Merry Christmas Eve from Thessaloniki

The wind is rattling the door shutters in the apartment, but inside it is cozy and calm. It’s what I’ve always wanted Christmas Eve to be, yet what it rarely is. Thessaloniki itself is a bustling commotion of people, strolling in plazas and stopping at cafes and shops along the way. There is a festive sense of waiting, evoking childhood memories anticipating the joy and surprises of Christmas.

Thessaloniki is not a new city for us, so we drink in the familiarity even as we explore new places and sights. It’s a special city – a city of miracles and churches, of children caroling out of tune on Christmas Eve, pocketing money and chocolates, and priests coversing with strangers in coffee shops. Time stops as you sit in cafes or tavernas, in churches or apartments.


Being Orthodox we feel at home in these churches, the saints guiding us through every icon, an urgency and expectancy in their gaze, as if to say “Watch and wait – you’ll see. These things you worry over, the cares you hold tight, the burdens you bear – lay them down for a moment. Stop for a moment. Be enveloped in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.” This faith is like this city – familiar yet new; timeless, enduring, ageless yet ever-available.

It is good to stop. It is a gift to be still. My life has taken on the familiar urgency of a large American city and I find myself longing for the time we had last year, longing to stop and reflect. We try and set aside time, and yet the endless tasks, scrolling, time-wasting, and real work creep in making us believe that we are trapped.

As I stop this afternoon, I can’t help but think about birthing babies. It’s something I know well, my earned fact as it were. Each birth was unique – seemingly the only commonality being myself and my husband. But there was one other thing that was common in my births, and that is that time stopped. Nothing mattered but the birth of that baby. Nothing. Each labor pain was separated by what felt like an eternity. And then, with the “I can’t take it any more” pain of transition, the work of pushing began until a cry broke time, and a baby was born. Time stopped, a baby born, a miracle.

The mystery of birth and the mystery of the incarnation – both invite us into a timeless miracle. A baby born, a world changed.

This afternoon, in the quiet of a rented apartment in a city in Greece I will myself to enter into the timelessness that I entered into during those long hours of labor. I will myself to enter the timelessness that believing the mystery of incarnation requires, the timelessness that this city, this season, and my faith urge me toward. The timelessness that birthing babies necessitates. The timelessness of a “long expected Jesus, born to set his people free.”

Merry Christmas Eve! May you too enter the timelessness of the miracle of Christmas.

Christmas Eve Reflection from Thessaloniki

Every year I write a Christmas Eve Reflection. Usually it’s in a fully decorated home with Christmas music playing in the background. It’s written in the midst of the frenzied joy of Christmas in the West and I usually have presents to wrap and stockings to fill.

This year I write it from the sunshine of Thessaloniki and a 4th floor apartment. The sun is starting to set and the fading light peaks through floor to ceiling windows. My youngest son is sitting near me in what can only be described as a “companionable silence” – trite except it’s not. It is delightful.

Our Christmas reflects the year we have had. It is unusual but we are grateful. There is little stress as we prepare for a midnight Liturgy and the dawning of Christmas morning. It is a gift.

Earlier today I sat in a salon and got my hair cut. The longer I sat, the more Greek I became and the result pleased the stylist greatly. Later I walked toward Aristotle Square, joining crowds of cafe goers, musicians, and city dwellers. I thought about my family members who are not here and missed them.

I got back to the apartment where we are staying and read about a friend who is dying. She has lived life so well, she has loved so well. Tears and the juxtaposition of the joy of a holiday combined with an imminent death flood over me.

I am so aware this year of the many events in all of our lives that we keep hidden from the spotlight of social media. Despite what the social media developers would like us to believe, we share only the highlights and the well-edited photographs of our lives. But the truly important things we share with those who don’t need edits or highlights, those who walk us through shadows and into the light of grace.

The betrayals and separations, emergency room visits and hospitalizations are left out of the public narrative. We don’t share the trips to the counselor’s office and the hard soul work of confession. We don’t share the nights of tears we shed for those we love or the sadness of a womb that is empty. We don’t share those moments of grace when we have prayed for the impossible and have received.

We share the newborn baby – we don’t share the 35 hours of labor that birthed the baby.

And this is as it should be. We don’t have the capacity to be emotionally naked with everyone, nor should we cast our great pearls of grace before the swine of social media.

Instead we live life in the light and shadows of daily grace, periodically posting snapshots of that grace for the world outside to see.

So as you see my snapshots, and as I see yours, may we not yield to the temptation to believe that these are anything more than snapshots. May we remember that there is enough sadness in all our lives to crush us, and enough grace to raise us up.

Most of all, may we remember that a baby in a manger changed our world and hope was born.

Merry Christmas Eve dear friends!

A Life Overseas – ‘Tis the Season of Incongruity

Deck the halls with calls for charity! Fa-la-la-la-laaa, la-la-la-la!

‘Tis the season of incongruity! Fa-la-la-la-laaa, la-la-la-la!

#CottageChristmas or starving children? Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!

My heart is caught and I cannot win this thing! Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-laa.


I don’t know about you, but I can’t do this. The sense of incongruity is overwhelming me this Christmas. I go from essays and photos of unbelievable beauty to my current reality, which includes messy, messy relationships, rain and mud up to my knees, no sign of Christmas lights and beauty,and long, long hours of no electricity.

I scroll through Instagram and the abundance of beauty is eye-popping. Pristine cottages bedecked with lights and color and living rooms with soft lights and all white furnishings with that splash of red and green color that just makes them pop. And then in the next picture, I catch my breath as I see a starving child in Yemen and an organization begging the world to take notice.  I breathe fire as I see another picture reminding me of the never-ending war in Syria and the continued devastation on people. And it hits home as I take my own pictures here in Kurdistan and I am reminded that there aren’t enough resources to meet the needs of the population, honor killings are still part of the landscape, and we can barely get funds for a single project.

‘Tis the season of incongruity – the season where the contrast feels too stark and I don’t feel like I have the ability to cope with these conflicting images.

