Monthly Archives: June 2013

My first Father’s Day gift came years before I was a Dad

I’ve been given a lot of Father’s Day gifts over the years.  I’ve gotten shoes, books, a basketball, shirts, and pictures.  When I was in eighth grade, I got a phone for my room.  This might sound strange.  Not many eighth graders get Father’s Day presents.  I remember once telling a friend about the gift my Dad gave me for Father’s Day, and he was confused.  My Dad always gave my sister and brother and me gifts for Father’s Day.

“Being a Father is the best thing that ever happened to me,” he would explain to us.  “And I couldn’t be a Father if it wasn’t for you.”  Although that was only technically true of my sister (his first born), I never argued the point.  The message was clear, and it was one that I don’t think I truly grasped until I was a father myself.  Becoming a father is the best thing that ever happened to me.

I am the father of two girls, and I adore them.  Their laughter is beautiful music.  Their smiles are the greatest of masterpieces.  Their imagination is mind-boggling.  Their dance is breath-taking.  I savor every moment that we are together.  They make me want to be a better person.  I want to give them everything.  On this Father’s Day, I want to give them a gift.

This year though, I’m not going to give them a doll or a toy.  I’m not going to give them a book or a Blackhawks t-shirt.  I’m going to give their gift to someone else, and they are compassionate enough to understand.  Instead of giving to them, I am going to give to other daughters, because everytime I look at my daughters, I can’t help but see the future.

I dream of my daughters growing up in safety and health.  I dream of them getting educated, finding their talents, discovering their gifts.  I dream of them making lasting friendships and falling in love.  I see tremendous giftedness in both of them, and my most important role as a father is to help them see and develop these gifts for themselves.  My dream for them is to fulfill who they were created to be.  My dreams for their future are a luxury that I will never take for granted.

My dreams for their futures are a luxury that most fathers in the world cannot afford.  For most daughters of the world, safety, dignity, education, and health are unattainable dreams.  So my gift to my daughters on this Father’s Day is to the daughters of the world.  My gift this Father’s Day is a word of encouragement.  It is a word of awareness.  It is a call to action.

Maternal health is not a women’s issue.  It is a global concern.  For millions of women, giving birth is the most dangerous thing they will ever do.  Motherhood should be a gift of life, but far too often it is a death sentence.  In many places in the world, women are valued for little more than giving birth.  They are treated as a walking uterus, to be valued if they give birth, and thrown away when or if they cannot.  Girls are forced into motherhood too soon, when it is biologically possible but anatomically dangerous.  They are not allowed to rest and heal between pregnancies.  They have little access to contraception.  If pregnant, health care is difficult to find, and often impossible to afford.  And postpartum care is not even on the RADAR for most.

My faith does not let me standby and allow this to happen.  Jesus raised the widow’s son because he had compassion for her.  He healed the woman that was bleeding for 12 years, returning her to a life fully integrated into the community.  He invited the women to learn at his feet, alongside the men.  He debated a foreign woman at the well, and exulted her faith.  Jesus believed that crazy notion that women are to be valued and treated with dignity and respect.

I believe the same, and so I am called by that same Jesus to do something.  I am called to give my daughters – and all daughters – a gift.

no woman no cry posterThings you can do:

  • Go to Healthy Families, Healthy Planet.  This initiative is funded by the United Nations Foundation, and housed by the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society.  On this useful website, there are fact sheets,  resources for worship, tips for hosting a panel discussion, and instructions on how to host a screening of the film, No Woman, No Cry.
  • Find or host a screening of the incredible film No Woman, No Cry, which tells the story of four women with at-risk pregnancies.  This is a touching, emotionally charged movie.  It is documentary film-making at its best.
  • Write to your Senators and Representatives, and tell them to support aid for international maternal health and family planning.  Supporting women’s health is the single most cost-effective form of aid that we can give.  Remember, Family Planning does not equal abortions.  Increased access and education about contraception can reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and reduce the demand for abortions. US Aid to International family planning efforts in 2012 provided contraception to 31 million families.  This helped prevent an estimated 9 million unintended pregnancies, and 4 million abortions.  Maternal health and family planning is Pro-Life. (source: the Guttmacher Institute)
  • Men, stand up and be heard.  Too many believe that maternal health is a woman’s issue.  In most of the world, men’s voices are the most influential in determining public policy and education.  If more men demanded that their daughters were taken care of, it would happen.  There are education programs being set up through developing nations teaching men about their role in family planning.  Stand up men, for your sisters, your mothers, and your daughters.  Do no take the dreams you have for them for granted.

Dads, give someone a Father’s Day gift.  Give a daughter hope for a future where she is not sold into slavery for her uterus.  Give a daughter hope for an education.  Give a daughter a dream for her future.  Give a daughter the gift of life, and life abundant.

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Drafting hope

The 2013 baseball amateur draft finished this weekend.  1,216 young men were drafted, and 1,215 of them dream of playing for a Major League Baseball team someday.  They dream of running out onto a perfectly manicured green field, shagging fly balls out of the clear blue sky, swinging for the fences, and tipping their hat to the crowd.  Most of them will never make a big league roster, and still they dream.

One however, has no such aspirations.  The 34th round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks was one of the top high school prospects in 2010.  He was drafted then by the San Diego Padres, but chose instead to attend college and play baseball for Arizona State University.  Cory Hahn played only three games for the Sun Devils.  In his third game he slid head first into second base.  During the play he collided with the second baseman, who was lunging for an errant throw.  Hahn’s head struck the second baseman in the knee, breaking Hahn’s C5 vertebrae.  The injury left Hahn paralyzed from the chest down.

Major League Baseball rules stipulate that players drafted out of high school have to wait three years to be drafted again.  When the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Hahn in the 34th round of the draft (Hahn wore number 34 at ASU), they were not drafting a five-tool player that would hit soaring home runs or make diving plays in the field.

Yet the draft was about more than a heart-warming publicity stunt.  Hahn has spent the last three years as a student coach at Arizona State.  In that time he has inspired many with his courage and tenacity.  The Diamondbacks plan to put him to work.

Diamonbacks President  Derek Hall told the Associated Press, “It’s not about us. It’s really about Cory and his family,” Hall added. “I was able to spend time with them right after the injury in his hospital room and he’s a wonderful kid. We want to make this permanent. We don’t want this to just be about the selection and him being a draft pick, but about him working in full-time employment with the Diamondbacks and hopefully we’ll make that come to fruition for he and his family here soon.”

I know a lot of people will be cheering for Hahn to make an impact for the Diamondbacks, even if it is never with a bat or glove.

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Communion Liturgy lifting up Extravagant Generosity

The following is a Communion liturgy that I wrote for use at the opening worship service of the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.  The service took place in Peoria, Illinois on June 5, 2013.  It was a great honor to be asked by my friend and colleague, Eric Swanson, to write this liturgy.  It was a great experience to be in worship with 1000 of my clergy and lay brothers and sisters to hear Rev. Jan Griffith and Bishop Jonathan Keaton read these words, even if there was a slight technical glitch.

 

The Lord of be with you

And also with you

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, creator of heaven and earth, giver of all good gifts, and source of all blessings.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is right and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth.  You formed us in your image and breathed into us the breath of life.

You created us man and woman in your image, and provided all that we would ever need.  You placed us in a garden to care for your creation so that we may know peace.

You delivered us from captivity.  Through days wandering in the desert you sent to us manna from heaven so that we could eat.  You let water pour from the rocks so that we could drink.  You commanded us to trust in what you provided, and warned us against hording.

You made covenant to be our sovereign God.  You gave to us the Law, the great gift that could guide our ways.  The Law commands us to honor the Sabbath, and to be satisfied with what we have.  Above all, the Law reminds us that there is but one God, and we are to love you with all of our hearts, our mind, our soul, and our strength.

You spoke to us through your prophets, who reminded us to care for the widow and the orphan.  They spoke the truth of your Word to the powers of the world, and stood up to injustice.  They raged against those that would gain wealth on the backs of the oppressed.  They commanded kings to follow God first.

And yet we fell away.  Our love failed.  We choose disobedience.    We try to horde the bread.  We pursue our own goals on the Sabbath.  We mock the Law.  We deny the prophets.  We forget your promises of plenty.  We ignore the needs of others so that we might protect our own interests.  We hold onto blessings with white knuckles, not trusting enough to let go.  Forgive us, O God, for the times that we have failed you.

 Hear the good news.  God’s love remains steadfast.   God’s Law is righteous.  God’s prophets still speak   the truth to power.  God’s promises endure.  God’s grace knows no bounds. Despite our sin and brokenness, God calls us to this table.  Even while we wander, God invites us to return.  Even while we cling to the things of this perishable world, God calls us to extravagant generosity.  In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. Thanks be to God, Amen.

And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.  Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you, and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ.  Your Spirit anointed him to preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty with those who are oppressed, and to announce that the time had come when you would save your people.

When no one thought there was enough, he fed the multitudes.  When no one thought the lepers could be healed, he cleansed them.  When there was no way to cross social boundaries, he talked to a Samaritan woman.  He told stories of a wasteful forgiveness, and unfair generosity.   When hope was lost, he raised the widow’s son and called Lazarus out of the tomb.   Here today, while we wonder if there is enough, Jesus reminds us that there is plenty.  There is enough food for all to be full.  There is enough water for us all to drink.  There is enough joy for us all to dance.  There is enough forgiveness for us all to embrace.  Here in this place, Jesus reminds us that there is enough love for us all to live abundantly.

By the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection you gave birth to your church, delivered us from slavery to sin and death, and made with us a new covenant by water and the Spirit. When the Lord Jesus ascended, he promised to be with us always, in the power of your Word and the Holy Spirit.

On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples and said: “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples and said, “Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for forgiveness of sins.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

And so, in remembrance of these mighty and generous acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice.  Let the generosity of Jesus, which enabled him to pour himself out for us, be embodied in all that we do.  May our every word and deed reflect a spirit of thankfulness for all with which we have been blessed, so that we may be in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine.  Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ; that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.  By your spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory and we may feast at his heavenly banquet.

Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy church, all honor and glory is yours, almighty God, now and forever.  Amen.

 

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