Jefferson or Burr…we know it’s lose/lose (Clinton or Trump? Trump or Clinton?)

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Dear Mr. Hamilton, your fellow federalists would like to know how you’ll be voting? Jefferson or Burr? We know it’s lose/lose. Jefferson or Burr. But if you had to choose? ~The Election of 1800 by Lin-Manuel Miranda

As I sat in the Richard Rogers Theater last month watching Hamilton: An American Musical (yes, I’ve been obsessed with it for over a year), the song, “The Election of 1800,” really jumped out at me. The lyrics (above) struck me as quite ironic at a time when many people feel this current election is lose/lose.

We tend to have short memories so it’s nice to have someone (thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda) remind us of our history. Our country has faced polarizing elections before. And we are still around to sing about it, two-hundred plus years later.

I’ve avoided posting anything political on social media because I just don’t have the desire energy to fight with anyone, nor do I think it’s effective. But what I did want to encourage everyone with is that we live in a great country where we get to vote. I know it’s cliché but it’s true. Not everyone has the ability to choose their leaders, but we have a say, even in a tough election like this one.

I can’t remember an election in my lifetime where it seemed so many people were voting against someone rather than for someone. There are exceptions in every case, but for the most part, my friends who are voting for Hillary don’t really seem to actually like her. I think most of them just can’t even imagine voting for Trump. So they are “with her” simply because they can’t stomach him.

And in the same way, most of my friends who are voting for Trump don’t really like him. They are often embarrassed by what he says or how he acts. But they are voting based on Supreme Court issues so they are not so much voting for Trump as they are voting against Hillary having the opportunity to put anywhere from one to four judges on the bench.

I have pretty strong views on the whole thing but I’m not going to discuss my personal feelings. Instead, I just want to encourage everyone to find someone to vote for. Exercise your rights and find a positive reason to vote for your choice rather than simply voting against someone else. Because I do believe each vote is important, if for no other reason than it gets us all involved. If each of us takes the time to vote, then no one can say they were disenfranchised. Everyone will play a role and the results will be honest.

Watching and memorizing all the words and constantly rapping the lyrics to Hamilton has given me a fresh appreciation for the risks that were taken and the lives that were forfeited to give us the ability to do what we will do tomorrow; freely elect our country’s leader.

I am confident that no matter who wins, the American spirit will continue. No man or woman is the savior of our country. We, the people, will have some healing and growing to do but I hope that the polarizing effect of this election will fade and we will all remember that we don’t have to agree with each other to love each other and work together (how boring would life be if we all felt exactly the same way about everything?)

Our country was founded by people who sharply disagreed on many fronts, but they all believed in and purchased our freedom. I’m thankful for that and regardless of who wins tomorrow, I will continue to be a proud American.

I’ll leave you with these words from one of our Founding Fathers and first President:

“We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth New Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times.” ~General George Washington (in a 1777 letter to General Philip Schuyler regarding the loss of Ft. Ticonderoga)

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Get my newest Irish Love Story here!

UPDATE 9/28/15: We did it!! Thank you to all of you who supported my Kickstarter campaign by pre-ordering Where the Yellow Flowers Grow! We made the goal with some time to spare. The book is currently at the editor’s and the cover design begins in a week or two! More updates to follow 🙂

 

8/30/15

Hi friends! I’m so excited to tell you that my second Irish love story,  Where the Yellow Flowers Grow, is written and will be ready this fall! Many of you are on my blog email list in order to get updates when new books are ready…so this is the first true update of that kind. In order to get my book out, I need people to pre-order it on Kickstarter.

Check out my kickstarter video below and click on the white K logo in the upper left corner of the video to see the details. I have ten days left to reach my goal (and if I don’t reach it, no one is charged and no Pre-orders will happen…so please pass this on to all your reader friends! Thanks!!!).

Many of you are also members of book clubs and I have some great book club rewards on my kickstarter campaign. Check it out!

Kickstarter is a way for creative projects to come to life with the support of the people who would buy the products anyway. There are rewards to every level of giving and if we meet the goal, it means I’ll have the books out in time for Christmas! (If we don’t meet the goal, no one is charged their pledge amount and obviously, no books will be out by Christmas.)

If you’re a fan of Where the Pink Houses Are, please share this link (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1536869021/where-the-pink-houses-are-millway-novel-book-2) with your reader friends! The more people we have involved, the easier it is to reach the goal!

