Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer Staycation?

Joshua and Lydia have been counting down the days until summer vacation. But before it arrived, he completed his "Adventurer" classes and got his scarf. And both got to sit in Rosa Park's seat at the Henry Ford Museum and learn about segregation. This summer will be a staycation primarily staying in Ohio and making trips to Lake Erie and Michigan. And enjoying long bike rides.

Lines Between Us?

Rajeev Sigamoney [a writer in Los Angeles who believes deeply in art, love & God and isn’t sure anymore if there is a difference between the three] wrote the following short story inspired by a pastor friend Samir Selmanovic. Enjoy!!!

Two men were sitting in a cafĂ© talking about life. And to be quite specific, their wives. One was a man of middle age and the other a gray haired senior. The middle aged man spoke honestly without hesitation to the other, “I don’t know how you do it? My wife is getting old and there is nothing I can do to stop the hand of time. That beautiful face I remember looking into for hours is slipping away. And all I see in its place is lines and wrinkles. Her beautiful body which I longed to touch with the yearning of youth has been distorted by stretch marks where once only was perfection. So now, every moment I stare at her, I cannot help but get lost in the memory of all she used to be. And in truth, I’m not sure what is left for us.”

The old man remained silent all this while only smiling as one who knew better. Staring into some imaginary space, he finally replied, “I don’t know how you do it? For when I look upon the wrinkles in my wife’s face, I can only see the smiles we have shared together over the years that put each permanently indented demarcation of love there. When I see the stretch marks on her side, my mind is filled with the beauty of our children and all she gave for them, even the greater parts of her perfection. And in all of her so-called flaws, her body has become a map to me of our journey, a map of our history, a map of our love. And because of them, I love her all the more. So now, every moment that I stare at her, I get lost in every inch of who she now is…”

Hearing this, the middle aged man wept. For he now understood that he had not yet truly learned to love.

All Gave Some?

On this Memorial Day, many Americans will place on their grille a hot dog, or a burger, and as they listen to the hiss of the steak or corn on the cob charring just right, they will not recall the sacrifices of those who gave their lives as they frolic around the glowing embers of those hot coals. They will not understand that the families of these heros often sacrifice just as much in their absence or death. Which is what I was reminded of recently when I saw on the bicep of one man a tattoo that read: “Some gave all, but all gave some.”

Desmond Doss was one of those guys who gave all. Infantry men who once ridiculed and scoffed at Desmond’s simple faith and refusal to carry a weapon in war owed their lives to him [click triangular play button below to see why]. He died on March 23, 2006. But his bravery is legendary and his story is still being told. Today, there are numerous Christians in the military. Some carry a gun. Others, like Desmond Doss choose not to. But both decisions take incredible courage. If you or someone in your family has served or is serving in any capacity their convictions allow, would you thank them today?

And remember that: “Love without courage and wisdom is sentimentality, as with the ordinary church member. Courage without love and wisdom is foolhardiness, as with the ordinary soldier. Wisdom without love and courage is cowardice, as with the ordinary intellectual. But the one who has love, courage, and wisdom moves the world”—Ammon Hennacy [Catholic activist, 1893 - 1970].

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Mission Trip to America?

Creola's house was falling apart. The West Virginia mountainside was literally sliding into it. And her sewer line wasn't working. She needed help and graciously received it when Toledo First missionaries to America, Keith and Charlene Barr, intervened through the SWAP organization [which stands for Sharing With Appalachian People] that they are partnering with in the coal mining area of McDowell County.
Today, a strong retaining wall is holding the mountain back. A new bathroom and bedroom has been added. And thanks to Toledo First members Dave Case and Shawn Flack, who along with five others spent last week in West Virginia, Creola has sewer again. Though there is no Adventist church nearby, Creaola has started attending another one for the first time in years. Click here to see Shawn's pics on Facebook or scroll below to see a few more of my faves.
The SWAP House is a former coal baron's house from 1911. Keith and Charlene live here and host groups as large as 49 in this house that serve the Appalachian community year round. The concrete veranda and walls needed reinforcement as did the footer supporting the garage. Mindy kept us happily fed and Gail and Barb thoroughly spring cleaned this entire ginormous house on the inside while Larry fixed the fencing for the goats and prepared the veranda for more concrete. During some down time, the mayor of historic Bramwell—once home to 19 millionaire coal barons and their families—gave us a personal walking tour of the town and beautiful homes. Where I finally found a bumper sticker to add to the roof rack. I wanted one that said "West Virginia Mountain Momma" based on the line from the John Denver song Country Roads, but alas, had to settle for a simple WVA. Who wants to go next spring?

Grace to Give and Receive?

Markella's husband Jimmy Joe [behind her in pic below] was the Fire Chief of Kimball and Director of McDowell County 911 in 2001 and 2002 when flash floods raced down the West Virginia mountains being stripped of their trees and coal. But not even he could stop the currents pushing his fire truck down the "street" preventing him from rescuing his family. But after watching nearly all the other brick buildings around her fall down from a second story apartment above the store, her family and friends took weeks off work to help her remove the three and a half feet of mud in her basement after the water receded. Today, her Greek restaurant, Ya Sou [which means in Greek, "To good health!"], still serves grape leaves and baklava and other delicacies and dishes even Roy has grown to love.

Roy is the African American semi-retarded adult foster child I met during our Mission Trip to America last week who does the dishes in Markella's Kimball, West Virginia restaurant. His foster parents died recently and though he can take care of himself, like all of us, he still needs a mom. So months after he started helping around the store, he asked Markella if he could call her mom and she said yes. Everybody who comes to Ya Sou knows Markella and her husband and her kids. But now everyone also knows Roy. This self proclaimed "red neck brother" is one of the friendliest and kindest people you'll ever meet. Click here to listen to one of his fave bluegrass bands performing live in Markella's deli.

The rich young ruler in Mark 10 didn't grasp what Markella and Roy did. But even though he didn't, Mark 10:18 says, "Jesus looked at him and loved him." I wish the Bible added "like crazy" but we still get the point. It takes grace to give and receive.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Mothers Day Movies?

From the Bible, we know that mother's often sacrifice for their children. When Mary the Mother of Jesus said “yes” to the angel Gabriel, she showed both an acknowledgment of God’s love and a willingness to sacrifice herself to bear that love through her son, Jesus. And Jesus, though preoccupied with breathing through the excruciating pain of being crucified, made sure his mother would be well cared for after his death in John 19:26-27. All of which reminds us whether you're a mother or especially her baby, that you are loved like crazy! A couple of current films dramatically portray these themes of sacrificial love. Click the triangular play buttons below to watch the previews and see what I mean.