Dec 072014
 

You guys, my beloved pastor Ron Patterson is so insanely beautiful and wise. He ALWAYS is but his message last Sunday about love and hate and humility and building bridges just TORE me up . After he finished I stood up in my pew and clapped and cheered and WOOT WOOTED and pumped my fists and well, my church is not that kind of church. And so Craig said: SIT DOWN, HONEY. HONEY. Sit down. So then I stayed standing even longer than I WOULD have because Craig is not the boss of me and nobody puts baby in a corner and submitting to your spouse  is not really something we focus on much in the UCC.

In related news, I REALLY FEEL LIKE PEOPLE SHOULD STAND UP AND CLAP MORE IN GENERAL. Like, just as they go throughout their day.  But we can talk about that more another time. Without further ado, meet Pastor Ron!

My Pastor Ron

First off, things are tough out there in this world of ours. There is real evil—it exists, you can see it operating in some of the crazy behavior we hear about that makes reasonable people afraid for the future.  Women and girls are kidnapped, aid workers and reporters are killed and religious ideas, taken to their extreme, are cited as justification and as a motivation to build the momentum of hate.   

Young people who do not feel they have any investment in the future are being seduced by the promise of glory or the belief that violence is the way to solve their personal problems and make a meaningful difference with their lives. They are being taught that violence is the best way to claim and express their religious political identity or to salve the wounds they believe have been caused by others.    

And it would be easy just to stand here and offer smug words of condemnation or to wring my hands about how God-awful those poor deluded fools over there are behaving, wishing that they would sit down over a cup of coffee with me sometime soon so I could enlighten them with my wisdom and straighten out their thinking about truth, beauty and the American way. 

And it would also be easy just to suggest that our military be given a free hand to bomb those with whom we happen to disagree into the stone age or to meet their violence with greater violence or to force those evil people into a different way of looking at the world more in tune with our ideas of how the world should be.

And yes, let me say it—sometimes force is necessary, sometimes sacrifice needs to be made for the sake of defense and yes, we need to speak out—all of us for the sake of the truth as we see it…..but the way of Jesus is a different way—it is not the way of us against them—or we have the truth and you don’t have it and you need to get some of our truth or God doesn’t love you.  

Between 1608 and 1638, Protestants and Catholics fought the Thirty Years War because they both believed that the other side did not know the truth about Jesus.  Eight million people died because the spiritual ancestors of those beautiful people across the street at St. Williams disagreed with our spiritual ancestors and they all decided—both Catholics and Protestants, that the way of Jesus justified killing one another to make their way the only way.  Do you suppose that made Jesus happy?

In the year 1,000 an army of Western Christians sacked Constantinople, the capital city of the Eastern Christians because one side used leavened bread in communion and the other side used unleavened bread.  Thousands dead because of yeast or the lack there of, in the communion bread.  Do you suppose that is what Jesus had in mind when he said:  “This is my body broken for you…..”

I do not pretend to understand the terribly deep hate that some of our Muslim sisters and brothers have for one another or for Christians.  I do not pretend to understand the hate that motivated Christians to lead the Crusades.  What is there about religion –  theirs and ours and others that turns love into hate and hope into fear?  I know there is a deep history of mistrust and fear between Sunni and Shia Muslims and there is a legacy of tribal mistrust and hatred and ideas about vengeance that I do not understand – but I do know my own religious history, I know the nastier, violent parts of the Bible. And I know our own history as a people even here in the United States. The history of slavery and the way we treated the people who were living here when we moved in, and the blood bath that was the Civil War…….   

Let me suggest just a few ideas for you to think about.  Buried right there in the middle of our Bible lesson for today and layered over and surrounded by all the scary stuff about violence and the end of the world—sort of like those news reports some of us sit and listen to all day—is a little word from Jesus that is a big word about life.  Like a flower planted in the desert, Jesus says—heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the word was power and the word was the way that leads to life. What is the Word? Jesus is the Word. Jesus is the way and the way he laid out (Love) and the words he spoke (Love) will endure, not the hate, not the hopelessness, not the fear. 