And yet…

And yet, God’s story has always been a story of conflicting images. There is the image of the manger and the image of the cross, the image of judgement and the image of mercy, the image of truth and the image of grace. What I am seeing and feeling is nothing new to God.

God came into a world of contrasts. A world of the beauty and the broken. He came in a way that was so gentle, so unassuming – how could a baby threaten anyone? He came into a setting that was the height of incongruity – a king in a manger. For 33 years he lived as one who is unknown, going through daily life as we do – an image that is so mind boggling I stop thinking about it. We are told that he set aside greatness and “humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death” – a violent, horrific death. And then, the glorious resurrection and the words that we live by every single day: “He is not here! He is risen!”

My heart longs for peace and harmony in a world of broken incongruity. Read the rest of the piece here.

#OnlytheGood – Christmas 2017

It’s Friday and I’m sitting by our Christmas tree. I could sit here all day, just writing, thinking, dreaming, and reading. I know that December 25th is a constructed holiday, that most probably the birth of Christ did not happen in winter, yet I am so grateful that we have this joy to brighten days that could feel too long in their gloom; too sad and cold and lifeless. Instead, for a brief time we get tree lights and the Advent, the anticipation of a birth that changed the world.

I miss my dad this Christmas. It’s the little things – talking to him on the phone, ordering an LL Bean sweater for him, buying him small gifts. He was a wonderful man to buy gifts for – always appreciative, always surprised. I miss his smile and his enthusiasm for life. I miss his presence. Those people who we lose are never too far from us. We can be reminded by the smallest things that they are gone. Tears come unexpectedly, but I am reminded in these thoughts and memories that to love is to hurt.

We usually have a houseful, but this Christmas it will just be a few of us. These are the times when I’m grateful for good friends to share Christmas Eve, grateful that through the changes life brings, there is a foundation of faith – not in an outcome, but in a God whose very character is consistent. In the words of my sister-in-law, Tami, he is “Utterly faithful and completely unpredictable”.

In this Christmas edition of #Onlythegood, there are a few lovely things to share.

The first is this beautiful piece by One Voice Children’s Choir. My brother Stan shared it and I’ve listened to it several times. I’ve included the words for you to ponder.

Starlight shines, the night is still
Shepherds watch from a hill
I close my eyes, see the night
When love was born
Perfect child gently waits
A mother bends to kiss God’s face
I close my eyes, see the night
When love was born
Angels fill the midnight sky, they sing
Hallelujah, He is Christ, our King
Emmanuel, Prince of peace
Loves come down for you and me
Heaven’s gift, the holy spark
To let the way inside our hearts
Bethlehem, through your small door
Came the hope we’ve waited for
The world was changed forevermore
When love was born
I close my eyes, see the night
When love was born*

A baby born on a Pakistan International Airlines Flight! 

On December 12th, on a flight from Medina, Saudi Arabia to Multan, Pakistan a woman gave birth to a baby girl. The airline staff handled it beautifully and all is well. The baby girl will fly free for the rest of her life!


My friend Rachel has a book deal! She will be writing the story of Annalena Tonelli!

Plough Nabs Bio of ‘Somalia’s Mother Teresa’

“Sam Hine, acquisition editor at Plough, took world rights to the first English-language yet-to-be-titled biography of Annalena Tonelli, often referred to as Somalia’s Mother Teresa. An Italian native, Tonelli’s story features her work in East Africa, including tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment campaigns, establishing special schools for deaf, blind, and disabled children, and ultimately, her murder in 2003 which remains unsolved. The book will be written by American expat and journalist Rachel Pieh Jones, and it is expected to be published in fall 2019.”


New York Today: Alone in an Empty City

This is a beautiful essay about New York City when everyone leaves.

“Computer screens gone dark. Unanswered emails. Co-workers hauling luggage to meetings so they can head straight to Grandma’s. And for some of us, the unglamorous response to the question, ‘Where are you going for the holidays?’

Nowhere.

At first, we feel a pang — the kind that sets in as we hug loved ones goodbye at airport security or watch their taxi pull away, only to remember we’re going home alone.

But then we become the lucky ones.

We get to watch the city boil down to its barest form. And, like a candle burning brighter as it melts away the wax, this empty New York becomes more radiant than ever.”

Quote from my friend Jo: 

I thought you might like this quote from a book I’m reading (Crossing Borders) by Sergio Troncoso a Mexican American writer who writes about his two cultures.

“I am in between. Trying to write to be understood by those who matter to me, yet also trying to push my mind with ideas beyond the everyday. It is another borderland I inhabit. Not quite here nor there. On good days I feel I am a bridge. On bad days I just feel alone.”


Lastly, my husband and I went to see the Star Wars movie last night. It is non-stop action, tension, and humor. The best line for me was this one: “You don’t win by fighting what you hate, but by saving what you love” said by a lovely new character – Rose.


And with that I’ll wish you a Merry Christmas. May it be a time of contemplation and joy that is much deeper than happiness. It’s hard to believe that 6 years ago I began writing. Thank you for reading, emailing, sharing, and making this into a space on the interwebz that doesn’t hurt the world.

With love to all of you,

Marilyn ♥️

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Advent Reflection – To Love is to Hurt

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” CS Lewis – The Four Loves


It’s early Monday morning and the house is dark and quiet. I wake up slightly anxious with what I know to be a Monday morning dread. I turn our Christmas tree lights on as watchful cats curl up on the couch, nocturnal beasts carefully observing all around them.

It has been a full weekend. Baking, cleaning, readying our home for an annual open house to reconnect with friends from our different worlds; introducing dear friends to Eritrean food; connecting with our younger daughter over delightfully shallow Hallmark Christmas movies.

It all crashed down on me well after I was supposed to be in bed and asleep. Despite the full weekend of connecting, I’m caught in a vice-like grip of worry for those I love. Crashing against a tired body was a tired heart, a heart lost in tears that quickly dried leaving salt on my cheeks, only to come again with more force.

