Monday, December 2, 2013

Legacy of Love


For the past 20 years or so, my family has been blessed to have the best neighbors anyone could ask for. They’ve been more than neighbors or friends. They are family. And in thinking about that for the past few days, there was a man in this family that I can think of only one word to describe. LOVE. That is Pat Castaldo’s legacy. He loved wine. He loved life. He loved his precious wife, Lena, he loved his family. And I’m grateful to be able to say he loved my family as well. My children grew up calling him “Grandpa.” And he adopted my husband and me as his godchildren. He would talk about it almost every time we saw him, and he even wanted to take us to the church to make it official. I could imagine Luis with the waters of baptism dripping down his face!
But we didn’t need to make it official at a church. It was official in our hearts. He was our godfather. And when I think about that word, godfather, and I think about Pat Castaldo, the word takes on a whole new meaning.
Pat’s legacy of love exemplifies the love of Father God. The love he poured out was the purest, most unconditional love I’ve ever known in a human. And like God, it didn’t matter if that love was returned to him. He loved anyway.
In all the time we’ve known him, we never heard him utter a negative word, or speak unkindly of anyone. Ever! Pat was the life of every family gathering. He made everyone in the room smile with his contagious joy, and the love he voiced toward one of those in attendance would inevitably end up in a song! Whether by song or by open declarations, he freely expressed his love to his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, and his godchildren.  And each one would know that they were genuinely loved.
If anyone ever wanted to have a taste of what God’s love is like, all they needed to do was to know Pat. Even for a short period. Because if he knew you, he loved you. Period. It wasn’t contrived. It wasn’t pretense. It was as genuine a love as you’d ever experienced.
And that’s what this kind, gentle man has left us. A legacy of love freely poured out over his family and friends like the sweet, red wine in his glass. A love and a legacy I’m so very glad my family was blessed to experience.  A love I know I’ll dearly miss until we see him once more on the other side of eternity. I hope and pray that by his example, I've learned to show others a fraction of the love of God that Pat did every day of his life.

 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bullying: Virtual sticks and stones


When I was a child, my family moved frequently. One reason was my father was in the Marines, and although he was stationed stateside, he often had to move from one post to another. A second reason we moved frequently was because of family dysfunction.  I’ll get back to that in a minute.
Because I was always the new kid on the block, I experienced a good deal of bullying. It was less than 20 years post WWII, and I’m half Japanese. There are incidences I recall being teased about my ethnicity. In grade school, one neighborhood bully pushed me in front of a moving car. I was very blessed not to have been injured. There are other memories that are very clear, as if they happened yesterday. I always was the odd duck and never fit in with the other kids.  As hard as it is to say out loud, although I had “friends,” I wasn’t invited to my high school prom. That still hurts all these years later.
And as a survivor of childhood bullying, my heart hurts when I hear stories of very young people being horrifically bullied, so much so that they take their lives. And I’ve wondered about that. I can’t tell you that suicide was something I didn’t think about. I did. And those thoughts followed me into early adulthood. But I’ve wondered why so many of today’s kids are brought to that horrible end.
In a conversation with someone yesterday, it came to me. I suddenly understood why kids who are bullied today feel so hopeless. We all realize that internet bullying is a major problem. But I understand now why it is bigger than the issue of one kid or more attacking another over the internet. It’s a matter of sanctuary.
Take yourself back to when you were 12 or 14 years old. You go to school where the kids are relentlessly mean to you. You walk the school halls wondering when you’ll be verbally or even physically assaulted by the bully pack. They are on the bus. At every school, sports and social event, they are there. Then you go home. You get on the internet. And in what should be the safest place on earth for you, there they are. Right in your home! And it’s even worse. They unleash the vilest of their attacks over the internet for everyone in your world to see. They hurl words at you that wound you to your core. Their words swirl in your head and deeply wound your soul, and you’re lost and alone in a pool of fear, anger, pain, and anguish that you are unable to contain or control.
They’ve even violated your home. Your refuge. There are no safe havens for you. Imagine you tell your teachers who blow it off. Imagine you live with a dysfunctional family, but you tell them what’s happening and they either ignore you or tell you to suck it up. And you are left with nothing but your broken emotional state and the knowledge that the attacks won’t stop. And they follow you like your own dark shadow.
How incredibly hopeless would you feel? Children who are the targets of a single bully or bully packs often have no place to turn and no one advocating for them. They don’t have the maturity, wisdom, or developed self-esteem to deal with what looks like a no-way-out situation. As it continues, day after day, week after week, month after month, what reserve they have is worn down, and they may feel they have no alternative but to end it all.
I know, to some degree, the depth of the despair these kids feel. Sticks and stones leave visible wounds. Words? They leave invisible wounds that bleed and fester from the inside out. They are unseen and because of that, often get left untreated.
We must do better for our kids. We must find ways to stop the madness. And here are my suggestions with a little help from experts.
To the adults:
1.     Don’t be a bully! There are too many people who easily sit behind their computers and hurl mean and even vicious diatribes at strangers. Here’s an assignment. Go to Huffington Post and read an article on just about anything. Watch the video with it. Then go to the comments. Read how people interact with one another. I’ve left comments on articles where someone has been killed saying something like, “I’m praying for the grieving family.” And believe it or not, with a comment like that, I’ll get vile responses. Make a choice to never engage in internet bullying, but if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t comment. And if you get vile responses to your comment, don’t engage the bully except to tell them something kind. Really. Be a role model for youth to look up to.