Do you believe that?  That’s the promise that comes each year at Christmas. Love.  That’s what born in the manger and all that “Silent Night, Holy Night” candle glow, peace on earth stuff—that’s what it’s about. That’s the message, that’s the promise. Jesus. Love.

Question:  Is that promise strong enough to confront the hate?  Is that promise a truth by which you and I can live?          

The way of hate is not just out there or over there in some other country or among people with whom we happen to disagree.  Hate may manifest itself in the behavior of the followers of any religion. And hate is tricky- the sneakiest trick the devil plays is to get you and me to hate the haters and thereby wallow in the mud that has made this world miserable from day one. 

If becoming a bigot myself is my best answer to the bigotry of another, then hate wins.  If enhancing my own intolerance is my considered intellectual defense to the intolerance of another, then hate wins. If manifesting my racism is my solution to the racism of another, then hate wins.  If even suggesting for a moment that because I love God, others don’t or that they are somehow less than the beautiful creations of God’s love, then hate wins. And if I am so sure that my way of worship is the only way to worship or to pray, then hate surely wins and wins big time. 

Do you remember that little story Jesus told about seeing the speck in our neighbor’s eye while failing to see the log in our own?  There’s an awful lot of that going around and I’m sorry to say that some days under the influence of the harsh reality of this good earth, I fall into that mistake myself.

I can’t fix the Middle East.  I can’t sort out the complexities that drive people to deny the humanity of other people.  All I can do is get my heart and my head and my hands around the words Jesus said would never pass away. 

I can love my neighbor. I can honor the image of God that I bear.  I can love the power of love—which is another word for all I believe about God.   If I only believe in a God who is some distant being out there, way far away, then I can get away with all sorts of nasty behavior toward the person next door, but I don’t see it that way. 

God is my neighbor.  You are my neighbor.  The person who disagrees with me is my neighbor.   Even the person who hates and behaves terribly is my neighbor and despite the fact that I have trouble saying it and often more trouble believing it, even that unloving, misbehaving, hate manifesting so and so who is attempting to tear the world apart, that person is my neighbor and they bear the very image of God. 

Now that’s the theory- so  how do we put it into practice?  I don’t think it works long distance for most of us. I don’t think it works when you or I wring our hands lamenting how awful things are. So here’s what we do: Turn off the news channel! Leave your echo chamber! Find someone who disagrees with you and take him or her to lunch.  Make friends with someone who follows a different faith.  Read a good book and learn something new about another religion.  Practice your own faith so that it shows. 

 Recognize that if everyone you know agrees with you, you are probably living in the same far country where the Prodigal child squandered his inheritance—remember that story?  If your mind is made up and you know what you know and don’t want to know more, then at least consider that you might have closed the door to the possibility that the Holy Spirit of the living God might move through you to make this world a better place.  

So…Change your mind!  Love someone.  Give something.  Plant a tree. Light a candle.  Hold on to hope.   That is the way that leads to life!  And more people on that journey are exactly what this hurting world needs. 

Amen. 

 

(ALL MANNER OF CHEERING  AND WOOT WOOTING AND FIST PUMPING AND ALL THE THINGS!!!! Honey, sit down. I will not.)

 



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest


Dec 042014
 

Friends, I really need you to read this long essay all the way through. If you do- and you follow directions -– you will walk away with a 1:350 chance to win a brand new Jeep Wrangler Sahara on December 23rd. Strange, but true. Like me! Read on.

If you’ve read Carry On, Warrior- You already know Gena. Of all of the kind people I’ve been blessed to know – Gena is the kindest.

Gena and Zach

That Harry Connick Jr. guy is Gena’s husband, Zach. Gena and Zach met when we were all at JMU together. At their wedding, the DJ introduced them as “ZENA AND GACK.” Zach is an orthodontist. When I imagine Zach as a child, I picture him like that little elf on Rudolph who only wanted to work on teeth. When Zach reads this, he’ll likely send me an email explaining that he was nothing like that elf. I will respond by explaining that he is not the boss of my imagination. My list of favorite boys goes like this: Craig, Chase, Bobby, Bubba, John, Zach. The thing you need to know about Zach is this: If Zach says three sentences, one will be about how proud he is of Gena and how much he loves her. If Gena speaks three sentences, one will be about how good Zach is and how proud she is of him. The love and respect they have for each other is my second favorite thing about them.

