Tag Archives: Hope

Photo of the Week – Andrew Peterson Concert

We had a wonderful opportunity to experience Andrew Peterson in concert on Saturday night. The last time we saw him together was 2008 in Knoxville just after we found out Court was pregnant with Ceara.

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Dan posted some reflections about the concert here: “My Hope Lives On”

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My Hope Lives On

Last night, Courtney and I went to an Andrew Peterson concert for date night. AP not only puts on good show, yet he also weaves his gifts of storytelling, humor, song-writing, and deep faith into a beautiful tapestry for the heart, soul, body, and mind.

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It felt refreshing to soak in the deep truth his songs offered, reminding me in light of this past week, that we belong to a bigger story – a better story – than death, tragedy, ad despair. In fact God’s story for all of creation resounds with redemption, restoration, and rejuvenation.
He started with “All Things New,” after a few songs and stories made his way to “Lay Me Down,” and he ended with “After the Last Tear Falls.”
I wish he would have sung “In The Night (My Hope Lives On)”, yet time constraints from the venue prevented him from performing these gems. On the other hand, though, maybe he didn’t need to sing them as those familiar with his music would have played them internally building on the truths of hope and grace and peace.
Thank God for a blessed and gifted musician like Andrew Peterson.
Click on the links to these songs to listen to them on YouTube.

All Things New

Lay Me Down

After the Last Tear Falls

In The Night

Hosanna

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Memory and Hope: A Eulogy for Nonna

I had the blessed privilege of giving a eulogy at my Grandma’s funeral yesterday morning. I wanted to share it here.

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Memory and Hope

Today we remember Louisa DiFalco, who – either directly or indirectly – has affected all of us. She was known as – Flav’s, Maria’s, or Carolyn’s mom – Gram – Nonna – Mother – Cousin – Friend – Avon lady – and now, a member of the communion of saints.

To remember is to have memories, and, of Gram, we have plenty. Sometimes it is a difficult thing for me to think about Gram with the Alzheimer’s and how her memory continued to dwindle these past few years. However, her retreating memory also unearthed some beautiful treasures as she recounted stories from her childhood many people had never heard, providing a fuller picture of this woman who was so full of life for so many years. No matter how much she forgot, though, two of the things that she knew without a doubt until the end were these:
Her name was Louisa DiFalco, and she was 100% Italian.

Death is sad for many reasons, and today because of saying goodbye. However, remembering Gram is a joyous thing.

C.S. Lewis is a theologian and author probably most famously known for “The Chronicles of Narnia” stories. He also wrote some lesser known stories. In one of them he portrays a scene in which two characters need to say goodbye. Both are sad, one indignantly so. The response of the other character, though, provides a good perspective and, I believe, a bit of hope for us.

Here is the excerpt:

“A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking…as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing… What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure… When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it…, what it makes in me all my days…that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it.”
Out of the Silent Planet (1938) Hyoi, p. 73

Some of the memories and stories of Gram that came to mind this past week had me imagine the following scene, so please indulge me for a moment as I share it with you:

After asking St. Peter if he has ever had Italian food, she inquires if the disciples were Italian. Peter responds, “No Louisa, they were Jewish.” She replies, “Well, I guess that’s okay, they seem nice anyway.” And then she proceeds to fill their bowls with homemade pasta and meatballs. When they politely decline thirds she nods ascent as she gives them just a little more of each in their bowls.

I remember Nonna’s hospitality and love: the ever-full cookie tins in the hallway, how she always had hugs to give, and how sometimes she would scratch our backs. In Colorado, when her arms became too weak to fully embrace, she would hold faces in her crooked hands – our faces and those of the staff where she lived – and she would give kisses on the forehead, cheeks, and eyes.

Gram’s hospitality reminds me of the hopeful reality that God invites all of us to come, receive love, and give it to others – even if we don’t think we are worthy of love or in need of love or capable of loving. Gram reminds me that all of us can love in our corner of the world each and every day, and in doing so, participate in God’s Holy work of healing the world

And so that is what we have, memories and hope. We have memories that will continue to deepen every time we see an Avon sign, hear someone talk about homemade pasta, or smell the sweet lemony fragrance of mammarrellas. And we have hope, that Gram’s story, just like each of our stories, belongs to a bigger story of God’s love for Creation. A love mirrored in the compassion and presence of friends and family in this time, and a love offered and possible to experience deeply in those dark moments when we feel alone.

