the groom’ speech 2 years ago got him over that hump. I won’t share that video here, but I will share this:

“Good evening! First of all, Let me say, I learned from my speech at my son’s rehearsal dinner, I need to have my speech in front of me in large print, double-spaced. I may be able to speak on the fly in the courtroom, but this my friends, is no courtroom. It’s my life’s investment. On behalf of the Smith family, the Bride and Groom, and the Kennedy family, I would like to thank each and every one of you for being here this evening to celebrate with us, and for the love you have shown this special couple.


27 years ago I could not have predicted the range of emotions I feel today. The love and the beauty that is packed into a journey like this is overwhelming at times. As the father of the bride, it was sometimes hard not to go all Steve Martin, and freak out a bit. I’m happy to say I’ve been pretty cool about all the wedding planning, except for speaking incoherently at times.


Over the past 7 years though, we have come to love and appreciate Conner. For Ann, it was pretty instant, as she has a sixth sense for reading our kids, she new Ariana was pretty smitten, and sensed it was mutual. For me, skepticism sometimes rules the day. Even though I immediately liked Conner, he did have some work to do.


Well, the verdict has been in for some time, and these two are perfect for one another in so many ways. Conner is great yin for Ariana’s yang, their sense of humor is unmatched, and Conner is simply an extraordinary complement to our family. He makes us better people for having him in our lives.


We are so excited to see where life takes these two. One thing we know for sure, it will be a fun adventure along the way. Their compassion to make the world a better place, and their desire to leave a wide trail of God’s love along their journey, is an inspiration. We are extremely happy and proud of this dearly beloved bride and groom. Here’s to a life that will I know will be well lived. We love you, Ariana and Conner!”

He killed it on the dance floor for the father-daughter dance too!




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