And it came to me again, like it has thousands of times in the past, to love is to hurt. To love my kids is to hurt for their pain, to rage at some of their choices, to delight in their successes, to weep at their tragedies. To love my adopted country means to weep that terrorists attacked a church, killing and wounding the innocent. To love my dad means to hurt that he is gone. To love my friends means to share in their trouble, to laugh in their joy. To love means to get tired from caring, to feel weary from listening. To love is to hurt.

During my childhood, I often heard about the disease called leprosy or Hansen’s Disease. This disease is not well-known, but growing up in Pakistan, I knew that there were places called leper colonies – places to quarantine those with leprosy. The disease carried a huge stigma and much was unknown about both causes and treatment of leprosy. The main thing I knew about leprosy was that the nerves were damaged and affected people’s ability to feel pain. Since they couldn’t feel pain, they would end up with sores and burns on their bodies, particularly their feet and hands.

Even as a little girl, through knowing about leprosy, I knew that pain was a good thing. Pain was a signal that the body’s nerves were working. 

I think about this as I think about the pain that I feel when those I love hurt. I think about the pain that God feels when his creation suffers and hurts.

Despite the tears, despite the inability to ‘fix’ things, despite the paralysis that often comes with these feelings, I will pick the pain of love every time, because I know the numb apathy of an ice-cold heart and ultimately that is far more damaging. This pain I feel is proof that my heart is alive, alive with God-given feeling; proof that my life is full, full of people and places that I love.

This pain is proof that I desperately need God. God, who reaches through pain and worry with a promise of redemption. God, who takes sleepless nights with tears and turns them into joy in the morning.

This pain is proof that I need Advent, I need the coming. I need the incarnation. I need to know that God became man to walk where we walked, to know our pain, to comfort us in the dark of night and in the light of day.

I need to know that my tears are heard, my heart is known, my pain is valued. 

On Friday, I read this from Ann Voskamp, and on this Monday morning when reality bites a little harder than it did yesterday, I leave it with you:


“You are not forgotten. You are not abandoned. You are not alone. 

Because he says to everyone with their unspoken broken: Come. 

He says to the unlikely: Beloved

He says to the weary: Rest

In a brokenhearted and beautiful world, His grace is the only pillowed relief for the tired soul to rest in this season — making all broken things into resurrected things.”Ann Voskamp

Advent Reflection – Silence and Liminal Spaces

When I wake in the early morning I am always struck that our home is silent. There are no voices raised in conversation; no arguments, no agreements. There is no music, no sound of chopping or mixing from the kitchen, no sound of running water.

Of course if I really listen I hear noise from the traffic on Memorial Drive a few blocks away. I hear noise from household helpers – a refrigerator’s hum of activity; radiators spluttering, working hard to bring heat to the house, the low-pitch of an electric heater.

Actually, it’s not really silent at all. There is activity, there is movement, there is work being done.

It’s this I think about when I think about what I’ve always thought to be the 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testaments.

Was it really 400 years of silence?

I don’t think so.  Just because we aren’t privy to details and many recorded conversations does not mean that God was silent. God did not stop working, because he never stops writing his story.

People were longing for the Messiah, but in their longing they continued to hear God. Priests in the temple continued to serve faithfully, to pray, to worship God and seek to know more. The human heart continued to long for God, continued to seek God, and continued to find God.

Those four hundred years were a beautiful, liminal space; a threshold to a new beginning. It was the time between what was, and what would be.

In my life I am too quick to dismiss liminal spaces, too hasty in wanting the next thing. But so much can happen in the space between.

Richard Rohr, a theologian and Franciscan friar says this about liminal spaces:

“We keep praying that our illusions will fall away. God erodes them from many sides, hoping they will fall. But we often remain trapped in what we call normalcy—“the way things are.” Life then revolves around problem-solving, fixing, explaining, and taking sides with winners and losers. It can be a pretty circular and even nonsensical existence.

To get out of this unending cycle, we have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality. All transformation takes place here. We have to allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the “threshold” (limen, in Latin) where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin.

Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible. It’s the realm where God can best get at us because our false certitudes are finally out of the way.

This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor.”*

Simeon and Anna were two people that lived a long time in that liminal space. It was this space and seeking that allowed them to know the Christ Child when they saw him.

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

    you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation,

    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”**


Many of us are in the liminal spaces right now, the time between the “just ended” and the “not yet begun.” I think of this as I sit beside a tree, lights glowing, providing a protection against the grey of the day. Is this the sacred space of God’s waiting room”? I wait to see.

*Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1999), 155-156.

**Luke 2:29-32

Advent Reflection – A Mom’s Tears

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Ask any mother and she will tell you that the tears we weep for our children are like no other. They are tears that come from deep within our souls as we cry out in pain, either for them or because of them. They are the tears we weep in solitude when our daughter has faced her first break-up. At that moment, should the boy be present, we would possibly commit a crime that locks us up, unless the lawyer can use the grounds of love, impulse and passion to convince a jury that we are not dangerous.

They are the tears that we shed when our pre-schooler is not invited to the birthday party that every other kid seems to be attending. They are the tears that come when we know that we are helpless to make life better for our children, that the days when we could control who comes and goes from their lives are now gone. They are the tears of rage when we feel wronged or misunderstood by these products of our womb, when the path they are taking is leading to a place that we know will cause pain.

They are the tears of agony when we know they are in deep pain, pain they can’t share with their moms. They are also the tears of unspeakable delight and joy at weddings and graduations; tears of admiration as we are invited to participate in their world; and the tears of happiness as we realize how proud we are and how much we love them.

One of the Orthodox icons depicting Mary, the Theotokos or God-bearer, is an icon that shows Mary with seven swords going into her heart. The icon is called the “Softener of Evil Hearts”. In Orthodoxy, these seven swords are seen as representing the immense sorrow that the Theotokos experienced at the foot of the cross; the sorrow that was prophesied by Saint Simeon when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple.

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”*

I had been a mom for many years before I first heard about, and then saw, this icon. I thought about it for a long time. Here was one who understood far more about a mother’s tears then I could ever imagine. Sitting there at the foot of the cross, helpless and watching her son die, she did not yet know the full picture. The resurrection would be three days later. Her heart was pierced by a sword many times over before she saw the risen Lord on that Paschal morning.