2.      If your child or another child confides in you about being bullied, for land’s sake believe the child! And advocate for them. Find out the details, and confront teachers and parents, guardians, principles, and whoever else necessary. Make sure the child knows you won’t back down from the fight and will advocate for them.

3.      Ask the child open-ended questions to ascertain their emotional well-being. Do it regularly. Make sure they know you’re there for them and they can trust you. If it’s not your child, be wise. Don’t meet the child alone and have parents/guardians in on what’s happening at all times.

4.     Go to the listed sites and educate yourself on the facts about bullying, how to stop it, and how to prevent it.

5.     Don’t let any child be the victim of a bully on your watch!
To the young people:
1.       If you’re being bullied, you need to know there is help and hope and a way out.

2.      Tell an adult. If that person doesn’t listen, find someone who will. You don’t have to go through this alone. There are adults who will take this seriously and help you.

3.      Don’t feel like you’re a snitch or weak if you tell an adult. Bullying is serious and can be dangerous, and you need help.

4.      Understand that what the bully says and does reflects on the bully, and not on you. The bully is making a terrible reputation for himself. You hold your head up high and understand that you are precious and important. You will get through this.

Friday, August 23, 2013

9/11: What I Remember


 

From Mike Huckabee on August 23, 2013: “A Kansas City-based group called the American Muslim Political Action Committee is trying to organize a “Million Muslim March” on Washington on September 11th, the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America. They claim that 9/11 is all about discrimination against Muslims, and they intend to demand “social justice.” It’s an offensive and disrespectful stunt. But somehow, I doubt they’ll find a million American Muslims who agree with their view that they’re the real victims of 9/11. The website for the Million Muslim March shows that so far, 57 people have RSVP’ed.”
 
