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Memorial Day Post Round-Up

On Memorial Day, we honor those who have died in service to our country.   Today I don’t have anything profound to say.  Instead I’m sharing a few of the articles that I’ve read or website I’ve visited as I’ve been thinking about this day and preparing to explain it to my son.

As A Nation, We Have To Remain Worthy Of Their Sacrifice

Weekly Address: Honoring Our Fallen Heroes This Memorial Day | President Obama

Like generations of heroes before them, these Americans gave everything they had—not for glory, not even for gratitude, but for something greater than themselves.  We cannot bring them back.  Nor can we ease the pain of their families and friends who live with their loss.

But we are the Americans they died to defend.  So what we can do—what we must do—is fulfill our sacred obligations to them, just like they fulfilled theirs to us.  We have to honor their memory.  We have to care for their families, and our veterans who served with them.  And as a nation, we have to remain worthy of their sacrifice—forever committed to the country they loved and the freedom they fought for and died for.

Honor the Fallen Database | Military Times

Honoring those who fought and died in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn

A Letter to My Children on Memorial Day | Bronwyn Lea at Huffington Post

For while I don’t understand and can’t condone the reasons for all the wars the U.S. has engaged in, I now know that Memorial Day is not about the politics of war. It is about the individuals and families I now know by name whose fathers, brothers, sons and daughters have traveled far away in our service at great cost and at great risk to themselves and their loved ones. I have now sat with a friend whose father was killed in Lebanon. Memorial Day honors those who have fallen.

At Dover Air Force Base, Bringing Home The Fallen With Grief And Joy | Rachel Martin at NPR

“I’ve heard that wail from a father, and the picture in my mind is the father of a Marine, and the transfer case has come off the plane and it’s been put into the vehicle. It’s been closed up. We’ve saluted. And the vehicle starts to pull off and the honor guard is marching behind. And this guy reaches out — I can see it — he just reaches out like this, and he just screams, for his son.”

I hope that you take time this weekend to remember those who lost their lives, to thank their families, to visit a cemetery, or to explain the weight of Memorial Day to your children.

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Currently Reading: A Beautiful Disaster (+ GIVEAWAY)

 The wilderness opens our eyes to the intrinsic value of Christ’s body by stripping us of our independence.  It shows us how dependent we are on the gifts and graces of God.  Most often God infuses these graces into our lives through the lives of other believers.  Among others we can better figure out what is good for us.  With them we can discern what is necessary for our well-being.  We live life together for the good of one another and for the good of all creation.  It is together that we live a robust life in the kingdom of God and bring life to others.  It’s together that we survive in the wilderness.

About six years ago a new Resident Director was hired for my college dormitory.  Her name was Marlena Graves.  Within a few months I was babysitting her sweet daughter and getting to know her and her husband as well.  At the end of that year, I applied to work as a Resident Assistant and spent the next two years working under her leadership.  Since then, Marlena has been a friend, a mentor and a surrogate family member.  Now we’re fellow members of the Redbud Writers Guild.

a beautiful disaster

When I first met Marlena, I’ll never forget her casually saying, “I’m a writer.  I am working on a book.”

Today I’m so thrilled to be reviewing that very book.

A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness is special to me because it was written by a friend.  But I have found it to be special for more than that.  This book is a treasure field, chock-full of wisdom.  I read it slowly, savoring and pondering its truths.  I am sure that others will find it as life-giving as I did.

Marlena writes about the desert wilderness of the spiritual life.  Dorothy Greco rightly refers to Marlena as a “wilderness guide”, one who has spent time learning the lessons of the desert and now leads others through their own spiritual deserts.

In A Beautiful Disaster Marlena writes powerfully about her dysfunctional childhood.  “I lived in a world of turmoil…. I needed God to show me his path through the desert wilderness of poverty, DUIs, adultery, mental illness, prison, a house fire, the death of loved ones, and my own bad decisions.”  Marlena found God in the wilderness of her childhood and learned lessons there that served her well as she grew.  In her adult life, she encountered more wilderness experiences.  Yet instead of despairing in these deserts, Marlena found God there.  She discovers that “desert land is fertile ground for spiritual activity, transformation, and renewal.”

Rather than being preachy or platitudinous, as many writers tend to be when discussing suffering, Marlena’s tone is consistently gracious and humble.  The book is brimming with wisdom, intertwined with stories, Scripture and quotes.  The result is a thoughtful, serious, and beautiful guide.

After just one reading, my copy of A Beautiful Disaster is marked up with notes and scribbles throughout.  Each chapter seemed better than the last.  I will certainly be revisiting this book many times in the future and will be giving copies away as well.  Out of all the books I’ve read on trials and suffering, this will definitely be the one that I recommend to others.

Finally, it seems impossible that I write any endorsement of A Beautiful Disaster without also endorsing its author.  As I said before, Marlena is a friend and a mentor.  I can attest that Marlena’s life matches her message.  She is sincere in her pursuit of Jesus and is constantly encouraging others towards him.  Marlena reflects Jesus in her writing as well as in her life.

 

 We come out of the desert with a healthy dose of self-forgetfulness and a firm resolve to serve God and others in love.  Like Paul and the other apostles, we resolve to remember the poor and the afflicted.  The desert has made us more compassionate towards those who are suffering, and so we seek to do what we can because we remember what it is like to despair and to feel alone.  Serving God has become our pleasure.  We live for the sake of God and others, for we have experienced the beauty, the brevity, and the fragility of life.