I think about this icon as I shed tears for my children. Though we know but a fraction of this pain, our hearts too are pierced. We shed our tears and we too, wait; wait for the God of resurrection and miracles to comfort and strengthen us.

We wait for our souls to heal, for wrong to be made right. And we press on.

*Luke 2:34-35

Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

 

Advent Reflection – If You are Weary

We put up our Christmas tree yesterday. It is beautiful – a Balsam pine tree that brings the forest into our living room. It’s a tall tree, reaching proudly to our ceiling, decked out in the season’s finest white lights and many years of ornaments.

I sit beside our tree and I almost forget that our world is hurting. Almost, but not quite.

Underneath and surrounding the bright lights of Christmas is the reality that we live in a broken world. Somehow the holidays make it seem worse. We have an expectation that because it’s a holiday, life will work. We will have a short respite from tragedy and heart break. But our expectations are quickly shattered as we face the death of a loved one, the break-up of a marriage, the tragedy of an earthquake or a plane crash.

Tragedy and loss, broken cars and broken kids, hurting and homeless ones do not bend to the will of holiday cheer. A broken world doesn’t stop being broken just because we dress it up in twinkling lights and brilliant red and gold baubles. Broken is still broken.

Into this broken world comes Advent. Advent doesn’t present us with false expectations or promises; Advent gives us room to long for all to be made right, to long for peace, to long for broken to be made whole.

Advent….it’s the longing for the world to be as it was created to be. It’s a spiritual longing for all to be made right, for a broken world to find redemption and with redemption be made whole and complete.  To see a homeless woman with neuropathy and long for her to be made whole and find a home; to hear of earthquakes and long for rescue; to hear of atrocities and long for justice; to hear of plane crashes and long for comfort; to see the world as it was intended, not as it is.

But Advent does something else – Advent shows us that the broken world and the broken one are welcomed into the arms of God.

If you are weary this Advent season, if you are face to face with tragedy and death, with the broken bones of a weary world, know that you are welcomed into the arms of God. 


Note: This post is a rewrite from one posted one year ago called “A Broken World Meets an Advent Season.”

The Season for Candle Time

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This is the time of year where morning comes slowly and evening quickly.

I feel melancholy as I wake up far before the sun rises over the Atlantic ocean, just a few miles to the east of us. As much as I want to embrace these days and all they hold, I am a woman who loves light and sun. I love it when sunlight floods my living room and bright light and warmth comfort me beyond my bones to my soul. As soon as I rise, I go to the kitchen and turn on the lights of the newly decorated Christmas tree and light a single candle. Somehow these small acts are enough to comfort; enough to calm my anxious soul and bring light into life.

It was during days like this that we began our favorite Christmas tradition, something we call “Candle Time”. It began in Cairo with my sister-in-law, Carol. We had the joy of having them live just a few blocks from us during our second year in Cairo. During the Christmas season we found ourselves back and forth at each other’s homes a lot. Together we had five children – three belonged to us, two belonged to them. One evening as our children were winding down after dinner we started “Candle Time”.

We began by turning off every light in the flat. Clad in their onesie pajamas, their toddler fat still squeezable, they sat still in wonder as we lit a candle and began singing Christmas carols. Then we walked each of them off to bed and looked at each other in amazement. We had never had this calm a bedtime routine.

And so began a tradition. Beginning soon after Thanksgiving we started Candle Time. By candle light we sang Christmas carols, talked, and prayed. By candle light we ate frosted sugar cookies. By candle light we drank rich, hot cocoa. By candle light we then walked each child to their beds, kissed them good night to the sound of Silent Night.

It became a favorite part of our holiday season.

Candle time became a treasured tradition, a time of quiet and connection during what is often the busiest time of the year. As the kids grew, guitar music accompanied our candle time, initially clumsy with chords but soon playing confidently and leading our singing. At times our time became less sacred and funnier as we tried to harmonize, laughing at those who could never quite find the right note.

Sometimes I would beg to keep one hall light on but the kids would have none of it. It was all lights off except the Christmas tree lights, one candle lit, all of us together. There was no talk of presents. No mention of Santa Claus. Just singing carols and quietly closing the day.

We no longer have little kids and candle time has had to evolve with our family growing up and away. But every year, once the tree is decorated, we try to have candle time during the season with who ever happens to be home.

Because no matter how old we get, it helps to stop. It helps to turn out all the lights, light a single candle and, with the glow of the Christmas tree lights creating magic and joy, reflect on the season as we wait for the One who has already come.

To the Weary Ones

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No doubt you are up early. Whether traveling or staying at home, you have things to do, groceries to buy, errands to run, work to finish.

You love the season of Advent leading up to Christmas day, but you are so weary. The living room is finally clean, but the last few nights you have collapsed into bed in the room that has slowly and insistently collected all the clutter from the rest of the house.

The expectations. The stuff. The marketing – at first it’s fun, but as you face yet another long line at a store, you wonder what this is all about. Where is the magic of your childhood? How do you create wonder for your little ones? How do you remember the clichéd “reason for the season?” Even the phrase makes you weary and, if you’re completely honest, angry. Who thought up that stupid phrase anyway?

Coupled with that is the exhaustion you feel with social media. Everyone’s trees are better than yours – you knew that you needed more lights. And every time you turn around someone posts a news article about a tragedy. Your emotions range from sadness to guilt that you whine about your seemingly small problems and post pictures of the cookies you just made. Guilt, sadness, exhaustion all lump together like the wrapping paper and ribbon on your bedroom floor.

You wander sleepily into the living room and plug in the long extension cord. Immediately white lights flood the room, sparkling off ornaments collected through the years. In all your weariness, there is still the wonder and joy of Christmas lights.

Amy Grant sings “Tender Tenessee Christmas” from an old CD and you take a minute, a minute to sit, to reflect, to be quiet.