Thank you, God, for allowing us to know Nonna. Please encourage us to know Your love as we remember her love. Help us to know Your presence as we now journey without her presence. Amen.

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Saying Goodbye to a Saint

I said goodbye to a Saint today. I held his hand, and his smile – unhindered by the oxygen line – made me want to sing and cry at the same time. He knew his time was short. I only was with him for a minute or so because of family and doctors, but when I heard this was probably his last day I wanted to say goodbye.
In all honestly, I didn’t know him very well. I worshipped with him a couple dozen times; and in so doing I sang with him, shared God’s peace with him, offered him the “Bread of Heaven” and the “Cup of Salvation,” and shared in some coffee and snacks after services sometimes. I watched him smile at Ceara and Caleb and laugh as he tried to make them laugh.
I wish I knew him better personally. I have heard stories of this saint, though, – stories that won’t make it on “Dateline”, in an issue of “Time”, and they probably won’t even make the local paper. Yet there are stories of selfless giving of himself to care for others, stories of patient love, and stories of generosity for the sake of the Church (not as the institution, yet as the Body of Christ in this world). These stories reinforce the belief of Church historian, Justo Gonzales, that Christianity continues today not because of the famous few throughout the ages, rather Christianity continues today because God works through the countless, nameless, faceless, faithful followers of Jesus throughout history to transform the world. The amazing thing is that God knows each and every one of their faces, names, and lives. I am thankful to have known the name and face of this man.
May His family know God’s presence and comfort in the days ahead, and may God continue to use the life of this saint to work transformation and healing in this world. Amen.

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“We Haven’t Seen This Day Before…” Leads to Hope

“Lord, we have never seen this day before…,” was a phrase by the congregational lay leader of Turning Point UMC as he opened our meeting in prayer, and it has not left my mind in the two weeks since he prayed it.

First, a bit of background. A group of us had gathered in Trenton, NJ to meet with United Methodist Bishop May and some members of the Turning Point congregation, which he has pastored since he returned from retirement a few years ago. With a smile May said, “When you live your entire life for ministry, you never really retire. And when the current Bishop in New Jersey asked me to serve this congregation I couldn’t really say, ‘No,’ could I?”

Turning Point UMC is housed in the building of the former First UMC of Trenton building and is a merger of two dying congregations. This church merger was declining too, until May offered his gifts of service, leadership, tenacity, and inspiration. Today it is a growing, vibrant congregation reaching out in relevant ministry with the community in which it is located. Each day is viewed as an new and unique opportunity to join in God’s reconciling work in this world.

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This encounter with people of faith and the prayer above led to the following journal entry:
The Northeastern Jurisdiction’s Conference Secretaries for Global Ministries met with Bishop May in Trenton on Wednesday. He appears someone who follows God’s guidance regardless of what the institution may say. The lay leader of the congregation opened the time with prayer, and his words stuck with me. “Lord, we haven’t seen this day before…”

Tis rang more true for me than the phrase “It’s a new day!” It made me think of the World’s way of looking at things:
“The more things change the more they stay the same.”
“SSDD – same *stuff* different day.”
“That’s the way things have always been, and, therefore, that’s the way they will always be.”
And while evidence exists to support these sayings, they do not leave open the possibility of Holy transformation.

“We haven’t seen this day before…” provides hope, for while some circumstances or situations will repeat (or are perpetuated), those who call upon God’s name have an opportunity to respond in a new way.

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I don’t intend to blow a smokescreen over circumstances and situations, because loss, pain, abuse, and injustice are real. I do not intend for this phrase to mislead people into thinking that their negative circumstances will vanish. However, “We haven’t seen this day before…” means we have a new opportunity to live transformed lives in how we respond, how we pray, and how we choose to talk about situations.

God loves us – God has in the past, does today, and will in the future. That love is not based upon our performance, our perfection, what we have (or haven’t) done, or what has (or hasn’t) been done to us. And today an opportunity exists to know that love in a new way and to share it with others in a new way.

As I write I think about how this would sound (or how I could say it differently) to those in prison, homeless, hungry, stuck in trafficking and abuse, or those with Alzheimer’s. I think how this would have sounded to those in Nazi ghettos or concentration camps. I don’t know, yet I believe there are truth in these words for those who call upon God’s name.

“Lord, we have never seen this day before. Help us give open to the ways you would want to transform our lives and use our lives to transform others. Alleluia. Amen.”

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