"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

No Harbor for Hate

I went to an all-girl, Catholic high school. September 11th of my junior year our world changed. I walked into school late that morning and as I walked through the eerily quiet hallway I stopped just outside one of the physics labs to view the TV. The building was silent except for the low humming of the news coverage. 

The next day of school, again walking the same halls, I paused outside the same classroom as I had on September 11th. This time, I was not the only student who stopped to look through the doorway. No one paused to watch a TV, to listen to news coverage. Everyone paused because a beloved teacher looked drastically different. She, a Muslim woman, for the first time was not wearing her hijab. 

It was shocking. 

It was profoundly sad. 

It was apparent on her face that there was so much pain, so much sadness. Fourteen years later, I still remember looking through that doorway seeing her hair and her neck for the first time. It was a horrible, horrible feeling - like something else had been lost in all of this hate.

The next school year, she spoke to our religion class about her faith. She spoke of the history of Islam, her beliefs, how she chooses her faith, how Islam links to Christianity, to Judaism. It was a fascinating and important lesson for all of us. 

What was different for our class than the classes she had spoken to before, she spoke about September 11th and the day she chose to remove the hijab. When she spoke of that choice, that action, that same intense sadness flooded her face as it had the year before. She shared with us that it was her students that spoke to her about it while she tried to teach through it, tried to stay focused. It was her students who asked her to wear it again. To not be afraid. To continue to live every part of her faith. Her face slowly came to life when she shared that. She blotted away tears as the gentle smile returned. 

One of C's translators gifted us a prayer rug several years ago. He gifted me a head scarf as well. They are both beautiful gifts given with the deepest respect and kindness and good faith. He and C shared stories, shared their faiths, shared meals, shared cultures. I am grateful and honored to have these gifts. 

I am Christian. I am a conservative. I am a white woman. I am deeply, deeply disturbed by the hate that has poured out from my country. It saddens me, infuriates me. I always thought we were above this, that we were greater than this. That we were not this ignorant, we were not this vengeful. This hate fuels the hate of an ugly, barbaric entity that is gaining ground, is gaining strength, and legitimately threatens who we are as a nation, as a world, as a people. Such intense hate allows for their strength. The very existence of such thought threatens who we are, what we believe, what we stand for. It is not American. It is not Christian. To say such things, believe such things in "protection" of our nation, of a faith, is so misguided, so twisted, so far from truth. We will tear ourselves apart while the enemy watches, gains strength, recruits from our hate.

It isn't the nation I know. It isn't the world I want to live in. It isn't the America I want to give my children. I will not pass this hate to my boys. I will not give such a world to my kids. 

We are to be the beacon of hope, not a harbor for hate. We are to be the home for the weary, the persecuted, the hungry. We are to be sanctuary for people of faith or of no faith. We are to be the safe-haven. We are to give hope, to inspire dreams. This is the nation I want my children to know. This is the legacy I want them to fight for and cling to and pass on. To find Christ in people. To be as Christ to all people. To be the good. To search for good. To live with good.

We cannot be silent to hate. We cannot be good men and women and remain silent. How dare we let this become our nation, to let such a call come from a presidential candidate. To ban a religion! To ban a faith! To ban a classification of people. To treat others as less than. To classify people of a faith as less than

How dare we. 

Decades ago, our entire world said never again. Never again. How quickly we forget. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

For My Dad

A major event for my family took place earlier this week and I missed it. 

My head has been spinning and life has been too much and I simply, and horribly, forgot. 

On Monday, my dad retired after 34 years with the same company. 

I look a lot like my father. I have his hair color, his nose-shape, his face.
I have his poor eye-sight and not-so-awesome skin.

We communicate differently. 

He's (mostly) a quiet man.
He thinks deeply, shows emotion simply. 

I've learned a great deal from my dad. I have learned quite a bit more about him through knowing my sons. 

My dad grew up with very little. 

He was one of eight children in a three bedroom house in rural Illinois.

He worked from a young age. So many jobs - at home, outside of home. 
He worked as a janitor to get through school. He worked nights, went to school days. 

He studied hard
He worked hard. 
He accomplished much.

Thirty-four years ago with his young wife and new baby girl, he moved from the Midwest to the Deep South and the city of New Orleans to begin his career.

I have watched my dad walk across stage twice - for his second Master's and for his Law Degree. He obtained both of those while working long, long hours for the company he dedicated over half of his life to. He graduated eighth in his class when he received his juris doctor.

That isn't what is incredible to me. 

What is incredible is that I cannot remember a time that my Dad wasn't at our dinner table. I cannot remember a time that he wasn't at a soccer game that was important to me. He coached my brother's soccer team without ever having played. He learned the game because we loved the game. He read to us in silly voices, he prayed with us, he sang to us. He took us on trips - not the big, fancy amusement park trips, but the nearly "Griswold" trips where we loaded up in a minivan or station wagon (yes, with the wood paneling) and saw the country. We pulled over so he could show us rock formations which, while I hated it then, I find myself pointing them out to my kids now saying, "Papa could tell you what's special about that". He took the "scenic" route; he made us go camping. He and my mom took us to Yellowstone and to Mount Rushmore. He showed us the country. He took us to D.C. He took us to Chicago.  He made sure that when my brother walked across that stage for his college graduation thirteen hundred miles away in New York, we were all there to cheer for him. He let me take his arm the day I married C and he gave me away even though he didn't think I was ready. 

I cannot remember a time that I felt that he put us second. Not once. Not ever. 
He did not fail us. 

He left for work at five in the morning, every morning, so that he could do those things. So that he was present, so that he was active in our lives.

He expected the best of us without ever making us feel stifled. He believed we could in such a way that made us know we were able. Factual. Simple. 

So many times I saw him trying to process something in his head - an emotion, or a response, or something illogical - the way that I see Logan do nearly every day. Working so hard to understand the angle or the tone or the words. There is so much of my dad in the boy that looks so much like C. They share the same awkward humor, same whole-face-smile. There is still much of him in the younger one that looks like me. He must always be doing something. He sometimes walks to simply think or to not think. So very much the same. I'm very grateful for that. 

He has loved my mom fiercely for nearly forty years. He has raised five vibrant children and held my mother through the loss of one. He is the very best "papa" to eight living grandchildren and to two that I know laugh at his play as they watch over us all. 

His eyes twinkle when he laughs. He hums. He talks to himself as he works. 

He is both a man of science and a man of faith. 
A man of simple wants but of a complicated mind. 

He is the perfect example of fatherhood, of discipleship, of humility, of selflessness. 

I have watched his hands callus over and his hair turn to gray. I have learned about life watching a quiet man with a calming presence. He has always told his children to "do good things." 

He gave the highest example of that simplest request. 
He always gave his very best self even when he worried it wasn't enough. 

I promise you, Dad, there was never a time when it wasn't enough.