Sometimes a minute is all it takes to remember. To remember that Jesus came for and to a weary world; a world weary of tragedy and loss; weary of natural disasters and wars. A world weary of the stress of living and the sadness of dying.

The music and words of “Oh Holy Night” begin to play:”A thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…”

A minute and a thrill of hope – somehow that is enough. You sigh and head into the day. There may not be magic, but there will be wonder and there will be hope – all is not lost.

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angel voices
O night divine!
O night when Christ was born

The Sorrow/Joy Continuum

 

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In an online conversation a couple of months ago, one of the women who is active at A Life Overseas said this: “Sorrow and joy can coexist under the umbrella of grace.”*

Moms and dads feel it. One kid rejoices with a a new job, while the other kid loses their livelihood. One daughter has a miscarriage, another rejoices in a birth. One child is brilliant, the other struggles with every learning task.

Medical professionals feel it – one person is diagnosed with cancer while another walks out of the hospital with a newborn baby. One person has a child that was born prematurely and will have lifelong needs while another gives birth to an Olympic athlete.

Refugees and internally displaced people feel it. The grief of loss walks beside the relief and joy of survival. They continue to survive, they create a new normal, but it is not without the deep wounds of loss and pain. As a young woman in Iraq said to me a year ago: “There are only two choices – to stop living or to continue living. We choose to continue living.”

Humans in general feel it. Sorrow walking beside Joy; Joy keeping in step with sorrow. They are somehow deeply connected.

During the Advent season, the sorrow-joy continuum is profoundly present. Joy comes early morning when most of my world is still asleep. It is then that I sit by our Christmas tree and for a short time, all of life makes sense. Sorrow comes soon after. Our city is cold and the homeless huddle in doorways bundled in dull, grey blankets. Joy comes as I greet the fruit man from Albania; ever-generous with his gifts of bananas and apples. Sorrow comes as I skim the news – it is all too much to bear. Lights still sparkle in a market where 12 died from a lorry crashing through, seemingly intent on destruction. Sorrow comes as I read yet another story of Aleppo. “How long, O Lord? How Long?” The Psalmist’s words from long ago could not be more pertinent.

But Joy doesn’t stay away. It’s around the next corner as two colleagues and I laugh about an incident at work. Joy continues as I click on a photo my daughter sends me of my grandson

Our world may be weary of tragedy; it may be broken and hurting, but we are dishonest if we do not acknowledge the moments of absolute joy. 

It seems no matter how difficult life is, we can find our moments of joy. Like sprinkles on cookies, or glitter on a bag that seems to get on everything it touches, Joy can’t be contained.

A couple of years after the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers, there was a terrorist attack on the International Church in Islamabad, Pakistan. The attack felt personal. It was a church we had attended for a year and a half while living in Islamabad; a church my oldest brother had pastored; and it was a church where many of our friends worshiped. There were several of our friends present in the church that day, one was Robynn’s father. Another was a friend who was there with her husband and small children. In the attack she shielded her small child from flying shrapnel and was severely injured in the process.

In a poignant letter describing the event, she and her husband speak of the indescribable joy she felt in saving her son.

I wanted to save my boy.  I knew I was hurt badly, but when I looked down and saw that Iain was unhurt, in the midst of the pain and shock of the blast I felt an indescribable joy, knowing that I had taken the violence intended for him.

In the face of terrible violence and possible death, my friend felt indescribable joy at saving her boy.

This is the absurdity and irrationality of my Christian faith; an absurdity and irrationality that I will continue to hold on to for all my days. In the midst of suffering, in the midst of sorrow, there can exist indescribable joy.

The longer you live, the more you realize that life can change in a second. You can be shopping at a market with no worry of safety and the next minute be in the midst of a tragedy. You can be happily sipping a cocktail at a holiday party and receive a phone call that changes your life. We can fight this, we can scream that it is unfair, we can grow bitter, or we can live the continuum under an umbrella of grace.

It really is our choice. 

*Colleen Mitchell

 

 

A Broken World Meets an Advent Season

wondeful-counselor-v2

A Pakistan International Airlines flight headed to Islamabad from a remote mountain area crashed on a mountain slope today. Before the plane hit the ground it burst into flames. There are no survivors.

A 6.5 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Indonesia has caused damage and killed over one hundred people. Rescue efforts are underway to search for survivors.

Underneath and surrounding the bright lights of Christmas is the reality that we live in a broken world. Somehow the holidays make it seem worse. We have an expectation that because it’s a holiday, life will work. We will have a short respite from tragedy and heart break. But our expectations are quickly shattered as we face the death of a loved one, the break-up of a marriage, the tragedy of an earthquake or a plane crash.

Tragedy and loss, broken cars and broken kids, hurting and homeless ones do not bend to the will of holiday cheer. A broken world doesn’t stop being broken just because we dress it up in twinkling lights and brilliant red and gold baubles. Broken is still broken.

Into this broken comes Advent. Advent doesn’t present us with false expectations or promises; Advent gives us room to long for all to be made right, to long for peace, to long for broken to be made whole. But Advent does something else – Advent shows us that the broken one is welcomed into the arms of God.

Advent….it’s the longing for the world to be as it was created to be. It’s a spiritual longing for all to be made right, for a broken world to find redemption and with redemption be made whole and complete.  To see a homeless woman with neuropathy and long for her to be made whole and find a home; to hear of earthquakes and long for rescue; to hear of atrocities and long for justice; to hear of plane crashes and long for comfort, to see the world as it was intended, not as it is.

But Advent does something else – Advent shows us that the broken world and the broken one are welcomed into the arms of God.

If you are weary this Advent season, if you are face to face with tragedy and death, with the broken bones of a weary world, know that you are welcomed into the arms of God. 

Ideas for #GivingTuesday

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I belong to the early morning crowd. The group that gets up at 5 and is fully functioning by 6:45. The group that is still mostly groggy while on public transit. I used to hate the silence of this group, feel alienated that everyone was in their own world in these early mornings.

Now I understand it. Now I love it. Early mornings are my best thought time. And today my thoughts are caught between the now and the eternal.