What I remember about 9/11/2001 has nothing to do with discrimination against anyone. I can’t imagine that’s what any of us are remembering. It’s remarkably presumptuous for this group to think our memorials are about them!  
I remember teaching middle school children that day, and when we found out what happened we turned on the TV to watch the news, but not for long. Some of the children did not deal well with what they were hearing and seeing. We had no idea how horrific the scene was. There were prayers and silent, frightened tears from the staff and students alike.
I remember not knowing if we should have parents come and get their children (Mine were in the school, and I was very glad I was with them!)
I remember watching the remains of those towers burn from a distance with my children. We stood in silence with others who watched alongside us as the pillars of smoke billowed into the blue sky.
I remember a friend who worked on Wall Street telling us his experience. He is a native New Yorker, but uncharacteristically parked his car on the Jersey side and ferried over instead of using the parking garage at his building that morning. While at work, he heard the planes hit the buildings, and when his building was evacuated, he ran to help and watched human beings fall to the cement sidewalk from the burning towers. He heard a clear voice telling him to get to the ferry immediately. He ran to get the last ferry that would leave the harbor that morning, and as the ferry was half way to the other side, the North Tower fell. Had he stayed to help, well, who knows. Needless to say, he was devastated for many months.
I remember another dear friend whose son worked in the North Tower. She told us how he had uncharacteristically left the building that morning to get something to eat when the first plane hit.
I remember the hearing that city hospitals were bringing in their on-call staff to make ready for what was sure to be many injured survivors in need of urgent care. There were so very few.
I remember the absolute dead silence of the airspace in our area in the days after the attack. And if there was a plane or helicopter, we were frightened by it.
I remember seeing a highway sign that said "All roads to NYC closed." 
I remember waking up on 9/12/2001 actually thinking it HAD TO be a nightmare. And then turning on the news again to find it was not.
I remember watching news reports as bodies began to be found and rescuers gently and respectfully honoring each who was recovered.
I remember hearing from a friend about a little girl she knew that lost her daddy in those towers.
And I remember my husband’s reaction after spending several days working as a rescuer at the site. No police training prepared him for what he experienced. He still has a hard time talking or watching shows about the attacks.
We remember 9/11 on the anniversary of the attacks because we lost precious loved ones. Most New Yorkers are much less than six degrees removed from someone who was forever taken or someone who was there. As a New Yorker, I still marvel at the fact that two impressive buildings have disappeared from the planet in a thick, poisonous cloud, taking so many innocent lives and affecting so many families. The loss was devastating. Those folks deserved to be remembered. Like it or not, we will remember them.
We still live in an age where each of us must be vigilant. Like the people of Israel building the wall in Nehemiah’s day, we work with one hand and have our weapon in the other. (Nehemiah 4:17) And we know that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are spiritual and mighty. (2 Corinthians 10:1-6)
That being said, the good folks at “Yes I Will Pray” are having an event on 9/11/2013. Please join this Urgent Call to Prayer. It’s time for the sleeping giant, the slumbering body of Christ in America, to wake up, humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face, turn from our lukewarm, feel-good, seeker-friendly, compromised position and take up the FULL armor and once again join the battle for the Kingdom of God, our nation, our cities, our communities, our families, and one another.
Say “Yes, I WILL pray!” Check out the link below and join the battle!
https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/events/511446505607381/

Friday, August 2, 2013

Child Pornography and Trafficking: "If my people" Part 2.


(This blog is in desperate need of editing, but I'm posting it anyway. You'll get the gist of it, and I'll clean it up later. Thanks for your patience!)

I'm writing this with those who call themselves by the name of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in mind. The name of Jesus is one of the only taboos in our nation. Say or do anything else, and it's acceptable. Believers are mocked and taunted, stripped of their Constitutional rights, and denied the same "tolerance" under a hypocritical, double-standard as is fought for on behalf of every other group of people in the nation.

And you, as a believer, have already done one of two things. You've counted the cost and realized that your faith and your citizenship is in heaven, not here. You've made a conscious decision to stand your ground, stand in your faith, be bold as a lion and gentle as a dove and not be ashamed of who you are in Christ. You are a doer who seeks justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly. Kudos to you!

Or you have given in to the hype. You think that grace covers you and you've fallen to the idea that God loves you and everyone, so anything is okay, He forgives it all. You wouldn't have an abortion, but you think it's okay for others under certain circumstances. You think that love is a personal issue, and that decision is made by individuals, and it's not your business. You go to church every week and do your duty, but your Bible is as dusty as your morality. You know you've been taught differently but chalk it up to a new day and a new age your teachers and maybe even the Bible doesn't really understand.

