No Empty Nest Here

I was waiting at a restaurant so popular you often have to stand in line to get a table. She waited behind me. The mother of older teens who had adopted one more.
She spoke to me, perhaps not realizing how profound she was being.
“Just because you’re older, doesn’t mean you’re done parenting.”
We’d had three exchange students by then, but all had come when we had one or two kids still at home.
When I was standing at the restaurant, we were empty nesters. But life can change with one spoken sentence. So my life was changed. Continue reading “No Empty Nest Here”

Rebuilding among the Ruins

Western Civilization has rounded the bend toward decline before. Awakening came and the people returned to God. Reprieves come. But faithlessness returns. And we have no guarantees that reprieve will come again.
How to pray?
That people would return to God.
That our faithfulness would manifest itself in love for each other, love for our enemies, and love for our perceived enemies–those who disagree with us, those who are different from us. That we would reject presumption, assumption, and pride.
That we would embrace gratitude and reject entitlement.
That believers would dismiss our petty differences and come together in accord and love for Christ, His Church, and those in need. Continue reading “Rebuilding among the Ruins”

Another Guest Blog by the Dog

(Boomer sits in once more for Nancy E.)
They say he’s coming back soon–my master. It’s that word soon. They keep saying it.
I’ve been here for a long time. Time. It’s a word like soon. Time seems always to be just ahead of us. But we never catch it. Soon never seems to arrive.
It’s been a long time for the humans too.
Since the last time I addressed you, it’s been good. The humans and I get along fine. I’ve made a second home here. I have beds all over the place. The people here think a couple of them are for me. What they call a dog bed sits beside their bed, and a blanket sprawls on the floor in the office. I make do with them when I must. Continue reading “Another Guest Blog by the Dog”

It's Not Yet Dark–Or Is It?

We love some books for their message. We love others for how they say it. A book I read recently has both message and the artistry of wordcraft.
You don’t often find the combination of beautiful imagery in Hemingway-esque sentences in nonfiction works. But you find it within the pages of Simon Fitzmaurice’s memoir It’s Not Yet Dark.
It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. And I plan to read it again. Soon.
Diagnosed with ALS and given four years to live, Fitzmaurice finds ways to celebrate his humanity. He invites us into his world, and we find no darkness there.
Our modern world often thinks of the numbers of people with an affliction. Cancer patients become cancer statistics. People become numbers. Fitzmaurice draws our attention away from numbers and shows himself, his humanity. He elevates the suffering.
“It’s not important that you know everything about where I come from. About who I am. It’s not important that you know everything about ALS, about the specifics of the disease, about what it’s like to have it. It’s only important that you remember that behind every disease is a person. Remember that and you have everything you need to travel through my country.” Fitzmaurice, 92
There are light moments in the book. As we navigate his country, Fitzmaurice provides pictures of the profound and the mundane.  And He makes mundane moments profound by personifying the walls of a newly acquired home.
“There is no way better to get to know a house than to paint it. Down on your hands and knees in every corner of every room, a house reveals itself to you” (26).
But then there are deeper moments. And dark times. I remember a friend telling me how medical caregivers had explained the progression of ALS when her husband had it. The couple could make decisions in advance. They knew what to expect.
But in Fitzmaurice’s Ireland, patients don’t get that information. There is no need to prepare yourself to make a decision. The medical system does not allow you to decide.
By accident, Fitzmaurice faces a crisis in which the available caregivers aren’t clued in to the progression of the disease and how Ireland’s healthcare system handles it. (Hint: the system doesn’t handle it.) So when he stops breathing, these caregivers ventilate him. They put him on a respirator.
He keeps living.
When people within the system realize what has happened, they try to correct “the mistake.” They ask Fitzmaurice why he wants to live this way. They think they know the answers. They even think they know better than he does what it’s like to have this disease.
But they don’t know. And they don’t know Fitzmaurice.
“You have ALS: why would you want to live? ALS is a killer. But so is life. But just because you will die at some point in the future, does that mean you should kill yourself now? For me, they were asking me to commit suicide. Or to endorse euthanasia. I refused. . . . In Ireland ALS patients are not routinely ventilated. They are sedated, counselled, eased into death. They are not given a choice. Not like in other countries, including the U.S.” (84-85).
Imagine being counseled to remove yourself from the world.
It’s not dark in Fitzmaurice’s life. It’s not dark in the US–yet. But voices advocating the counsel of death are moving from a whisper to an audible call urging the afflicted to decide a certain way. To choose death.
That’s not the end of the book–because being put on a respirator was not the end of Fitzmaurice’s life. It was the beginning of a new season for him. A season of creativity for him. A season that brought this book (and more) to us.
The end of the book is a beautifully crafted affirmation of life and love. It’s among my top three most satisfying reads ever.
Ireland and America will be all the better for our having read it.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Teaching Minds, Teaching Hearts