Shops began decorating for the Christmas season before Thanksgiving and now are in their full array of colors and products, golds, greens, and reds – the sparkles interrupted only by yellow “On Sale” tags. The stuff beckons. It’s so pretty. It’s got glitter and glam. It says “Buy me, you need me!” The faceless mannequins in the window dare me to refuse, beckon me with their androgynous sophistication decked in sweaters, tights, scarves, and jewelry.

But beyond the mannequins is a lighted star, placed high above the street by the city of Boston. It’s the promise of Christmas reminding me of a birth, of men who were searching for a Saviour, of an event that changed our calendar forever.

I’m struck once again by the constant battle of the now and the eternal. Beyond every mannequin is a star, promising so much more. But the mannequin is on eye level. And to see the star I have to look up.

Today, following the black of Friday and the cyber of Monday, is designated #givingTuesday. A nation needing to ease its conscience? Perhaps. But important none the less. It’s the star beyond the mannequin. The reminder that there is more to the season than the material, more to life then what we see now.


I know that you as readers have priorities of where you give and how you give. I still want to talk about three areas that are dear to my heart – women’s health, refugees, and moms and babies. The first is women’s health and the problem of fistula. I’ve talked before about this problem, about how a surgery costing $450 gives hope and a new life. Hope for Our Sisters is tireless in their ongoing work to bring attention to this problem. Brooke Sulahian – the president of this non-profit organization, has a vision and mission to bring hope to women with fistula. Your donation will not be lost in a pot of money or go to a CEO whose salary is more than many will make in a lifetime of working. Your money will go towards providing the surgery needed to restore health for the woman with fistula. The link below will take you to the website where you can easily make a donation online. Alternately they accept checks.

Donate to Hope for our Sisters


The second area that is dear to my heart is the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria. Many of you know that my husband had the opportunity to go to Gazientep, Turkey earlier this fall. It included a trip across the border into Syria and visiting a refugee camp in “No Man’s Land” between Turkey and Syria. This camp has no running water and no latrines. At last count, the population of the camp was 14,000 people, primarily women and children. There are a couple of ways you can help. The first is through making kits – hygiene, baby, education – I wrote about it here. The link to instructions for making these kits is below. There are so many ways to do this that both celebrate the season as well as move us into action. Have people over for cocoa and Christmas cookies, with a side-helping of emergency kits.

You can also purchase either Between Worlds: Essays on Culture & Belonging or Passages Through Pakistan and the royalties will go toward refugees.

Make Emergency Kits for Syrian Refugees


Another way to give toward the refugee crisis is through Heart for Lebanon. Heart for Lebanon was founded in 2006 as a natural response to the devastation left behind in Southern Lebanon after the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. In 2008 the organization began serving Iraqi refugees and has been involved in refugee work since that time. Through food distribution, schools, and health education they reach those displaced by wars in both Iraq and Syria.

Donate to Heart for Lebanon


The last place I would suggest is a maternity center in Haiti. These midwives are incredible! Every day I follow their work in Haiti. Every day I witness stories of moms being met with love and care as they go through the birth experience. Think Call the Midwife – Haiti Style. Their website says it all: Heartline’s Maternity Center exists to provide expectant mothers in Haiti with excellent maternal-healthcare. When women enter our doors they find love, support, education, medical care, relationship and respect. 

Heartline is bigger than just the maternity center, but my heart is with these moms and babies so I want to highlight it today.

Donate to Heartline Ministries – Maternity Center


There are thousands of other places where your heart may be led to give – I offer the suggestions above because they are the things that grab my heart, as well as being organizations that are small with little overhead and a huge volunteer base for the work they do. The main thing to remember is this:

When we see the mannequin, that faceless, bedazzled mannequin that beckons so insistently, may our Advent prayer be to look up and beyond to the star. 

Scanning the Horizon 


We took off from O’Hare Airport in Chicago in the early morning. On the ground the weather was cold and rainy, but as the plane ascended we flew above the thick grey into golden sunshine. It was beautiful.

It’s an old cliche — that beyond the clouds is sunshine. But it’s true. The sun may hide but it can’t be removed. The sun, stretching across an expansive horizon, always wins.

I think about this as I sit in the window seat of row 26. I look past my sleeping husband to my son and mouth the words “Isn’t it beautiful?” He nods and smiles with knowing. We quietly scan the horizon and then go back to our books.

*****

In my faith tradition, this season is the Advent season. After the indulgence of a recent holiday, this is a time of fasting, a time of waiting. In a beautiful poem, Madeleine L’Engle calls it the “irrational season.” 
We needs these times in the church. Times of longing and expectation, times of hope.

My friend Laura says it well:

Advent reminds us that we are the farthest we could find ourselves from optimism and bootstrap-tightening. We don’t need a new gym membership. We need rescue. We are plunged into the woes of Israel, their wandering, their panting for life-transforming, globe-spanning salvation. If we are wise — and I pray for renewed wisdom this Advent — we will make room in our overly taxed bandwidth to let the Holy Spirit guide us out of our numbing addictions and down into the thick of it. Let the gnawing ache ring and discover that we are scanning the horizon for the Messiah.

And so I begin this season — this irrational season of scanning the horizon for the Messiah, knowing that when we seek him, we will find. 

Will you join me?

Blogger’s Note: You can purchase Laura’s beautiful Advent book of poetry here!

Rising to our Feet for The Messiah

candle- messiah

When I was a teenager Uncle Don and Auntie Ruth Stoddard gave us an old record player. They also gave us a stack of records. Most of these didn’t meet my teenage definition of appropriate music but there was one vinyl record that captured my imagination. It was a four record set of Handel’s complete Messiah. I loved it for the discovery that the Messiah was so much more than just the Hallelujah chorus. I loved learning that this was music mostly for Easter but it had been often coopted for Christmas instead. And I loved how it made me feel—the swells of emotion, the heart aching longings, the building anticipations, the burst of fulfillment and holiness. I loved hearing the small Hallelujah chorus in the broader context of all three parts.