What does this have to do with child pornography and trafficking, you're wondering? You didn't come here for a lecture. You came here because you're concerned about this horrific national blight against our kids, and thought maybe you could learn what you could do about it. GOOD! Bear with me a moment. It seems like I'm getting off topic, but I'm making a point.

The stats you just read are beyond alarming. They should be sending off bells and whistles in every avenue of American society from families, schools, churches, and local municipalities right to the White House. Every segment of our society should be fighting tooth and nail against this plague. It effects all of us and puts all of our children in danger.

However, if the deep roots of a tree-killing weed are not dug up in their entirety, they continue to suck the life out of the tree until it dies. Child pornography and trafficking are symptoms, not the illness itself. Think about how far we've moved from our healthy roots. No, they may not have been perfect, but in my day, the climate in America fostered unity; growth; neighborliness; and a moral standard that hardly exists today except in the few who are unmoved by the bullies that taunt them for upholding it. There was a wholesomeness about American life that has become more like American caricature than history in the minds of those who never experienced it.

Isaiah 5:20-21 says, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!"

It's everywhere. Every dark and evil thing is relished in our culture. Movies with increasingly satanic themes smash the box offices; people fight for the "right" to kill the unborn; people fight to have all reference to God removed from our country--which is the very foundation upon which it was built. If you pull the roots of the tree up, guess what happens to the tree?

We are dead set as a culture that the weed is to grow up healthy and strong while the tree is destroyed. And you who call yourself a believer have an active role. You are either pulling at the roots of the weed or the roots of the tree. Which is it?

 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells us to "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!"

Before we can point a finger at anyone else, each of us has to take stock and examine ourselves. Are we truly in the faith or have we compromised to the tremendous pressure that is daily exerted upon us from the world? No doubt in the least, it's getting harder and harder to stand. But that should not come as a shock to anyone of us. But the way to stand firm is to DIG IN to the Solid Rock. He is a sure foundation, and there is none other!

Back to the title issue. Child pornography and trafficking. They are symptoms of a diseased culture that has for decades, attempted to throw God out of every facet of our society and has embraced every evil, calling it good. It's a slippery slope. Each of us feeds either the tree or the weed, and as we do so, it effects our personal lives as well as the community around us.

Here are just a couple of examples. In the 70's, the movies we now rate as PG-13 were rated X. What does that say about what we are feeding? What was strictly forbidden on TV back then is not only acceptable, it's in animated form for our children.

While sex was hardly more than innuendo in the music of my day, it is now blatant, violent, and depraved. Listen to the "lyrics" of the music your children are listening to. Much of it is nothing less than what I call "auditory porn." And believe me. They know every word!

Our children are being groomed by our society to engage in intimate relations...as children. People are fighting for children under the age of 15 to purchase over-the-counter Plan B, and in most states, minors can have an abortion without parental consent.(http://parentingteens.about.com/od/teenpregfact/a/abortion_laws.htm) Pedophiles are actually fighting for their rights as those with a different "sexual orientation!" (http://www.greeleygazette.com/press/?p=11517)

Porn can become an addiction that is easily fed via online sources.(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050060/) Our children are being trafficked across the nation to the tune of 100,000-300,000 annually, pimped out to men who pay to rape them. (http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/overview). Our children are being taken through coercion, force, or fraud and made sex slaves for thousands of men who have first fantasized with child porn. (http://sharedhope.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/from-child-porn-to-child-trafficking-%E2%80%93-a-devastating-trail/)

So it's big and ugly, isn't it. What can you do about it? First, examine yourself. If you are a believer, and you realize you have been feeding the weed and chopping down the tree, you're not alone. And it's not too late.

2 Chronicles 7:14 tells all of us TODAY..."If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

There's HOPE. For you. For me. For our children. For our nation. But the time is short. Before one more child is subjected to the nightmare of being trafficked for porn or fulfilling the fantasies of others, let's all commit to doing what 2 Chronicles 7:14 declares is that hope for our nation. Let's kill the weed and feed the tree of life.