I sat in the classroom fourteen years ago, but not as a student. It was my last parent-teacher conference. Soon my youngest child would graduate.
I didn’t understand the nature of this class. Something about America, but not history. Something about government, but not civics. It was a half-year course, an elective, seemingly designed to fulfill a requirement of time studied, or time served, if you will.
When I asked the teacher the purpose of the class, he replied that he taught students what their rights were as Americans.
He didn’t respond to my mention of their duties. Continue reading “Teaching Minds, Teaching Hearts”

America at War with Herself

I’ve been there twice. Once in the summer. Another time in March, spring break. For a tourist, it is the essence of peace. Or it was–until last week.
Charlottesville, Virginia, is now a place we will remember for hate.
The haters gathered to protest the proposed removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee. Part of a series of removals eliminating Confederate monuments.
Communities began removing monuments and Lee’s battle flag–often considered the Confederate flag–after Dylann Roof’s slaughter of African American Christians at a Bible study in 2015 in South Carolina.
Beyond the protest of monument removal, Saturday’s rally was intended to “unite the right.” But there was more.
They came to shout their hatred for African Americans. They came to shout their hatred for Jews and LGBT’s and immigrants. Historically, they’ve hated Catholics too.
Saturday’s fiasco/riot resulted in the deaths of a counter-protestor and two state police officers. Numerous others were injured.
Some have argued that the monuments and the flag stand for freedom from an oppressive federal government. If that were ever true, it no longer is. The haters have co-opted symbols that once may have been innocent souvenirs from Gettysburg, Vicksburg, or Antietam.
No longer. No more.
Some will equate the hatred of Charlottesville with Christianity–especially conservative Christianity that does not agree with gay marriage. To do so distorts a faith that intends to speak only in love.
And haters who claim Christianity as their own–as many supremacists do–distort the faith. Their faith is in themselves and their hatred, not in a merciful God who seeks to redeem us all.
True Christianity rejects relative morality. A morality that tells us it’s okay to act on anger and hate and selfishness. To act on feelings rather than principles. The danger of relative morality is that it leads to a relative view of people.
It leads us to not see the value in everyone. It leads us back to a time we were at war with each other.
It has led us to now.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Fear or Faith

I remember the moment I realized the Cold War was happening. Standing in my parents’ bedroom. A chill filled my stomach as a sense of vulnerability ran through me. Maybe I was eight or ten.
I asked my parents if the Russians would bomb us. My parents had lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They were not alarmed.
“Don’t worry about it. You can’t do anything about it anyway,” Mother said. Words that surprisingly reassured me.
Years later, the Iron Curtain fell. Peace came to the world. Continue reading “Fear or Faith”

Purpose–and Inspiration–in Pain

I wanted to entertain a bored grandson when I thought of the movie. The boy was intrigued because I said the football scenes were actual footage from Penn State’s games in the early 1970s.
Before long the story grabbed him. The movie, like all sports movies, wasn’t about a game as much as it was about something much larger. Character, sacrifice, love, family, and even suffering.
The movie was Something for Joey, the story of John Cappelletti’s quest to be the first Penn State football player to win the Heisman Trophy. But, as I said, it’s more than that. Continue reading “Purpose–and Inspiration–in Pain”

The Elusive Illusion of Happiness

“Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one. We are the first generations of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such unhappiness.” Peggy Noonan, 186
It’s a strange paradox, this world–America and the rest of the West–we inhabit. We have advanced technology and medical care, round the clock entertainment we carry in our pockets, and more food than we can (or should) eat.
We drive air-conditioned cars on well-maintained roads. We drink clean water and have central heating and indoor plumbing. Most of us have little to fear from terrorism and war. We are comfortable.
And even if we are poor, there are programs to feed us, house us, and clothe us.
Yet we are unhappy. Continue reading “The Elusive Illusion of Happiness”