Tag: Generations coming together

Sweet Sorrow at Christmas

Ah, Christmas! Bright lights, hustle and bustle, joyous music and celebrations….

Yet, hidden behind all the glitter, many people feel the pangs of sadness and loneliness more acutely during the Christmas season. If you have ever experienced a great loss at Christmastime, the holiday season awakens that grief again each year.

I know. My mother died on December 19, many years ago. My father was the pastor of a loving church at the time, and the people were sweet to us, though they also grieved the death of their beloved pastor’s wife. Our family found comfort in togetherness—my husband and I with our two toddlers, my sister, and our dad. After the funeral, we stayed and spent Christmas in our parents’ home, with everything around us to remind us of Mother. … But no mother/wife/grandmother. She simply and permanently was not here.

At a time when we celebrated the birth of Jesus who brought new life, we learned first-hand the awful separation and finality of death. The first night after she died, I lay awake in the guest bedroom listening to Daddy sobbing his heart out in the next room.

She was too young to die—in her forties. But she was gone.

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I wanted our toddler children to have fun, not just sadness, so we borrowed little sleds and took them out to play in the snowy woods. In the fresh, crisp air, laughter came as a wonderful relief, and was exactly what Mother would want for us. Maybe she saw us and smiled with joy.

Mother had a way of infusing Christmas with music, anticipation, beauty, delicious tastes and scents, warmth and surprises. She loved decorating the house and the church, preparing special music and programs for Christmas Sunday, often sewing new dresses for my sister and me, baking cookies, and taking us Christmas shopping.

I love Christmas, too; but even after many years, the bright lights, the biting scent of pine, the taste of cinnamon and cider, the making of fudge and fruitcake, the singing of carols, the ringing of Christmas bells, the decorating of the tree, the excitement of gift giving—all is sweet sorrow.

I wonder: Did sadness mix with joy for Mary, the mother of Jesus, when she carried her baby to the temple and heard Simeon prophesy her child’s death? He said, “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Mary didn’t understand yet that Jesus’ death as well as his life would bring eternal joy in the heavens and cause celebrations of his birth for centuries to come. But she would certainly experience heart-piercing sorrow and separation.

Years later, as Mary watched Jesus die a tragic, painful death, did she despair? Or did the memory of the miracles surrounding his birth and life give her hope? Life won out. His death brought our spiritual birth.

Now we know, because of his birth, life and death, we can live—and celebrate Christmas—in the certainty that death will not have the final victory.

That one Christmas has influenced every one of my Christmases since—the year my vibrant, young Mother died. Our bereaved family celebrated together with gifts and festive food. Then we drove up a snowy hillside to a fresh, flower-covered grave site. The contrast of the red-rose-and-holly covered grave to the icy, brown hills spoke to my warring emotions.

There, feeling the pain of death’s separation, I looked up into the evening sky and noticed the first star twinkling, and I smiled through my tears. Her physical presence is gone from us here. But someday we may be with her “there.” The realities of pain, suffering, and death are inescapable. But the hope of Christmas lives!


The story of the healing I have experienced in regards to my mother is found in the book, Journeys to Mother Love: Nine Women Tell Their Stories of Forgiveness and Healing.

A Child’s Poetic Expression of Faith on Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday

As we say, as

we sing, Glory to

the King almighty.

Glory.

Let us sing, let

us say Christ

has risen from

the grave! The

Lord is great,

the Lord is

good!

He forgave us

of our sins!!

 

—Written by one of my granddaughters (age 10 or 11 at the time) during an Easter Sunday church service as we celebrated Christ’s resurrection. I found this joyful verse written on the back of a bulletin I brought home in my purse. She gave me permission to share it but asked to remain anonymous. This child’s spontaneous expression of faith inspires me anew to praise the One who is risen indeed!

 

Clouds of Glory

An unseasonably warm day here in Colorado yesterday prompted my husband and me to go out birding. We took our nature-loving granddaughter with us. We drove toward the mountains west of us, into a little canyon formed by a ridge along which a small creek flows, where an American Woodcock has been spotted (a common bird in some states but rare in Colorado).

Our granddaughter suddenly exclaimed, “There’s a rainbow cloud. I love rainbow clouds.”

I looked out the car window, and sure enough, all the colors of the rainbow were displayed in this cloud against a blue sky. I’ve never seen such a cloud in my life. Sometimes at dusk the Colordado sky is rimmed all around with clouds glowing orange and pink. This was about 2:45 p.m., thoughnot even close to sunset. The day was sunny, warm (for February), and dry. Yet this one, lone cloud contained a rainbow. We quickly and excitedly took pictures with our phones.

The three of us shared a moment of awe and wonder.