This is the time of year when you’re most apt to hear Handel’s Messiah–or bits of it. The original score, with over 50 songs and in three parts, takes over two and a half hours to perform. George Friderik Handel composed the entire score in less than 25 days in response to the lyrical text that his friend and long time musical colleague, Charles Jennens, had penned. Beginning with the words, “Comfort, Comfort my people”, Part I outlines the prophecies and promises God makes to send the Messiah, including the great crescendo, “For Unto Us a Child is Given.” Part II is given to the passion of Christ, his death and resurrection, his ascension and also to the spread of the gospel message. Part III solidifies the promise of eternal life and the Divine victory over sin. It also concentrates on the New Testament teaching “of the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven.”

The piece originally premiered in Dublin in 1742. Ladies were reportedly requested to avoid hoop skirts so the venue could accommodate more people. Originally written for Easter and the Lenten season, Jennens took the words from the Old Testament in the King James Bible particularly from the Psalms and the prophet Isaiah’s book.

There is a curious tradition that yet lingers with most audiences where the audience stands for the Hallelujah chorus. There is some question about how and when this practice started. Many suggest that it started when King George II, upon hearing the music and the lyrics for the first time in the mid-1740s, was so moved during this part of the composition, that he leapt to his feet and ordered his subjects to join him.

The other day I was mindlessly humming a tune I couldn’t place. Slowly I realized that my brain was looping the line, “And the Government shall be upon His Shoulder. And his name shall be called….” Over and over again the tune fragment played on my lips. Eventually I found the fuller piece on YouTube and listened to it in its glorious entirety.

This year I’m stuck on the verse from Isaiah chapter 9 that Handel set to music in Part I– For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Isn’t this what we yearn for? Don’t we collectively ache for Someone to be in charge of governments and administrations and elections and regimes? Don’t we want desperately an unending relationship with a True Father? Wouldn’t our pinings for a fairy tale be swept away by the Prince of Peace? Don’t we each crave a Wonderful Counselor who created us and knows us in our deepest spaces? Don’t you want to experience a Mighty God?

The good news is we can! The prophet Isaiah’s predictions have come true. The child is born, the son is given. And like any gift, in order to have it, we need only receive. With wonder and profound amazement, shake your head a little, and welcome the One who has come.

Jesus is calling people from every tongue and tribe, every community, every country. He personally invites Christians from Kansas, Muslims from Mongolia, Hindus from Hong Kong, Atheists from Addis Ababa, People-who-plain-and-simply-don’t-give-a-damn from all over to come. Come and meet God— the King of kings and the Lord of lords—and experience transformation and sweet relief! Come and have a conversation. Come and experience. Come and engage. Come and exchange your weariness, your hopelessness, your frustrations, your self-absorption, your brokenness for strength, hope, peace, wonder and healing.

There are many reasons why the Handel’s Messiah still compels musicians and audiences alike. Wherever bits and pieces of the Messiah are performed—in malls with flash mobs, in high school choirs, in philharmonic settings—it brings joy and expectation and a hope stirred up in us. In many ways, it’s difficult to stay seated until the Hallelujah chorus bursts into the air. We still, nearly involuntarily, rise from our seats, with hearts longing for our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, our Prince of Peace.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-glorious-history-of-handels-messiah-148168540/?no-ist

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohagajJvzhU

 

An Invitation to Wonder

won·der

/ˈwəndər/
noun

a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.

We put up our Christmas tree last night. Within an hour and a half the room was transformed from chaotic and bland to sparkling brilliance. The ornaments reflect the white lights and the result is lovely.

Early this morning, sleepy-eyed and still in my pajamas, I went straight to the tree and plugged in the lights. Immediately, beauty filled the room inviting me to stop, inviting me to wonder.

Just a day before I began reading my friend Laura’s book of poetry called Give me the Word. It’s a slim volume, packed with beauty and depth. The first poem in the book made me pause and breathe slower, breathe easier.

“We have always been waiting, and not knowing, longing with tears for the One Who Comes.”

Through the pages of Laura’s book I received an invitation to stop and wonder, an invitation to wait expectantly.

Marketing all around me calls insistently, telling me that I won’t be complete unless I purchase this, buy that; convincing me that real love is things, that the way to show I care is by spending money.  But in a moment, words on a page and twinkling white lights invite me to more. They invite me to wonder.

Long ago on a rooftop in Pakistan, my mom had an invitation to wonder. She felt alone and forgotten, miles from family and friends. That night she experienced wonder through unexpected visitors. In the midst of the Sindh desert in Pakistan our friends arrived and sang carols at our door, their presence an offering of love. It was the wonder of friendship that went the extra mile, offering friendship and joy.  Every year I stop and remember this story, for it too is an invitation to wonder.

If we stop for a moment, we realize that all around us are invitations to wonder. 

In all this, I am reminded of words I wrote a couple of years ago, when reflecting on my favorite Christmas story: Christmas is not magic that can quickly disappear. Instead it’s wonder. It’s the wonder of the incarnation; it’s the wonder of God’s love; it’s the wonder of angels heard from rooftops.

Insomnia–Advent’s Distant Cousin

candle for suffering

Yesterday I sent Marilyn an email. Words rushed over the keyboard past the constraints of grammar and spelling. I was so angry and so very upset. Even this morning I don’t trust myself to write–about gun control, about mass killings, about climate change, about forgotten Syrian refugees, about the NRA—I’m not sure if I could write about any of it. So I’m giving words the silent treatment and I’m dusting something off from the archives. This is a re-post from last year’s advent–

I had a rough night last night. I fell into a hard sleep but a short hour later, woke to Lowell’s moving and tossing, and then I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Using quiet whisper thoughts, I tiptoed around my brain, so as not to wake it…but to no avail. My brain is a light sleeper it would seem and it woke with a vengeance. It was demanding and incessant and loud. I couldn’t silence it and calm it back down for a long time.

I hate insomnia. I abhor those midnight hours when sleep avoids eye contact and we all just lay there awkward and fuming.