My first favorite thing about them is that they are generous. If I had to choose one word for them, it’d be generous. They are generous with their time and home and talents and lives. The way they love and take care of each other is exactly the way they love and take of their world. You will find that this is often true of marriages.

Two weeks ago I got this email from Gena:

G, There is a little boy from Zach’s practice and he’s really sick and his family is a bunch of warriors and they are fighting so hard but they need our help. Zach is doing what he can. Can you help?

The thing is that I have a strict rule: I never use this platform or the non-profit to help friends. This rule hurts sometimes, but I’ve learned that it’s what’s required to keep Momastery, Together Rising, and my friendships pure. However, the other thing is that there just isn’t a rule on Earth I wouldn’t break for Zena and Gach. So I called right away and said: Tell me everything.

Here’s everything.

Meet Mathias.

MatthaisMathias is a 13 year-old boy living in Northern Virginia, my old stomping grounds. Here is how his mama describes him: Mathias’s name means “gift of God” — he truly is a gift. He is the bravest, kindest person I know. His love & care for others and his appreciation for everything in life is remarkable. He is wise beyond his years. He is my inspiration. I have always said that, “when I grow up, I want to be like Mathias.”  He is gentle, honest & well known for his beautiful smile. He is a wonderful brother to Troy & a great friend to so many.” 

Matthias and brother

Mathias was diagnosed in July 2012. He actually didn’t have any visual signs of anything unusual on his leg other than pain, which we thought was soccer injury or growing pain… the were no bruises or no swelling, no rash or anything suspicious. In fact I asked for an X-ray and the doctor suggested that we ice it or heat it for a few weeks before we expose him to X-ray. I insisted and I am so glad that I did. It was cancer. Mathias began treatment and his leg was amputated. He got sicker, he lost his hair. Over the past 20 months, he has endured biopsies, port placement, 26 rounds of chemo, 3 major lung surgeries, amputation of his right leg, and completed 28 rounds of radiation. 

Mathias’s family fought and fought but now they have been told that the only thing to do is keep Mathias comfortable. They have decided to do a hell of a lot more than that. In addition to loving each other fiercely, completely and heroically, here is how Mathias and his family is spending the remainder of their time on Earth together: fighting for strangers.

This from Roya, Mathias’s mom:

Roya and MathiasDuring this journey we quickly learned about the shameful lack of funding for pediatric cancer and massive lack of awareness in our community. In December 2013 – when I went to DMV to get a new license plate for my car, I asked for a specialty plate with the gold ribbon (the Childhood Cancer Awareness Ribbon) on it. I was told that they have the pink ribbon for breast cancer and the yellow ribbon for the troops … but nothing gold! I thought: How can that be? Mathias was surprised and saddened by this.

He said: “The pink ribbon is out there and everyone knows what it stands for- we need the gold ribbon to become well known, too! We need people to know that kids get cancer too and that they can’t fight alone!” He knows this because of his long battle with cancer. If it wasn’t for the love & support of friends, family and strangers we couldn’t have kept up the fight for this long. Others have to know!

People kept asking Mathias- what can we do for you? What can we bring/give you guys? One day, when he was already very, very sick – Mathias decided that what he wanted was to make sure a gold ribbon license plate was created. So while we were busy taking care of Mathias and his treatments, a friend of ours – Jay Coakley – proceeded with the idea and helped us get this application process underway. It was a long, hard process- but it happened! Our bill passed! This bill will be called the Mathias Law, it will go to the general assembly in Richmond in January 2015 and when it passes it will go to the senate and then to the governor’s desk… and this will become a reality. Then DMV will create a sample plate and once we approve it, it will be in production & available to public all over Virginia.

Tag Greason from the Virginia House of Delegates came to our home personally to deliver the news to Mathias, to shake his hand, thank him and say: thank you for dreaming your dream for other children.

