Frozen Heroes

Frozen Heroes

A man with a clipboard, a company sponsored shirt and an infectious smile stood in my doorway. “Your home may have damage from the recent storm. With your permission I will conduct an inspection and report my findings.”  After a quick circle around our house he determined our windows were in fact hail damaged.

Suspicious of random contractors coming to my door, I contacted a construction company who worked on our house years ago to verify the findings. The company I contacted offered to both replace our windows and process our insurance claim as they had done previously. We were planning to replace the windows anyway. The insurance money would help get the job done. I signed the contract.

From that moment forward nothing went quite right. Overwhelmed with pressure to compete for repair contracts with the numerous construction companies canvasing the area, exhausted workers littered my life with their frustration, anger and negativity. Several sales representatives assigned to our project abandon their position leaving confused replacement workers in their wake to pick up the pieces. An inspector assigned by our insurance company crawled up his ladder a couple times then, rebuking two independent company findings, flatly denied seeing any damage to our windows so our claim was rejected. I began to question the honesty of all involved.

A lawyer was retained and a lawsuit filed. My heart grew heavier by the day. I lost trust in everyone. During another appointment, a screaming match erupted in my front yard between the newly assigned inspector and a representative from the law office. The sun shined brightly that day but it felt like dark clouds hung heavily over my house. I wanted to run, to disassociate but felt chained to a stake in the ground by a signed legal contract. The ugliness around me seeped into other areas of my life. I questioned everyone’s motives and braced myself for confrontation even when it was not there. My interaction with these profit mongers made me feel like I was one of them, attached painfully to their corruption like thistles wound in my hair.

Yet another inspector confirmed there was indeed damage but the amount insurance would cover was significantly less than first thought. Everything quieted. Many months passed without action, calls were not returned and no progress made toward resolution. Workers passed on our project for those with bigger profits. The lack of activity was, oddly, a relief. A mind clearing appeared in the absence of these people. The recognition that contracts can and sometimes should be broken and new windows could be purchased from somewhere else had space to take hold. It took a long time for me to be emotionally strong enough to construct a new plan and begin again, but by late fall a new contract was signed and the project date scheduled.

Fear and distrust continued to haunt me as the work began on a cold, blustery February morning. A crew of four men arrived to begin the process of replacing twenty-two windows, nearly every window in the house. I was quiet, introverted and prayerful as IMG_0824they set up. The potential damage these men could do to the structural integrity of my home sent shock waves through my nervous system. They explained their plan step by step, answered questions and knowing how nervous I was, reassured me, promised me, they would do their best work.

As they removed and reframed windows each day that week I gained strength and calm. These men worked through record cold temperatures, smiling, encouraging each other and never once complaining. “It is cold, but nothing we can’t handle. Don’tIMG_0817 worry about us.” Music and playful voices blew through the house warming the below zero winds. Instead of raging against the difficult dangerous project they were challenged to complete, they welcomed the opportunity to work and to preform exceptionally.

Their attention to detail, team spirit and positive attitudes through incredibly difficult circumstances changed me, healed me and raised me up again. These young men did so much more than install new windows; they restored my faith in humanity, helped me see the good in people again. When I look back on this project I remember their smiling faces, respectfulness, playfulness and pride instead of all the previous ugliness. For my time spent with these ordinary, exceptional men – the light in my darkness, my frozen heroes – I am truly grateful.

Frozen Heroes

Dear God,  Thank you for these skillful men and their good hearts. Thank you for the light I saw in their eyes, their hearts and their work. Thank you for renewing my faith in humanity by showing me the good in everyday people.  Please help me to be a positive force, a healing light to everyone I meet.  Love, Jean

Philippians 2:14-15  Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

Note: This crew of men work for HHC Additions. They are trained and subcontracted by Renewal by Anderson to install windows. I have their permission to share their photos and the story of our time together.

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Little Armenians

Who knows what a new day brings. Last Sunday morning I woke up to find images of Pope Francis strung through my Facebook newsfeed. Comments he made during Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica marking the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide left the Turkish Foreign Minister turning to Twitter and ambassadors scrambling.

For a brief moment and in an incredibly insignificant and selfish way I thought, Lord Jesus show the world who the Armenian people are, so that I may never, ever, ever have to resort to the Kardashians as a reference when trying to explain my husband’s ethnicity. Just an honest Jesus moment, what can I say.

10985340_10205796771465965_7283016304982171630_nPope Francis called the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks the first genocide of the 20th century and urged the international community to recognize it as such. Although historians estimate that 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I,  the Turkish government has definitely denied that a genocide ever took place. Sadly, for decades now the United States has avoided officially using the word Genocide in regards to the Massacre. Not because it wasn’t indeed Genocide, but because Turkey is an important military ally with an important military base.

As I rattled off the Pope’s eloquent and unapologetic statements to my hubby, my little Armenians, the ones I’m lucky enough to share my life with, were still snuggled into their beds.

I’d affectionately coined them my watered-down Armenians-a sentiment I shared in my own Facebook post that morning. To which my brother-in-law, Pierre, responded warmly that there is no such thing. After some days to ponder, not only do I think he’s right (yes, Pierre, I’m admitting it to the whole world) but I think it might just be the smartest thing he’s ever said.

My kids, 10 and 13, spent the morning watching a documentary about that atrocities of their ancestors. It’s a graphic and upsetting film. I wanted to hide this from them, to shield them from the inherent evil in the world-but that too would be injustice. They watched and my heart was heavy for them.

Before my children were born, in the heartbreaking images of starving survivors I’d see the face of my husband’s grandfather, Dikran.

Raised in a multigenerational home, my husband shared his childhood home with his grandfather. Dikran served in the French Colonial military and was an accomplished tennis champion. Well into his eighties he still had the physique of an athlete. Because he preferred the sympathies given to the frail, his appearance often mirrored unsteadiness. Nonetheless, when he thought he was alone we would find him running and jumping through my mother-in-laws living room. Dikran and I shared the same conversations countless times. In his limited English he would do his best to tell me about his love for tennis. He would also say to me, “I speak English very good… Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday…” and then he would laugh at himself like it was the first time he said it, and as if he thought that English sounded absurd. I’m told that he had an incredible dry sense of humor, and that in his prime he was the life of every party without ever cracking a smile. Dikran died four years after my husband and I were married. In the last few days of his life whenever he saw my face he wept.

Dikran was born in Armenia in 1913. He was a toddler during the massacres.

Through the resolve and tenacity of his mother, Jameleh, Dikran and his siblings survived genocide. Refusing to deny Christ, her husband was taken in the night, put in shackles, and marched off to slaughter. The sound of shackles scraping along the cobblestone road would haunt her for the rest of her life. She was forced from her grand home filled with fine things. Knowing they would be driven into the death marches, she made the decision to leave Dikran behind. He was hidden away and cared for by his aunt. With her two older sons at her side she carried her infant daughter for nearly 40 days through the Syrian desert. Witnessing the most vile abuses at the hands of the Turkish guards she resorted to covering herself in animal feces in an attempt to avoid their abuses. They finally found refuge in Aleppo, Syria. Dikran would make the pilgrimage to Aleppo three years later. They lived for five years in Aleppo off the repayment of a debt that was owed to Jemeleh’s husband. When the debt was paid in full, Jameleh was no longer able to care for her children. Dikran would spend much of his youth in an orphanage run by Catholic Charities.

11156232_10205796771625969_4920684143615517400_nSince the birth of my children what I see now in the haunting documentary images are the faces of my own children. Pierre, you’re so right there simply is no such thing as a watered-down Armenian. Perhaps it’s the incredible tenacity of my husband’s grandparents to survive, to refuse to let evil win, that shows itself in the eye’s of my children.

And so we continue to move forward, and my little Armenians carry the resolve of their ancestors. They are beautiful and thriving, as are our nieces and nephews and in that I know that evil didn’t win. It never truly wins.

Searching scripture to match the enormity of the pain of Genocide brought me to Revelation. Some things are just too heavy for this world and so we must fix our eyes on the next.

Revelation 21:4 New Living Translation (NLT)

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

A Prayer for our heavy hearts-

“Lead us Lord that we may, in both big and small ways, challenge evil.  Where it begins help us to be your light that overshadows darkness. Help us to lead our children in a manner that honors those who have gone before us and have endured great sorrow. Protect our hearts, in your Son’s precious name. Amen.”


Mindy Lynn Hilo and her family have been members at Easter for ten years. She is a conformation mentor and a regular contributor to Easter Prays. Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards. You may follow Mindy on her personal blog at www.embracingcharlie.com.

Resurrection and Receiving the Holy Spirit

The store near our house is done clearing away Easter goodies, but in church communities all over the world, the 50-day celebration of Easter has just begun.

Today I’m pondering a passage from John’s gospel that was read yesterday at our church– and in many churches throughout the world– for the Second Sunday of the Easter Season. In this passage, the disciples are hiding behind locked doors in fear. They must have been afraid that if their leader, Jesus, was killed, they might be next on the list for the same treatment for following him.