The past week I had been reading an old book by the Scottish writer and minister, George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel. In it, he quoted the poem by William Wordsworth that begins,

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home…

Then MacDonald quoted Henry Vaughn’s poem:

Happy those early days, when I
Shined in my angel-infancy!
Before I understood this place….
And looking backat that short space
Could see a glimpse of His bright face;
When on some gilded cloud, or flower
My gazing soul would dwell an hour
And in those weaker glories spy
Some shadows of eternity;
From God, who is our home

That sense of wonder that is part of childhood, that makes children spiritually sensitive, and that perhaps is a trailing cloud of the glory from which we each came when God created us a living soul, born into this world … I want to nurture this sense of wonder and awe as I become older. I want to see the rainbow clouds when they appear so briefly in the sky. I want to see and wonder at a little bird that surprisingly shows up in cold Colorado in February to forage along a tiny, protected, flowing stream full of watercress and fallen cottonwood leaves before flying on to its faraway spring destination.

George MacDonald wrote, “To cease to wonder is to fall plumb-down from the childlike to the commonplace—the most undivine of all moods intellectual. Our nature can never be at home among things that are not wonderful to us.”

 

 

A Spiritual Adventure Story

GUEST POST

by Dr. Mike Parker

On Kitten Creek: Searching for the Sacred by Nancy Swihart is a remarkable, modern day adventure story about how one family, grounded in Christian love and guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, developed a Christ-honoring community. The power of these verses is fulfilled in her book and life:

In Psalm 71:18, we are encouraged to “declare God’s power to the next generation, His mighty acts to all who are to come.”

Psalm 90:12 tells us to “number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

As I read Nancy’s story, I remembered my own family’s journey… When our first military assignment took us to Kansas, we were blessed with a life-long friendship with the Swihart family as well as our involvement with Wellspring Ministries. My three children, my wife, and I spent many a happy day frolicking on the Swihart farm, enjoying the uniqueness that only farm life can hold, as well as being impacted by the spiritual adventures that took place there on Kitten Creek. Of particular interest to my animal-loving children was the variety of animals found there, which the Swiharts wove into their ministry (and Nancy into her book) much like C.S. Lewis did in his Narnia stories!

This is a life-changing book as it points to self-introspection in regards to how our own lives might be used to further the Lord’s Kingdom here on this earth.

As a retired U.S. Army soldier and now a professor at the University of Alabama, I was impressed by the Wellspring team’s openness to so many college students… their willingness to simply be present, to listen, and to provide a relational community where young people could experience faith in action.

Nancy’s memoir guides her readers to our Savior and encourages a lifetime of focus on Him and the gospel. It reminds us that God provides, corrects, leads, and answers our prayers and needs as we continually seek His presence in our lives. The importance of remembrance is emphasized as the Lord incorporates our whole lives into the strength of our witness for Him, and the value of praying and thinking the Scriptures is encouraged.

In a personal application of this book, though us city folk do not inhabit a farm in Kansas, we do have a small cabin on a river in the Appalachian mountains in north Alabama. We are now inspired to place a Christ-focus in our times there for our family and friends.

On a professional note, I am part of research and ministry with aging congregations across the world. Our team plans to recommend Nancy’s inspirational book as an encouragement to older persons of faith to share their Christ-honoring stories with the next generation and to remind adult children to capture the stories of their parents and grandparents. Nancy provides insightful suggestions and resources about how to tailor and accomplish this. Her own book is a superb example of how one’s own family story can impact this world for the Lord and His life-saving mission.

–Dr. Mike Parker, Professor, University of Alabama, Associate Professor, UAB Medical School, Department of Geriatric Medicine, Non-Resident Scholar, Duke Center for Spirituality and Health


 

When a Young Father Has Cancer

“When I hear the word “cancer” … There’s deep disappointment.

“I feel I am letting my family down.

“… My body has been invaded.

“Dear God, comfort them! I can’t right now.”

“The hardest part… is not being able to pick up my son when he is close to tears.

“I love you and I know it hurts. Put your faith in me.”

During chemo … it is hard to focus on anything for more than 5 minutes.

Moments together turns into hope, a hope that is reachable and lasting.

My children provide me with strength needed to move forward. I can forget my condition when they are with me.

Cancer has a strong grip, not just on the body, but also on the mind. Even though I am now “healthy” and have not had to face it head-on in a while, it still rears its ugly head. This helps:

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 MSG)

A lot of who I am today comes from who my dad has been for years. I thank the Lord for the gift of an earthly father who just loved me!