Last night my brain was a hodge podge of distractions, a collage of worries and niggling little anxieties. Earlier in the week Lowell and I had attended a meeting up at the high school on financial aid for our soon-to-be-college student. As gracious as the moderator was, my midnight mind kept imagining that he called us out for being so dim-witted all those years ago when Connor was first born. We should have started saving then! I could nearly see him rolling his eyes at us. I imagined him shrugging his shoulders, and dismissing any chances Connor has at a future, glaring at us, blaming us—Connor’s poor excuse for parents.

My brain also brought up Christmas—not the wonder and holiness of Jesus’ birth—but the frenetic pace of preparations. Gifts. Stockings. What to get Neil? Where to get Colleen’s gift? Who has Adelaide’s name? Baking. Food. Weight gain dread. Making up beds. Where would we sleep my parents? Where would we put my brother and his family? I stressed over and over on how to love my family well, how to be hospitable in the midst of the season’s crazy zone. I entertained booking everyone into hotels. I entertained booking only myself into a hotel.

I spent some time lamenting over Grand Jury decisions that no longer make any sense. Puzzling over the pain of it, the drama, the messy mixed messages of the media, the masked racism that continues–I wondered where healing would come from. I wondered what I can do to make a difference. I worried for my children growing up in this environment. I prayed pleading prayers for change and peace.

In the middle of it my brain thoughtfully reminded me where we were a year ago….in our beloved India, eating our favourite foods, seeing our favourite people. I found myself nearly choking on longing for that trip, that time, that experience. I wanted, desperately, to be there again. Tears rolled down my dark face in the dark night.

The insomniac brain suffers from attention deficit disorder. I bounced from anxious thought to despairing thought and back again.

This morning as I think about it, I’m struck with the similarities between insomnia and the advent season. Insomnia is the prolonged inability to sleep. On nights when I’m struck with sleeplessness I long for the morning to come. I want the night to be over! Advent too is a yearning— for justice, for hope, for mercy, for morning, for Jesus! I find myself responding to insomnia in different ways as I grow older. I used to do what many recommend. I’d get out of bed, go to a different room, read a book, drink a cup of chamomile tea. Now I usually just lie quietly and let my body rest. The same is true about my experience of Advent. I used to busy myself more to create meaning in the midst of the Advent longings and silences. I’d distract myself with activity. Now I’m trying to resist the rushing. I’ve found that busy air blows out the candles; worry winds tend to snuff out feeble flames of hope. I’m trying to sit still through the agonies and heart aches, to lie there and rest, waiting, breathing, holding steady.

The advent wreath still contains four candles encircling the white and glorious Christ Candle. But this year the wreath is surrounded by protests and angry crowds and Grand Juries and heart ache. Ebola deaths are rising in Western Africa. Refugees are still fleeing from Syria and Northern Iraq. It seems that this year the longings are deeper, the confusion and disillusionment are thicker. We toss and turn. We kick and squirm. When will the morning come? When will the long night of waiting be over?

The first candle in the wreath is lit. It’s the candle of hope and expectation. Some celebrate it as the candle of prophecy and promise. Either way, we’re holding on to what we know with hope and expectation. We’re keeping our hearts focused on what we’ve been told. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide us to the path of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)

We couldn’t be more sure of what we saw and heard—God’s glory, God’s voice. The prophetic Word was confirmed to us. You’ll do well to keep focusing on it. It’s the one light you have in a dark time as you wait for daybreak and the rising of the Morning Star in your hearts. The promises… are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19-20)

Please Jesus come….quickly. We’re ready for the night to be over. The darkness is growing wearisome. We’re eager for morning. We’re hungry for breakfast. We long for the day!

 

After the Outrage

Sirnak

The outrage that echoed loudly through social media the last few weeks has left us for a time.  It is now old and uninteresting, sort of like leftover turkey that sits, covered in plastic, in the refrigerator a week after Thanksgiving. No one cares anymore, and so we gladly throw away the carcass. We are ready to move on.

But after the outrage there is still a refugee problem. After the outrage, Lebanon, Baghdad, and Paris still cry out from a wounded place. After the outrage, there are still faces of human need that flash across my mind.

Outrage seems to do little to motivate for the long term. It may cause a one time gift of time or money and it certainly feeds the conscience, but it is not sustainable.

But mercy is sustainable. Mercy and compassion continue long after the outrage passes. Mercy and compassion are borne out of love for God and for those who are made in his image.

This next month, the Western world will focus on a day that has come to mean glitter and stuff. A day that has slowly eroded in meaning, coopted by money and market. And in truth, I love glitter and sparkle. I love lights and baubles.

Competing with the glitter and glitz is the Season of Advent. A time of silent nights and candle time. A time of waiting and longing, a time to pray for the refugee and the broken one. Advent is not a time of outrage, but a time of mercy and compassion. It is a time to live beyond the outrage, in a place of quiet consistency and anticipation. It is the time of the irrational season, where mercy and love trump reason.

The outrage is over, and Advent has begun. Refugees still try and get through unsafe waters onto safe shores; millions on millions are still displaced, violence still breaks our hearts and takes those we love.

The outrage is over, but a broken world remains in desperate need of our mercy and compassion. Can we live above and beyond the outrage? 

Ways to live beyond the outrage:

  1. Make refugee kits
  2. Show this movie to some people in your life: Overview of Refugee Crisis from the Refugee Highway. Think about showing it to a community group, your church, a group of friends and use it as a time to learn more about the world of refugees.
  3. Work in a soup kitchen this holiday season. There are huge needs during the cold weather and volunteers are welcome.
  4. Set aside a time each day to pray for the world.

We pray for all whose lives
have been touched by tragedy,
whether by accident
or a deliberate act.
For those who mourn,
immerse them in your love
and lead them through this darkness
into your arms, and light.
For those who comfort,
be in both the words they use
and all that’s left unspoken;
fill each heart with love.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
whose own suffering brought us life,
here and for eternity. Amen

©John Birch Read more at: http://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_peace.htm#ixzz3t4dzO796
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