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Would Jesus Cancel His World Vision Sponsorship?

village (mofinor)

I’m a storyteller at heart, so imagine with me…

You’re stirring a pot of sauce on the stove, thinking over your last interview. This job is exactly what you’ve been looking for. After growing up in the foster care system, the thought of a job that helps destitute children stay with their families, feeds them, clothes them and schools them…it’s just such a perfect fit.

You tell yourself not to get too excited. The third interview seemed to go really well but you probably won’t get in anyway.

When the phone buzzes on the counter, you take a deep breath and answer. And then you smile in wonder…

You’re in.

You’re in!! The job is yours. You stick the pot of sauce in the fridge and tell the family to get ready to go out to your favorite restaurant. It’s a night for celebration.

You call your friends and tell them the news. The job you’ve been hoping for is yours. And you breath a sigh of relief, knowing that finances won’t be so tight anymore. Not that the job is a windfall. But it’s a step up from your University salary and more than that, it’s exactly what you’ve been praying for.

The next morning you wake up with a renewed sense of purpose and you begin to formulate ideas for your new position. You can hardly wait to start.

You have orientation to attend so you put on your suit and head to your new office. As you make your way to your supervisor’s door, you notice some odd stares and whispers. You smooth your hair, wondering if something’s out of place. You glance at your feet to make sure both shoes are the same color.

What is going on?

Your supervisor opens her door before you reach it.

“Come on in,” she says with a strained smile. Warning bells go off in your head. Something is definitely wrong.

“Have a seat.” She indicates the chair across from her. “I have some bad news. And I’m really sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but we have to terminate your employment.”

It feels like a bowling ball has just lodged in your gut. “What happened?”

“I’m so sorry. I truly am. I think you are perfect for this position. But the policy change that allowed us to hire you has outraged many in the Conservative Christian community. So many have canceled sponsorships or threatened to, that we’ve had to reverse our position. We just couldn’t survive the backlash.

And in the end, we have to think about the children we serve. We couldn’t allow them to suffer. I wish I could do something but it’s completely out of my hands. I hope you’ll understand. Thank you for coming in.”

Dismissed. Let go.

You were in but now you’re out, once again.

You’re out.

Granted, this is a fictitious story. I don’t know anyone who was hired at World Vision and then let go. But it seems that all the righteous indignation and posturing on social media ignores the fact that we are talking about real people. Those affected by the decision and reversal of World Vision policy last week, are real. They are not fictitious. They are not a political statement. They are not an enemy. They are moms and dads with families and bills to pay and they are loved by God. But they probably don’t feel so loved by Conservative Christians right now. (Or in some cases, ever.) I can’t even imagine how they feel but I know the whole situation has made me angry.

In case you don’t know, here’s the deal. Early last week, World Vision U.S. President, Richard Stearns, announced in a Christianity Today interview that World Vision had made a “very narrow policy change” regarding “conditions of employment.” (To read the full article on ChristianityToday.com, click here.

In effect, based on their hiring policies that state that they require employees to practice abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage, they broadened their definition of marriage to include same-sex couples (in keeping with the laws of Washington State where they are headquartered).

Keep in mind, this was not a change in whether or not they will hire someone who is gay. They essentially have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. So it’s not like they were saying they previously would not hire gay people but now they were changing that policy. It was stating that they would no longer consider someone in a gay marriage as someone who was having sex outside of marriage (because sex outside of marriage goes against their hiring policies.)

The article by Celeste Gracey and Jeremy Weber in Christianity Today, March 24, 2014, states:

In short, World Vision hopes to dodge the division currently “tearing churches apart” over same-sex relationships by solidifying its long-held philosophy as a parachurch organization: to defer to churches and denominations on theological issues, so that it can focus on uniting Christians around serving the poor.

Given that more churches and states are now permitting same-sex marriages (including World Vision’s home state of Washington), the issue will join divorce/remarriage, baptism, and female pastors among the theological issues that the massive relief and development organization sits out on the sidelines.

World Vision’s board was not unanimous, acknowledged Stearns, but was “overwhelmingly in favor” of the change.

“Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues,” he said. “It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”

 

I saw a bunch of comments on Facebook, the day this was announced. Some were for it and some were against. That’s expected, any time you’re dealing with a polarizing issue. My post today is not meant to land on one side or the other of the raging debate over same-sex marriage. (I don’t have the energy to enter that debate right now.)