Drawings and text excerpted from the book Creation of Calm: A Cancer Survivor’s Sketchbook Story by Mark Fraley

Senior Athletes and Writers

I experienced the 2017 Senior Olympics last week in Birmingham, Alabama. My husband, Larry, and his basketball team competed at the Senior Games, representing Colorado. They played 10 basketball games (half court, 3-on-3) in 4 days, against teams from states such as New York, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Nebraska. The competition was fierce. The camaraderie was fun. The determination was palpable. The overcoming spirit was inspirational.

We wives cheered our husbands to victory. We also enjoyed watching the women’s teams and the many sports represented in the Senior Games by men and women athletes, ages 50 to 100+.

Here’s a photo from one of the games that led to Silver Medals in their division:

I’m proud of my husband. He scored 33 points in two different games. That’s him dribbling the ball in these photos.

In May (last month) Larry attended a writers conference with me (we’re pretty supportive of each other’s interests). At the conference, I taught two workshops, one for poets, and one for “senior” writers.

Senior athletes and senior Christian writers have much in common. Both have depth of experience and perspective. Both have developed their skills over the years. Both have much to offer. Both have sometimes had to push through the pain. And both have learned to give it all they’ve got! Both are living in a great time of life and in a great time in history, when opportunities abound to use their gifts, callings, and opportunities. Both are going to leave legacies and examples for upcoming generations to follow.

The athletes earns medals and ribbons. The writers may win awards on earth, but are more importantly “laying up treasures in Heaven.”

Our Colorado team with their silver medals. All except Mike, who had to go run a race in the Track & Field events.

“Trail Angels” for Jesus in Israel

(In Hebrew with English subtitles)

Judith Galblum Pex writes from Eilat, Israel:

Shalom dear friends,

…We just want to share with you a short video clip that the Israel Broadcasting Company made about the Shelter Hostel as part of their new digital series about Trail Angels. I mentioned our interaction and help with the Israel Trail hikers in my book, Come, Stay, Celebrate: The Story of the Shelter Hostel in Eilat, Israel.

On the original website from the Broadcasting Company, the video already has more than 156,000 views. Here’s the link to the video on YouTube [The video is embedded above.] where you can also share it with your friends. To read the English subtitles, just press on the “settings” button on the lower right side of the screen, a cogwheel, and click on subtitles – English.
 
 
With love and blessings,
John and Judy

When John and Judy Pex, Israeli believers in Jesus, hiked the Israel National Trail in their late 50s, it was life changing. A challenging trail that runs from the southern to the northern tip of Israel, through many types of terrain—deserts, coast, cities, and mountains. Judy wrote about the experience in Walk the Land: A Journey on Foot through Israel. John and Judy were helped along the way by “trail angels,” and they decided to sign up to be trail angels themselves. They offer one free night in their hostel in Eilat, close to the southern end of the Trail.

As you can see in the video, young Israelis like to walk the trail and often take the Pexes up on their offer. At the Shelter Hostel, they offer hikers a bed for the night, meals, help with phone calls, and advice in starting out on the Trail. All guests at the Shelter Hostel also have opportunity for spiritual discussion, fellowship, and worship.

This is just one more way the John and Judy Pex have found to share the truth and love of Jesus. Judy tells about many more ways God has worked and helped them reach out to thousands of people through the years—tourists, travelers, students, refugees, Jews, Gentiles, and Arabs—in the book, Come, Stay, Celebrate: The Story of the Shelter Hostel in Eilat, Israel.

We can pray for John and Judy and their family in Israel. We can also learn from them and seek to find ways to share the life and love of Jesus with people in our spheres of influence.

Mother Love

We feel sentimental, grateful, or maybe sad, on Mother’s Day.

Mother love is beautiful. In many ways it reflects God’s love. It is something to celebrate.

But giving and receiving love between mothers and children doesn’t always come easy. So many obstacles can get in the way. What do we do, then, with mother wounds and losses, the conflicts, and the unmet needs we may carry? In the book, Journeys to Mother Love, nine women – mothers and daughters of all ages – share how they, with Christ’s help, overcame hurts and conflicts, experienced relational healing, and found new freedom to give and receive love. Women with broken places in their relationships with mother or child can begin their own healing journey as they read:

“Run, Run, as Fast as You Can” by A.R. Cecil

“She Did Her Best” by Treva Brown

“Take Care of Your Mother” by Verna Hill Simms

“Finding the Blessings in Alzheimer’s” by Kerry Luksic

“Beauty from Barrenness” by Kyleen Stevenson-Braxton

“When I Feel Forsaken” by Catherine Lawton

“Finishing Well” by Ellen Cardwell

“Walking My Mother Home” by Ardis A. Nelson

“White Knuckles” by Loritta Slayton

What Readers and Reviewers have said about Journeys to Mother Love:

“From murder to manipulation, Alzheimer’s to abandonment, through barrenness and bewilderment, this crisply-written compilation of stories is arresting and unflinchingly honest. You will find elements of your own journey in all of them; you will want to join the company of these courageous women who are now traveling with less of a limp and more of a leap.”