To dream our dream for others. What higher calling can there be? And a child shall lead them.

Mathias and Governor

Back to Zach. Dr. Casagrande to you. Dr Casagrande is Mathias’s odd toothy elf. I MEAN ORTHODONTIST.

Zach wrote this to me:

“Mathias has been a patient of mine since he was 9…three years before he was diagnosed. I can tell you he’s a special kid. Infectious smile, one of those eternally positive people (like Gena). Like anything else in life we all have our favorites…and Mathias is one of mine…Polite. Fun. Outgoing. Selfless. Smart. Witty. Athletic. Good kid. Just a really, really good kid.”

Baseball
Hug

Wheelchair

Zach felt ON FIRE about Mathias’s diagnosis. He felt angry at cancer and inspired by Mathias and filled to bursting with fear and sadness and hope. All these feelings mixed together added up to one thing: LOVE. And Zach knows that Love is a VERB. So he decided to DO something to love Mathias well. What though? WHAT?

You know how Beuchner said that: “Your calling is the place where your deepest gladness meets the world’s deepest need?”

Well- Besides his family and friends and teeth – Zach’s deepest gladness is CARS. Cars make Zach DEEPLY GLAD.

“Your calling is the place where your deepest gladness meets the world’s deepest need.”

illustration

And so Zach went out and bought a brand new White 2015 Jeep Wrangler Sahara. And he decided to raffle the Jeep off, with 50% of the proceeds going to Mathias’s medical bills and the other 50% going to Kyle’s Kamp. He decided to announce the winner at a Blood Drive that his office would host on December 23 in honor of Mathias. Because blood drives are Mathias’s other passion.

This from Roya:

Mathias thought it would be great if people would go and donate blood in his honor or register with Be the Match and become a bone-marrow donor. So in the past two years we have hosted a few blood drives in our community and for his 13th Birthday on June 14th, instead of presents he asked people to come and register with Be The Match. So while we fight, we try to pay it forward and making a difference is all we can do, with the help of so many amazing supporters in our community.

I know. I cannot even BELIEVE this family’s goodness and beauty. LET US MAKE LIKE MATHIAS AND PAY HIS BEAUTY FORWARD. Love is a verb. Here’s what we can DO to make our love for Mathias and all children with cancer REAL. To make sure they FEEL it.

ZACH IS GOING TO RAFFLE THIS JEEP OFF ON DECEMBER 23rd. ONLY 350 TICKETS HAVE BEEN SOLD. WHICH MEANS THAT IF YOU BUY A TICKET TODAY – YOUR CHANCES TO WIN A BRAND NEW JEEP ARE 1:350. THOSE ARE SOME INSANE ODDS. YOUR CHANCES OF MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE ARE 100%. THAT’S A LOCK. If you feel moved by Mathias and his mama and Zach – please choose one or all of the following and BE LOVE!

  1. BUY A RAFFLE TICKET!!!
  2. If you live in the Northern Virginia area, go to the Mathias/ NVO blood drive by going to www.redcrossblood.org and use sponsor code: NV Orthodontics to schedule your donation in honor of Mathias.
  3. If you’re not in the Nova area, GO TO BE THE MATCH.
  4. Share the living bejesus out of this story. Best-case scenario is that we completely destroy our chances of winning this jeep.
  5. Go love on Mathias and his family over here.
  6. Check out KYLE’S KAMP- half of the raffle money will go there. Kyle’s Kamp has raised more than $1,200,000 for pediatric cancer research and care for Children’s National since 2012.
Here's Kyle from Kyle's Camp with the Jeep we could win!!

Here’s Kyle from Kyle’s Kamp with the Jeep we could win!!

One last thing:

This morning at 5:30 am, I was in Naples working on this essay and Gena was in Virginia sifting through pictures of Mathias to send me.  Then she got an email from Roya that tore her heart open again. Gena stopped what she was doing and sent me this one sentence:

G, I can’t stop crying.

Here is what I sent back.

Dearest Gena,

The word compassion….com = with, passion = to burn – to suffer – from love.  