No, today’s post is more of an appeal to fellow Christians to consider the people affected by your protests. When I saw comments like, “I’m canceling my sponsorship. I don’t want to send money to a company that doesn’t maintain Christian values.” Or other similar posts, I just wanted to throw up. Seriously. There are so many things wrong with the way many Conservative Christians handled this situation. (Not all Christians, by any means. But way too many!) And, within 48 hours, World Vision caved to the pressure and reversed their decision.

They issued apology statements and assured their conservative, Evangelical Christian base that they were not initiating a change in their stance on the morality of gay marriage nor were they intending to question the authority of scripture. Basically, they said, “Ooops, my bad.”

So, now, I imagine all those people who called and yelled at the poor men and women who answer the phones at World Vision are feeling vindicated. As a matter of fact, now that they’ve been heard and the decision has been reversed, I doubt they will give it much thought anymore.

But honestly, I’m left feeling embarrassed to call myself a Christian, this week. To be clear, I’m not embarrassed of Christ. I don’t think the Jesus I serve would ever behave the way that a number of his followers did last week. To see people of faith, whom I respect, stating that they canceled their sponsorships because of World Vision’s policy change made me wonder if I were in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

How can a person who loves Jesus possibly think it’s okay to tell some little African girl, “Sorry sweetie, I can’t continue to feed you and help your family anymore because I don’t like the hiring policy of the program you’re in.” Are you freaking serious? How is that loving? How is that a good witness? How is that standing up for what’s right?  I can’t even comprehend it. Yet thousands of children were dropped.

I don’t believe that most of the people who reacted hastily and revoked their sponsorships are bad people. I really don’t. But I do think they behaved badly. (Which I understand because I’ve certainly behaved badly at times in my life.) I’m not trying to be judgmental. I’m just reacting to my puzzlement at how this was handled.

By all means, if you don’t agree with the stance a relief company takes on an issue, you can avoid sponsoring any more children and take your dollars elsewhere. I may not agree with your reasoning but certainly, that is your right. But to cancel current sponsorships? To take the picture of that little South American boy off your refrigerator because World Vision might hire a married gay person? Can we not see how upside down that is?

Should we refuse to support a Homeless Shelter who hires a woman who had an affair and got divorced?  Even if she claims to be a believer? Jesus didn’t even mention homosexuality but he mentioned divorce plenty. So, should we hold that line?

Um, no. That would be ridiculous in most Christian’s eyes. Yet people pulling their sponsorships from World Vision last week is the same thing, in my eyes.

The fact that children were dropped from sponsorship…that’s what drove me absolutely crazy about this whole thing. But I’m also so saddened by the message sent to the gay community. I believe the church has botched this issue over the years (myself included). And healing needs to take place, not more division!

I understand that the Evangelical Christian Church maintains that being gay is a sin. Well, even if it is (I’m not entering that debate either, btw…at least not today), so are lots of other things. Why is special evil status given to this one issue? Why are gay people made to feel like they are less worthy of Christ’s love? How must this uproar make them feel? Christians would rather let a child starve than allow a gay person to work in their organization? I’m sure that feels pretty crappy.

I haven’t asked any gay friends how they feel about this, yet. I actually feel too embarrassed to bring it up because there is no way I can defend or explain what Christians did. But I can’t imagine the gay community thinks too highly of the body of Christ right now. They probably wonder if there will ever be a place for them in the church. When I see things like this, it makes me wonder if there’s a place for me, either. Some days, I’m not sure I fit where I used to.

Again, I’m not intending to come across as judgmental. I’m just frustrated and disappointed. I wish the church, as a whole, would be more concerned with loving people like Jesus did, than they are with rallying the troops and calling for boycotts.

In closing, I believe an organization has the right to make their own policies within the law. And consumers have a right to support or not support whichever organizations they choose. I just think it’s a shame that Christians can be so blinded by this issue that they forget that they are talking about real people who have real feelings and who’ve been treated really badly by the church. And in addition, in this case, that the check they write every month goes to feed real children on the other side of the world, who don’t even know or care what a hiring policy is.

When I was younger, WWJD bracelets were all the rage in my youth group. “What Would Jesus Do?” It was a good question. And it still is.

 

I wrote this post a week ago and I’ve just kind of sat on it. Not sure I wanted to put it out there. But last night, I read a post by a guy named Ben Moberg that confirmed how I thought some people on the receiving end of this mess might feel about it. I don’t know much about Ben, other than that he’s a great writer/blogger who is a gay Christian. (I know many Christians think that’s not possible…to be gay and a Christian. But I believe it is.)