Monday, May 6, 2013

If My People

What's happening in America? Why does it seem as though things are becoming increasingly difficult and negative on every front? People seem to be more inclined to ignore, condemn, and disparage one another rather than connect, help, and care about each other. There's a lot more bitterness and hatred disguised as personal rights than there is selflessness and sacrifice bringing unity in our communities and nation.

My contention is that the onus is on the ones who call themselves believers in Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer. God gives us a clear outline in His Word how we should conduct ourselves and the blessing that will follow.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

IF MY PEOPLE.  IF. This verse and this blog post isn't about evangelistic outreach, as important as that is. It's about revival in God's people. It's about waking up and discerning the signs, but we have to be willing to admit some things about where we are as a church and where we are as individuals. It's about turning from selfishness, self-righteousness, condemnation, and judgment to being those in whom others might catch a glimpse of Jesus!

We as the body of Christ have not, for the most part in the US, stepped up to the plate. We don't need Old Testament type prophets anymore. We have the Holy Spirit who gives the prophetic gift to believers. We are to discern the times like Nehemiah, be willing to sacrifice like Jeremiah, call those who have turned away like Hosea and live, learn, and teach the Word like Ezra, and ultimately love like Jesus. Remember, the Old Testament prophets were not sent to unbelievers but to the house of Israel with warning and correction.

We need to stir each other to good works, yes, but to faith in the One who sends us to those works first. Real faith. That He is who He says He is. That His Word is His book of instruction for life. That He is not only loving but just and true. That He is still searching for faith in the earth~in the US~in the church. And that faith isn't about getting stuff; it's about giving all we have and all we are in His name, for His glory and trusting Him for the outcome.

We have a great deal to tremble about. We have been on a long, downward slope toward our own destruction. The Body of Christ in America is weak, compromised, self-absorbed, and ineffective. We have missionaries coming to us from nations where we used to send them. "IF MY PEOPLE." God is waiting patiently for a remnant to rise up, believe Him, repent, and do what He says. The time is now...


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Vision


It’s the first day of spring. Where we are, the ground is covered in snow, and the air is still bitingly chilled. Yet, the trees are not anxious about what will happen next. They don’t concern themselves with worry about how their leaves will come forth or how fruit will be born on their branches. The crocuses under the frozen ground are not fretting about how they’ll break through and blossom. No, they just rest until the warmth begins to penetrate the soil and they are freed. And when the time is right, the leaves and fruit on the trees and the flowers waiting in the earth don’t hesitate to come forth. The colors of spring overtake the grays and browns of winter. The sun’s rays warm the land, the songbirds return to partake in the abundance, and it’s as though a time of rejoicing has begun.
 
It’s a time of spring for me too. There is a vision that awaits the appointed time, waiting to be birthed. The winter has ended, and yet, there is snow still covering the ground of the mission lying before me. Unlike the trees, I tend to be anxious about what will happen next and how in the world it will come about. I want to fret about how the vision will break free and blossom into the thing it’s meant to be. I stress about my ability to bring it about, being the epitome of “the foolish thing” that God chooses to confound the wise. And yet, in my hesitation and consternation, I am beginning to feel the warmth that accompanies spring. I know in my “knower” that the process of budding has begun, and it has nothing to do with my stress or anxiety. It has all to do with the vision, the appointed time, and the One who initiated the process to begin with.
And so I’ll learn something from the trees, the crocuses, and the daffodils that come forth with such brilliance and joy. I’ll continue to prepare while the chilly morning air takes my breath away in clouds of white. I’ll be anxious about nothing, but continue to thankfully present my vision and mission to God and those who are willing to run with it beside me. And when the time is right, the vision, though it may linger, will come and not be late. It will be right on time and will accomplish what it is meant to do and achieve the purpose for which it was birthed.

What is the vision that is beginning to come alive in you? Comment about it here, and there may be a giveaway in it for you!
Isaiah 55:11, Habakkuk 2:2-3, Matthew 6:26, 1 Corinthians 1:27, Philippians 1:6, Philippians 4:6, 1 Thess. 5:16-18, James 1:2-4