And so real compassion is only present when you are suffering in love with another person. That is what you are feeling this morning. True, deep compassion. You are voluntarily suffering with Roya. It is hard and horrible – real compassionbut it is also the holiest thing available to us on this Earth, in this lifetime. It’s a gift from God. It IS God. And it’s Christmas, Gen. Christmas is about this: God so loved the world that God decided to come suffer with us. And so really, when you think about it- the only true way to celebrate Christmas is to suffer in love with someone else.

And so, Sister, this morning it might feel like we are just up early in the dark at our computers but really- we are entering into God’s work. We are entering into HARD LOVE. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the poor in spirit. For theirs is the kingdom of God.

And so this morning – as we let our hearts break open for Mathias- we do so knowing that like the bone fractures Zach taught the kids about last week – our hearts will grow back stronger for having been broken. Those who let their hearts break again again and yet again have the strongest, most powerful hearts. Theirs is the Kingdom of God. Thank you, Gena – and please thank Zach, for inviting me into the Kingdom of God with Mathias.

I Love You So, Little G.

Love Wins.

Big G



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest


Dec 032014
 

First published December 2009

In preparation for Melton Christmas Picture 2009, Craig asked a friend to take pictures of us in our backyard. When we told Chase it was family picture day, he immediately started crying hysterically. I kid you not. Craig looked at me accusingly and I hung my head and promised both boys that I’d be on my best family picture day behavior. Chase asked if that meant I wouldn’t cry or yell. I said I’d try really hard. We actually had a nice afternoon in the backyard and the end result was some good shots, like this one.

I loved this picture, until I looked closely at myself. LOOK AT MY EYES. Sister and I have this affliction that we used to believe meant that one eye looked smaller than the other in pictures. We only recently admitted that our affliction is actually that one eye IS smaller than the other. In addition to this freaky affliction, my eyes are also two different colors. One greenish, one brownish. People have been nice to me about this situation my whole life until a few weeks ago when Sister and I went to lunch after a day of shopping. The teenage waitress walked over to our table and when I smiled up at her she threw open her annoyingly normal eyes and yelledOH MY GOD. LOOK AT YOUR EYES! CAN YOU, LIKE SEE OUT OF THOSE THINGS?” I tried to be nice about it because I love Jesus, but sister threatened to “kick her in the shin” quite loudly which made me feel better. When I got home and told Craig the story about the mean waitress, he looked surprised. Like WAY TOO surprised. Then he looked at me closely and said “WHOA. Cool.” Seven years, people. He’d never noticed.

Anyway, this was the only picture that could possibly work for our Christmas picture, so I did what I do five times daily…I emailed husband and sister to get their reactions.

I forwarded the above picture without mentioning the eye problem so I wouldn’t bias them.

This was sister’s response:

Sister, it’s wonderful. The kids look fantastic and you look beautiful. A little deformed, but still beautiful.

I thought maybe I’d have better luck with husband. But this was his response:

Honey, eye love the picture. It’s eyedeal.

Jerks.

So I emailed Adrianne, who’s a wiz with photoshop and is always airbrushing herself. I told her that I had an EMERGENCY and could she PLEASE fix my eye so I could send out our Christmas picture without friends thinking they needed to start some sort of foundation for me.

She said Sure Thing.

A few hours later I got this “solution” from Adrianne, along with an explanation that she decided to fix the whole family.

Craig has this picture on his office desk.

He tells people that it was taken to capture the family’s shock after I served an edible lasagna one night.

Adrianne ended up fixing my eye, so now we look like this:

Not too bad. I was happy.

But I felt weird sending out a doctored picture of myself for Christmas, it felt like fibbing. It’s like Popeye (to whom I must be somehow related) said… I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam. Uneven multi-colored eyeballs and all.

So we ditched the whole family picture idea and went with this:

 

In more recent news, we Meltons have not sent out a single Christmas card since this one, four years ago. I simply cannot imagine any scenario in which anyone we know needs to be updated further about la vida Melton. Also, it’s just too hard. All the addresses. Lord have mercy.

Merry Christmas, Monkees. Eye love you.



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest


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