Sarah, one of the bravest people I know

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Sarah, Ben, Me (“the kids”)

I received an email today that made me smile, and it broke my heart.

I am someone who communicates my feelings by putting pen to paper (or cursor to screen?). It’s how I process all the feelings.

There is something defiantly beautiful about shining light on the things that wrap us in darkness.

So a few years ago when I learned that my dear friend, someone I refer to as my sister, received hard, sad, and dark news, I wanted to use all the words. I mean all the words.  But I couldn’t. It wasn’t my place. She wanted to share her news, in her way, when she decided she was ready.

Then today happened. Today she was ready.

My friend — my sister — Sarah, has ALS. She was diagnosed five years ago.

She’s ready to fight, and she’s doing that by raising money for the Golden West Chapter of the ALS Association. On Oct. 22 she’ll be participating in the Inland Empire Walk, and I’m looking forward to being there, cheering her on. The event is a fundraiser, with money going to ALS research.

If you know me, you know that Sarah, her dad, mom, and brother, took me in 20 years ago and became my de facto family. I love her so much, and I hate that ALS is now part of her story. I’m also proud of her. Sarah is so brave.

She’s fighting to leave a legacy.

Please consider donating to her fundraising efforts. For more information, check out her team page.

 

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Love Wins

One of the best gigs I had as a freelance journalist was a weekly parenting column in the local paper. Mostly anecdotal, I shared funny stories, parenting hacks, and humbling experiences. Occasionally, however, I would touch on something serious.

A column I wrote in August 2014 was just that. Serious and hard and sad. As the Ferguson riots played out across our television screen, my oldest asked me some tough questions about race relations in this country.

I was raised by a single mother who came of age in the 1960s. She was a self-proclaimed hippie, and she marched for civil rights. She taught me that everyone should be viewed as equal, and my husband and I are raising our children to know the same thing. So, when my son asked me those hard questions, I wondered whether we’d stepped back in time.

I answered everything. I told him that racism is a major problem, maybe not in our community — which is a beautifully-woven, multi-cultural tapestry — but in other states and regions, racism was showing its teeth. Then I wrote about our conversation in my column. When it went to print it also appeared on the newspaper’s website. I shared a link to the piece on social media (it’s been archived, otherwise I would share the link here).

Later that day a contributor to a national television network that often features pundits and talking heads responded to my post by telling me I was adding to the unrest. I literally rubbed my eyes and reread the comment, sure that it would read differently. It didn’t.

I debated whether to respond. I had all manner of words ready to volley back at this person. It took everything I had not to explain how wrong they were, but in the end I decided it wasn’t worth it. This person thought that I was contributing to the tension because I pointed out the obvious — racism hasn’t been eradicated and in some cases, it defines entire communities.

M and M

But if every family in this country decided to raise their children to love everyone, racism would cease to exist.

In the end, I didn’t regret telling my son the truth.

It’s one of the hardest parts of parenting.

John and I want to raise kids who become world-changers and we can’t do that by covering up facts.

In light of that, in opposition to the horrible things playing out in this country…

Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:39)

Love one another. (John 13:34)

[Remember that] hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. (Proverbs 10:12)

Our children need to know that someone can’t be a Christ-follower and a racist at the same time. Hatred and bigotry go against everything Jesus represents.

[Remember that] whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. (1 John 4:20)

Our kids are watching and listening and taking their cues from us.

 

Note: A special thanks to Elizabeth Shafer for allowing me to use a picture of her sweet kids. To learn more about Elizabeth’s multi-cultural family, visit her blog, “Embracing and Thriving.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advent Day 14: Love Inseparable

December 10

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

Nothing. Not one thing. There isn’t anything that we can do that will make God stop loving us. There isn’t anything in our past – done by us, or to us – that will diminish God’s love. We simply can’t be separated from the love of God.

He proved it on a census night more than 2,000 years ago when Jesus was born. An astounding, breathtaking, humbling, and awe-inspiring birth. The Savior of the world, tiny enough to be swaddled and rocked to sleep, was filled with enough love to cover all of humanity throughout all of history.

We’re covered by that same love now. It’s with us when our hands are raised in worship or if we cry out to God in our heartache. When we’re rejoicing, and when we’re suffering. Vows spoken by Christ over his bride, the Church; our Savior will love us in good times and in bad, forever.