His post (read it here) made me so sad that I decided I would go ahead and publish this, even if it causes some backlash from my readers, friends, fellow church goers, etc.

I don’t think my post will make much of a difference in the debate. But if one person reads this and feels like they are not alone in their puzzlement or disappointment over what happened with World Vision last week…well that’s good enough for me.

P.S. The other reason I wasn’t sure if I should post this is that I’ll be out of the country all week and unable to access internet/email, etc. I didn’t want to start something and not be able to respond to comments and questions. But, after reading Ben’s post, I just couldn’t sit on my thoughts anymore. So, don’t take it personally if I don’t respond to comments right away. 🙂

 

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Happy Easter…He is Risen!

photo credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/upyernoz/2819155661/
The Empty Tomb!!  I’ve been there. It’s really empty 🙂    photo credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/upyernoz/2819155661/

Hello friends! Just a quick Easter post. We sang this song by Matt Maher in church this morning and it’s one of my favorites. Thought I’d share it with you on this very special day. As my pastor said this morning when talking about all the different religious choices out there, “I’m goin’ with the one who rose from the dead. Every time.” Enjoy!

Click here to hear the song on You Tube

Christ is Risen

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love

And bled for us
Freely You’ve bled for us

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bowed to none but Heaven’s will
No scheme of Hell, no scoffer’s crown
No burden great can hold You down

In strength You reign
Forever let Your church proclaim

[chorus]

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
The glory of God has defeated the night

Sing it, o death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
Our God is not dead, He’s alive, He’s alive

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Kaity’s Special Birthday

 

Re-posting this from last year in honor of her special day. Kaity would be 22 today…22 on 2/22. I know her mom, dad, brother and sisters still miss her bright smile. You are all in my prayers today!

 

She would be 21 today. Kaity lived life to the fullest. It’s cliche to say it. I know. But she did. This whole post will probably be full of cliches…but cliches come from truth and some times they just say it best!

 

I don’t know of anyone who packed more into a short 17 years of life than my niece, Kaity. She was a beautiful blond girl with a smile that lit a room. She was a star athlete and an elite musician. I think her mom, Sue, must have lived in her minivan for all those years taking her (and her brother Kevin) to practices and rehearsals all over town. I’m sure it felt overwhelming at times. I imagine Sue may have longed for a less active girl at times. But I know she doesn’t regret a single mile she put on her van, in hindsight. She gave a great gift to her daughter. She let her be fully Kaity. She didn’t limit her creativity or her energy and as a result, Kaity lived it up! She wrung every ounce of life out of those 17 years.

 

She was taken from us too soon in a fluke car accident on a November day. I can’t imagine the pain that her parents and siblings are still dealing with over three years later. I know there’s no way I can understand what they are going through. But in Kaity’s honor, I can learn from her.

 

I can live each day to the fullest. I can try new things. I can decide not to complain about having to drive my four kids all over town. And I can appreciate each day I have with my family because nothing is guaranteed.

 

Sue and Kieth, Kevin, Kinsey and Kara…you are in our thoughts and prayers today as your beautiful Kaity celebrates her 21st birthday in heaven. What a party we’ll have when we see her again.

Love,

rebekah

P.S. And Sue (I wish it were in person), Jordanne (Kaity’s Doppelganger) sends you a big hug! Love you!

 

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Pizza, Tacos and the Burnsai

I think I was in 6th grade when I last felt something like I am right now. Caron Gokey was the kind of friend that everyone wanted to be around. She was fun and spunky and totally confident in who she was. She wore Laura Ingalls-like braids and made them look cool. And I specifically remember belting out a bedroom mirror duet of Prince’s “1999” with hair-brush microphones and costumes of some sort. When I was around Caron, I forgot my troubles and just had fun. Then came the day she told us she was moving. All my friends were sad. I remember being among a group of weeping girls in school, all feeling like it was unfair. It was a deep sadness that I hadn’t ever encountered. I’d had friends move before that and I was sad about it but this was especially sad because everyone felt the loss and because Caron was a ray of sunshine. No one wanted her to leave.

I never saw her again. I don’t even remember where she moved to anymore. We may have written a letter or two but distance faded the friendship and I was left with a few fond memories.

I’m thinking about Caron today because I’m watching my kids navigate the loss of their friends who moved to Phoenix last weekend. The loss of our friends, really. I miss them all too. Sometimes you lose a friend to a move, but it’s a rare occasion when you lose eight friends at once. Yet that’s how it feels with this family because each member has been such a ray of sunshine in our lives.