− Alice Scott-Ferguson, author of Mothers Can’t Be Everywhere, But God Is

“An anthology of heartfelt true stories by Christian women about the healing gifts of God, and how He helped mothers bridge rifts between themselves and their children or stepchildren…. Profound, powerful … highly recommended.”

− Midwest Book Review

“The emotional distance between a mother and daughter can be painful and prolonged. The heart-wrenching stories in Journeys to Mother Love reveal how God can bridge this chasm with healing and love.”

− Nancy Parker Brummett, author and speaker


The book is available in paperback and kindle version at Amazon.

Visit the Journeys to Mother Love BLOG

Giving a Voice to the Voiceless

A Vietnam Vet Poet

This is my cousin Troy. I just met him a few years ago when I discovered my mother’s birth family. (My mother was taken out of her home at 21 months of age, declared a “neglected child” and separated from her many siblings—though adopted by a good, loving couple).

This newfound relative, James Troy Turner, is a disabled Vietnam veteran. As a young man he was a hippy, a sometime cowboy, served in the Navy, and worked as a mechanic. He has a devoted little trained service dog named Pedro. He’s had a hard life but he’s a believer in Jesus. And Troy is a poet, so we have that in common. I helped him gather his poems into a book and published it through Cladach. He’s been selling the books to his friends and neighbors in Northeastern Colorado, and it’s for sale on Amazon. He writes gritty poems about life.

I share this, in part, because I desire to work for well being in our world by helping give voice to people who feel forgotten, overlooked, neglected, unseen, and unheard.

An Early Lesson in Racial Reconciliation

Corcoran-bday-1958

 

Children can feel the tensions, prejudices, and injustices that can exist around them.

When my sister and I were about 6 and 7 Daddy pastored a church in a coastal town in Central California, where the parsonage was in a racially-mixed neighborhood. We thought nothing of the fact that we played with Black children. We went into each others’ homes and each others’ apron-clad mothers gave us drinks of water and fresh-baked cookies. I only remember feeling acceptance and friendliness.

Then we moved to a valley town where 2/3 of the student body in our elementary school were Black and Mexican-American, many the children of transient farm workers. In this school in the 1950s, I first experienced racial tension. There I first heard the “N” word used. We were naive little girls, unprepared for the sights of gangs fighting on the playing fields, busloads of kids shaking their fists and yelling out the windows. As insults and epithets flew, I thought, “What is this?!” At the age of 9 I didn’t know anything about the civil rights movement taking place in our country.

I do remember Daddy driving us to a farm workers camp and the shock and sadness I felt when I saw how some of my classmates lived. No sidewalks, no trees, no grass. Just dirt and squalid shacks that couldn’t really be called buildings. No indoor plumbing, out by the cotton fields, with no respite from the hot sun.

Some of our little friends at school bragged about how they didn’t have to go to school during the cotton harvest. They were going to pick cotton with their family and make lots of money! Bev and I went home and told our parents we wanted to pick cotton and make money and not have to go to school! Mother shook her head. “Girls, you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s back-breaking work. The cotton plants cut your hands and make them bleed. And the farm workers get paid very little. Those children’s parents need the extra money their children make just to help them subsist.” I had a hard time believing my mother. When we drove by fields of ripe cotton, the bursting heads looked white and soft as cotton balls.

We were learning about divides between people groups that couldn’t be crossed.

My second-grade sister had a more personal learning experience. She got into an argument with another little girl on the playground, probably over the rules of a four-square game or something. It just happened that the other girl was Black. As the girls hurled insults at each other, the worst thing my sister could think to say was, “You’re nothing but a big chocolate sundae.” Understandably, the girl took offense. She could have yelled back: “Well, you’re just plain vanilla ice cream.” Instead she hit my sister pretty hard and by the time I showed up on the scene, there was my sister on the ground, crying. I got scared and ran home (we lived across the street from the school) to tell our parents Bev was hurt. Daddy came to the school, found that only Bev’s pride was wounded, and made her apologize to the girl.

Well, that was really hard for Bev to do. But later, she and the little Black girl became friends. When Bev had her 8th birthday party, she invited this girl. The picture above shows the two of them with me (age 9) in the middle.

If only reconciliation were always that simple.

Or maybe it is that simple:
Wise and caring authority figures who bring us together, don’t hide from suffering, help us face the truth about ourselves and each other, encourage asking for and receiving forgiveness, then give us opportunities to celebrate our common humanity. 

%d bloggers like this: