Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tragedy in Newtown

As a career teacher I have trained. Intruder alerts only in the last 20 years I would guess. But training kicks in when events begin to unfold.

The teachers and staff, one and all, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conneticut, are heroes.  

What follows is from my son, a pastor of a United Methodist congregation in south Florida. It is from his blog.

Dear Congregation,

I write this with a heavy heart and with more questions than answers. We all are feeling the shock of what has happened in Newtown, CT. We should be. We live in a world where gun violence has become commonplace. Our emotions and sensitivities continue to be deactivated by an ever-increasing violent world. School shootings from Columbine, to Virginia Tech, and now to Newtown affect us in ways that we cannot express – it numbs us. It numbs us to know that in the 21st Century, with all good that is available to us, that someone would walk into a home and shoot his mother before going to her school to massacre innocent children and adults. It is unbelievable.

For us as the congregation of Everglades Community Church we should feel violated. The school is our home. The school is where we as the church of God meet to worship. It is a place designed to enrich the lives and learning of children. It is where hungry children are fed, where teachers pour out their lives to help students grow and mature, and where young people chart the courses of their lives. Yes, I feel violated, that one would bring such evil into a place of good, in the form of a violent massacre.

Where do we find hope? We find hope in the promises of the Kingdom of God that is being ushered in even now as I write this. I am confident that, though the parents of these children are unable to hold them and kiss them goodnight, that they are in the arms of Jesus forever. I am confident that, though the families and spouses of the adults who lost their lives are unable to offer a hug or an “I love you” wink to each other, these adult victims opened their eyes to see the glory of God surrounding them.

I am confident that we need to tell each other how much we love one another, that you need to hug your children tight and that you need to lead them into a life of non-violence. Ensure that the video games and entertainment that they frequent is absent of violent expressions. Teach them about mental illnesses. Spend time with your children as a family, pray with them, teach them to trust God, and reveal to them the joys of knowing Jesus. Ensure they learn to interact with others in loving and healthy ways. Train them in the ways of peace and non-violence.

I don’t understand why things like this happen. What I do know is this: God does not cause or plan violence. I also know this: God comes along side of us and we find him in the midst of our pain – ready to pick us up and carry us through the valley of the shadow of death.

“Tragedies are consequences of human actions, and the only God worth believing in does not cause the tragedies but lovingly comes into the anguish with us.”

from Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle.

Below is a prayer to pray,

Pastor Matthew M. Williams

A Prayer for Newtown

Holy God,

There are no words. There is nothing that we can say but instead we cry out.

We cry out in shared grief and pain for the loss of so many children. We do not understand, and we cannot imagine why someone would murder, why someone would justify this act of violence. We cannot comprehend.

We come to You in prayer, but our prayer is jumbled. We pray for the families who are grieving. We pray for those who are wounded and recovering. We pray for those adults who put themselves in harm’s way to protect others. We pray for those children that have witnessed this horrific tragedy and will live with this for the rest of their lives.

Our grief is raw. The wound gapes open and we do not know how to stop it. But we call upon You, O Lord, to comfort those who mourn, to bind-up the brokenhearted. It is Hanukkah, it is Advent, many are now preparing for the rest of Hanukkah and Christmas without their loved one. God, we surround them with our prayers, for we know not what else we can do. We surround them with our love, knowing that You are with them, that You hold them close.

Call us together as a community, and as a nation, loving God, to work to end violence, to build a safer community and safer schools for our children. In this time, help us to come together, for we are stronger together than we are alone, and we know Your comfort and love is shared when we are together.

Keep us close, O God. Help us to turn to each other, to seek the help we need, to build up instead of tearing down. Guide us with wisdom in how we teach our children, and work to end this violence. Loving God, help us to know You are always with us, and You are grieving with us now.

In Your name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Cats

Part of this is a repost from a few years ago and the other is my friend's cat.  My library had a cat that was a very big part of our school for 10 years. One Christmas season the students made Tigger Christmas cards that were posted on the bulletin board in the library. This one, not signed, was my favorite and I share it with you again this season.

My friend Amy's cat,  Gilberta.

This picture adds meaning to the legend of the M on a tabby cat's forehead.  Copied from wiki answers.....

This is the legend of the Tabby "M".
All of us have heard that first Christmas described as a silent night. However, one of God's creatures knew otherwise.

The cat hunted in the cold, starry night. He didn't look much different from the other cats; he was gray in color with stripes the color of charcoal. As he walked down the dark alleyway, he heard crying coming from a stable. He entered the door and saw a mother trying to comfort her newborn son.

She spoke softly. "I don't know what to do. I thought you were hungry, so I fed you. I thought you were wet, so I changed your diaper. I thought you were cold, so I wrapped another blanket around you."

She rocked the infant a few minutes longer and then laid him back in a manger filled with hay. The baby continued to cry.

The cat knew what needed to be done. He leapt into the manger and curled up next to the child. In comforting tones, he began to purr. It was the sweetest lull-a-bye ever heard. The baby quieted and drifted off to sleep.

The woman gently stroked his fur. "Thank you. I don't know where you came from, but thank you."

God was looking down and witnessing the blessed events of His son's birthday. Heard only by the cat, God spoke.

"You have done a wonderful deed this night. Because you cared enough to help this woman, I will mark you and your offspring forever so that people will know what you have done. Her name is Mary and from this day forward you will have the letter "M" on your forehead."

So when you see a cat with the tabby pattern (no matter if it's gray, brown, or some other color) look closely at its forehead and you will see the letter "M". By this you will know that it is a descendant of the cat that comforted the newborn Christ on that first Christmas night