For Today: This season, ask God in prayer to help you recognize all the ways – big and small – that he shows his love to you. Thank him for sending Jesus, the greatest example of his love.

Advent Day 13: A Love That Opens Doors

December 9

He led his people through the desert, His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:16 (NIV)

Desert in this passage can also be translated, wilderness, and at some point in our Christian lives, we’ve all probably felt like we were wandering in the wilderness. Through Moses, God led the Jewish people on a 40-year trek through the desert. While it’s possible to experience a decades-long wilderness, the Jews were experiencing the result of blatant disobedience.

As Christ-followers we can experience periods of wilderness-wandering for many different reasons; it’s how we respond that matters. Jesus spent forty days in the desert, and the devil repeatedly tried to tempt him. He was unsuccessful because Jesus used truths found in scripture as a sword to cut through the devil’s lies.

That’s how we know Jesus leads us through the desert-times. He’s given us the Holy Spirit, and scripture. His presence in our lives — and our reliance on him – marks the difference between wandering and being led. If we let him, he will lead us, forever, because that’s how much he loves us.

For Today: Do you feel like you’re in a season of wandering right now, or a season of being led? Why?

Advent Day 12: Love Through the Wilderness

December 8

He led his people through the desert, His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:16 (NIV)

Desert in this passage can also be translated, wilderness, and at some point in our Christian lives, we’ve all probably felt like we were wandering in the wilderness. Through Moses, God led the Jewish people on a 40-year trek through the desert. While it’s possible to experience a decades-long wilderness, the Jews were experiencing the result of blatant disobedience.

As Christ-followers we can experience periods of wilderness-wandering for many different reasons; it’s how we respond that matters. Jesus spent forty days in the desert, and the devil repeatedly tried to tempt him. He was unsuccessful because Jesus used truths found in scripture as a sword to cut through the devil’s lies.

That’s how we know Jesus leads us through the desert-times. He’s given us the Holy Spirit, and scripture. His presence in our lives — and our reliance on him – marks the difference between wandering and being led. If we let him, he will lead us, forever, because that’s how much he loves us.

For Today: Do you feel like you’re in a season of wandering right now, or a season of being led? Why?

Advent Day 11: Love the Unlovable

December 7

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Matthew 5:44 (NIV)

Matthew 5:44 is a “red letter” scripture. That means it came directly from Jesus’ mouth. Later, during his crucifixion, Jesus would model this directive to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us when he proclaimed, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus was praying to his father on behalf of the people who, literally and figuratively, put him on the cross.

What better example than that of Jesus to pray for those who persecute us? As we celebrate the Savior’s birth, we can take cues from his actions upon his death. We can look beyond their negative behaviors, and lift up in prayer those who have been unkind to us, lied about us, and treated us unfairly.

Over time, as we continually pray for those who persecute us, as we love our enemies, our hearts will soften. We will begin to love the seemingly unlovable.

For Today: The holidays are often difficult because of past hurts, maybe even pain we’ve experienced during past Christmas seasons. Or perhaps you’re hurting over something that happened recently. If you pray for the person who hurt you, it will lessen the pain. Who do you need to forgive for hurting you? Who do you need to pray for today?

Advent Day 10: Love is a Spotlight

December 6

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:12 (NIV)

Following a God we can’t see may be hard at times; there’s no shame in that. His work in our lives is undeniable. His love for us is immeasurable. His forgiveness is unceasing. Yet, we can’t see him. We know, without a doubt, that he is our Savior, but we occasionally think, “This might be easier if he was in human form.”

He was, once. Jesus toddled to his first human steps, then walked out his purpose among society, proclaiming his Father’s message and asking people to follow him. People could look at Jesus, they could reach out and touch him, they could dine with him and serve alongside of him, but still, many didn’t believe.

What does that mean for us, now that Jesus no longer walks the earth? It means that we should show God to others by loving them. We can be the instruments that Jesus uses to play love into the world. When we set out to love others the way Jesus did, we reveal him to those around us. We may not be able to see the Lord, but he lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Loving others points a spotlight right at Jesus.

For Today: Yesterday you considered who in your life you could show more love. Today, think of one or two ways to show that love.