 

Because I believe in this book, I am buying a copy with my own money and giving it away to a reader.  To be entered in the giveaway, please do the following:

1. Share this review with your friends/followers on a social media network

2. Leave a comment below telling me where you shared it!

This giveaway will close on 27 August 2014.  I’ll use a random number generator to choose the winner and will post it on 28 August.  When you comment, please make sure you include a way for me to contact you (email, twitter, etc) in case you’re the winner!

 

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What Kept Me in Church Was Communion

What Kept Me In Church Was Communion
(Featured image is: “Do This” by Matt via Creative Commons license on Flickr)
 
 
I am one of those Millennials who seem to be leaving the Church in droves (at least, according to everything I’ve been reading in Christian books, magazines and blogs).  
 
I grew up in the Church, was home-schooled and spent two years working with a Christian ministry before heading to a Christian college where I met my husband.  The perfect (American) Christian story, it seemed. 
But I am also a critic.  
 
When I left college, I took a long, hard look at Christianity.  I used to believe in all of it.  But I was no longer sure.  I had seen plenty of people who were Christians in the same way that other people are golfers.  It was their hobby; it was how they made friends, how they chose their reading material and it dictated where they spent their Sunday mornings.  
 
But I knew that if I was going to stick with this Christianity thing, it had to be something more.  Like so many of my generation, I wanted to be a Christian not because I was raised that way, but because I was convinced that I couldn’t live an honest life apart from Christ.
For a while I wasn’t sure where I would end up.  After twenty-four years of weekly sermons and four years of daily chapel services, I didn’t miss preaching.  I found community other places (in our case, with fellow military families).  I listened to beautiful music, saw beautiful art that spoke to me and propelled my soul into states of worship. To be unflatteringly frank: I didn’t miss Church.
But we kept going.  
 
And, like I assumed proper for a believer, I used small talk and a smile to dam up my doubts. 
Eventually, we started attending a new church.  They had good preaching and music.  The community was strong.  But what struck me was the fact that they practiced Communion every week.  I’ve attended many churches in my life, but this was the first time where Communion was an integral and expected part of each service. 
The first time I took Communion there, I was left shaken.  “Why?” I wondered.  “I’ve taken Communion so many times and never felt particularly moved.”  There were small differences, actual loaves of bread and goblets of wine, instead of stale wafers and tiny cups of grape juice.  But there was more.   
There was something in Communion that I couldn’t deny.

When my eyes locked into the lay minister’s and he said, “Christ’s Body, broken for you,” I believed him.  When I dipped that scrap of bread, humble yet holy, into the communion wine, it sent shivers down my spine.  “Christ’s blood, spilled for you.”  This was the Gospel, simple and true.
It wasn’t a fancy program or a new method to “reach my generation.” It was following the example of Christ when He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  And I did: I remembered Him.
When the cynicism of Christianity scabbed over my heart, the simplicity of the Gospel ripped it open again. In my remembrance of Him, the offenses I held against the modern Church faded away.  
 
Had I seen Bible verses spewed as weapons against those we were supposed to love?  Absolutely.  But Christ’s Body was broken for me.  Was I disgusted that some Christians (including myself at times) acted like a person’s love for Jesus could be determined by their hemline or haircut?  Yes.  But Christ’s blood was poured out.  For me!
Each week it was the same.  I appreciated that our Church had good music and preaching.  And I learned and I grew from those.  But what brought me back each week was Communion.  I couldn’t wait until the end of each service to migrate from our seats to the stations at the front.  Each week I went away affected, changed.  It never got old.
Shauna Niequist writes in Bread & Wine,

 “Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater – mystery and tradition and symbol.  Bread is bread, and wine is wine, but bread-and-wine is another thing entirely.  The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily.”

Growing up Protestant, I somehow got the impression that I shouldn’t take the Lord’s Supper too seriously.  “It’s just a sign, a symbol, after all”, said the voices in my head.  But I stopped caring about those voices.  I wasn’t sure what was going on as I partook in Communion, but I knew that it was changing me. 
In her spiritual memoir about converting to Christianity, Lauren Winner writes how, before she was even eligible to receive communion, she insisted on attending a church that practiced it each week.  “I didn’t understand what it was, exactly, or how it worked, but I knew, deeply, that the Eucharist was somehow essential, that it was the heart of what we do in those spired buildings”.  
 
Her words resonate with me: communion isthe heart of what we do, which makes me wonder why many churches practice it so infrequently.  Why have preaching and music been elevated to a weekly status, but communion has been pushed to a monthly or even quarterly occurrence?  
 
It’s as if we’ve somehow decided that God can reach people with words (preaching), but He doesn’t really use actions (communion).  
 
But sometimes I wonder if there are others like me in the church; people who have heard enough words and really just want to see Jesus. 
And that is what I love about communion: it is so clearly about Jesus.  
 
In spite of my cynicism, I couldn’t deny Him when faced plainly with the truth of His sacrifice: His body, broken, His blood, spilled.  It is Christ, and him crucified (I Corinthians 2:2).  
 
And after seeing so many programs aimed at “reaching people”, I appreciate that communion is free of gimmicks.  It’s eating and drinking, and yet it is so much more.  Each time I partake, I remember that Jesus Himself established this act and that the church has practiced it through the ages with these same words and these same elements.  Amazing. 
Each week my soul is rattled anew as I receive Christ’s body and blood.  What that even means I’m not even sure.  But C.S. Lewis reminds me that the command, after all, was Take, eat: not Take, understand”.  
 
And so, I take and eat with joy.  And hope that one day, perhaps, I’ll understand.     
 
 
 
 
 
 
**another post on communion: broken and spilled.

 

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