Suddenly, the Risen Jesus appears in their midst. Peace be with you, he says. I think it’s important to notice what Jesus did not say. He could have easily said, where were you guys when I needed you?  You said you would stick by me no matter what happened!  He could have castigated Peter for denying him three times before the cock crowed. But no…Jesus says, Peace be with you!

Sunrise over Atlantic Coast--Clement of Alexander quote--Spiritual Drawing Board(click on image for full effect)

Not only does Jesus offer them peace. He gives them a special calling: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” They, too, are called by God to carry on the work of Jesus Christ–and he gives them the spiritual strength and gifts they need to do this ministry by breathing on them and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit…”

As I mentioned in the post about Jesus breathing his last breath on the cross, the words for breath and spirit are often closely related in the original languages of the bible. Jesus handed over his spirit to the Father when he died on the cross. The Father breathed life into Christ again in the Resurrection–a new kind of life, an eternally living, breathing, incarnated and risen way of existence.

Now Jesus is passing his Holy Spirit into the disciples to empower them to carry on his work. This Holy Spirit has been “breathed” into followers of Jesus throughout all the centuries since that time.

Today, Jesus “breathes” his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, into each one of us who seeks to believe and follow in his path.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts this day with your peace, inner strength, and gifts to serve others with love! 

 Until next time, Amen! 

 

Easter member Julie McCarty is a freelance writer, spiritual director, beginning artist, and volunteer coordinator of Easter Prays/Easter Praise! blog. This post originally appeared on her blog, Spiritual Drawing Board

 

 

An Embarrassing Failure

Today’s post is from Pastor Brandon Newton:

 

Running into the waterThe seasons follow a rhythm: spring—summer—fall—and winter. Our lives follow a rhythm: wake up—eat breakfast—chase kids/go to work/whatever it is we do during the day—eat dinner—relax if you’re lucky—go to bed. Is there a rhythm to how we connect with God?

I believe it is important to connect with God on a daily and weekly basis. This includes worship on the weekends and prayer on my own each day. To be honest, helping my kids connect with God on a daily and weekly basis has been more difficult.

Recently we tried to get on board with Rich Melheim’s “Faith5.” The tag line for this exercise is “Holding Your Family Together” so it seems like a pretty worthy endeavor (faith5.org). At any rate, the rhythm looks like this: “SHARE your highs and lows—READ a Bible verse or story—TALK about how the Bible reading might relate to your highs and lows—PRAY for one another’s highs and lows—BLESS one another.”

These are all good things, but to be honest this is difficult to do with small children. We weaned Faith5 down to Faith1 by sharing highs and lows at mealtime. This was a good rhythm… for a short time. Lately we’ve been lucky to remember to share highs and lows once or twice a week.

What is it about faith experiences, including prayer and Bible study, that makes it so difficult to incorporate into our daily rhythm? I know it’s important, I even teach people how to do it, but still struggle to incorporate these practices into the daily rhythm of my family.

To be clear, here is how hugely I failed at this rhythm: Faith5 every night turned into Faith1 every night, which turned into Faith1 once-a-week. That is a pretty epic failure.

However, there is also a rhythm to our church calendar. There are times of the year built in to intentionally focus on the rhythm of our daily and weekly connection with God. I am referring specifically to Advent (as we prepare for Christmas) and Lent (as we prepare for Easter). So maybe my family can’t focus on being held together every day of the week, but for at least two church seasons out of the year, I believe we do a fairly decent job.

Here is one of my favorite family prayer rituals: We save all of the Christmas cards received during Advent. Each card, letter, or picture goes into a basket. During Lent we put that basket on the table and at dinner each night (or most nights) we pray for 2-3 families from whom we received Christmas greetings. Our 5-year old enjoys repeating after Christy (my wife) or myself while our 2-year old likes looking at the pictures of friends and family.

Ice Cream

Maybe there is a rhythm to how we connect with God. I also celebrate the spontaneous connections, like when a fire truck or police car passes by with sirens blaring and our daughter says “God, be with them and the people they go to help” (she was taught this by Christy). Or the times our kids randomly start singing songs they learned at Vacation Bible School or church school in the back seat of our car or while playing in their rooms.

I pray that you are able to connect with God within the rhythm of your daily life and outside the rhythm of your daily life.

 

About the writer:  Brandon is the newly called pastor to Easter and a farm kid living in the city who married up to his wife Christy. He enjoys the frustrating challenge of faithful parenting.