The Unforgettable Burnsai
The Unforgettable Burnsai (photo credit Sjbridgeman Photography…used with permission)

The Burns family (whom my 15yr old renamed “The Burnsai” because how else would you pluralize “Burns”?) lived in our area for three years but it was really only this last year that we got to know them. Jen and I had tried to schedule a couple of family get-togethers yet they had always fallen through. picstitchBut in the first week of January 2012 we were on the calendar and our families were finally going to hang out together. Until I got the flu and we had to reschedule again and with a family of 6 trying to match up schedules with a family of 8, that took almost two months. So it was the end of February when we first got together and what I noticed immediately after they left that night was that we had finally found a family that everyone in my family loved to be with. That doesn’t happen often. My kids range from 8-17 so finding another local family where everyone has someone to hang out with is extremely rare. (The Burnsai kids range from 8-16.) From that night my kids started begging for another get-together and Jen told me her kids did too. We began scheduling more Burnsai visits and everyone looked forward to those nights. My kids don’t agree on many things. Other than their awesome parents, grandparents, etc. I can really only think of three things they all love: Pizza, Tacos and the Burnsai. I fully expected to have those three things in our lives for at least the next few years. Sigh.

So when they told me they were moving to Arizona to be closer to Jen’s extended family, I was stunned. It just felt too soon. Quietly, I was devastated because I was losing a precious friend and so were my kids. But what amazed me was the number of people with those same sentiments once the move was widely known. I’ve never seen anything like it. Our entire circle of friends was devastated. It was like Caron Gokey times a hundred!

From the time we found out they were leaving, our oldest five kids spent as much time together as possible. Someone said, “Why would you do that? You’ll just make it harder when it’s time to say goodbye.” That’s probably true. But I told my kids then and I still believe it now, after the horrific goodbyes, that I’d rather they love deeply and hurt deeply than keep themselves from loving to avoid the pain.

picstitch

More than once I heard Jen say she felt like she was attending her own wake. It did feel like that. My daughter, “Seventeen” said the other day, “Mom, I just lost my three best friends.” This from a girl who doesn’t really talk about how she feels and certainly never cries, yet I’ve seen more tears from her this week than I have in five years. A number of our friends spent the weekend together before the family left early Monday morning. Have you ever been in a room where sixteen kids were weeping and hugging and saying goodbye? Take it from me. It’s overwhelming and heart-wrenching but incredibly sweet at the same time.

So, how do you help your kids deal with life realities like this? People move. It’s part of life. But telling a teenager “That’s just the way it is,” doesn’t really work. I’m trying to help them walk the balance between encouraging their friends in their new adventure and being real about how much they miss them. It’s okay for them to be sad. It’s okay for them to mourn the loss of the time they’re used to spending together. They’re also mourning the loss of their expectations. They expected to continue getting together a couple times a week. They expected to have each other’s company at church and youth group each week. They expected to celebrate birthdays together. Now they have to find a new normal as long distance friends. But that’s not impossible.

A friend said to me, “We may be losing them as neighbors but not as friends.” That’s true. The world is a very different place than it was when Caron Gokey moved. We didn’t have cell phones, text messages, Facebook or even internet then. (Yes, I’m old.) So while this definitely changes the friendship, it doesn’t end it. I may not have five teens sitting on my couch a couple nights a week (sniff) but we get daily video messages and Seventeen and I have a new destination for our mother-daughter trip this summer after she graduates. I am truly grateful for the time we’ve had together as families, even if it was only for a short time. And who knows what the future holds…maybe we’ll end up in the same town again some day. For now, I guess we will just settle for more pizza and tacos.

 

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From the Plane

Hello all! I hope your holidays were lovely and just what you realistically expected (wink).

I’m writing to you from inside a plane sitting at the gate at JFK. (Technology is amazing.)

I’m with a group of people heading to the Dominican Republic on a medical missions trip. I’m so excited to have my fifteen year old son with me. We are looking forward to serving many people who have never even seen a doctor. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share with you when I return 🙂

So I just wanted to say a quick hello and let you know I’ll be back to writing regularly when I return. In the meantime, rather than a list of resolutions (which I rarely accomplish), a few years ago I started picking one word that would be my focus for the year.

I’ll share mine with you when I return and I hope you will consider sharing too!

Blessings!
Rebekah

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