Posts Tagged With: love

Praying, speaking, & acting against xenophobia and gender violence

This is a piece I wrote for our mission’s South Africa office following some high-profile crimes there against women and immigrants. You can read it below or at their web site,


The first sin committed was putting selfish ambition before loving God. The second was putting selfish anger before loving another human being. They have plagued us ever since.

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A funeral, a wedding, and a battle — one day’s three studies on love

Karla was truly a fixture in our town. She was born and raised there, got married and raised her own family there, helped all those she could, and served faithfully on the Sauerkraut Festival committee for decades.

One of her boys, Chad, was a classmate and friend of mine. He was always one of the most gracious and loving members of our class, and I remember often thinking how that was an extension of her overflowing love. She welcomed everyone to her home and table, even letting many stay a while as they needed, including many of her kids’ friends for a few days or weeks, and even some folks she’d not known much before giving them room. When I was a reporter and would visit her every year about that Sauerkraut Festival, she would pour out love and hospitality on me like I was one of her own kids.

She had so much love for all those around her that it was the overwhelming theme of her funeral Saturday morning. Cars were parked far down the street, and the church was packed, and love just filled that room and the many whose eyes welled with it.

Becky was long a coworker of Tracy’s at one medical practice and is again at another. Her daughter was a friend of ours at daycare, and although I have never known Becky well, I have always admired the love and dedication she demonstrated as a single mom. She always had joy, a friendly greeting, and a glowing smile whenever I saw her, and her daughter was always clearly well-cared for and surrounded by her mother’s love.

She and Selly married Saturday afternoon, and it was touching to see them show and others speak of how much they love each other and how that began. He seems a very good man, and we pray that their love continue to grow and deepen for many years.

Private First Class Desmond Doss was a man whose love of God made him promise to never touch a gun but whose love of his country caused him to enlist as a medic for World War II. His true story was told in the gritty 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge, which I watched tonight.

Harassed by his fellow recruits and the officers above them for his beliefs, he was nearly forced out but persevered.

“It isn’t right that other men should fight and die, that I would just be sitting at home safe. I need to serve. I got the energy and the passion to serve as a medic, right in the middle with the other guys. No less danger, just, while everybody else is taking life, I’m going to be saving it. With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me to wanna put a little bit of it back together,” Doss said at his court martial for refusing an order to use a rifle at training camp.

Viewed by others as a coward, at Iwo Jima, he stayed on a battlefield to help the wounded who hadn’t been able to retreat. Working alone but for God’s help, he saved 75 men while Japanese troops continued to patrol the area, shooting everyone they found alive. “Please Lord, help me get one more,” he kept praying. True to his beliefs and his promise to God, he never harmed anyone and even treated three Japanese soldiers he encountered.

For his actions on Hacksaw Ridge, Doss was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was the first conscientious objector to receive it.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”—John 15:9-17 (NIV)


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The greatest of these is love

Old thoughts, worth sharing again.  It was about a year ago that I—living abroad and far too often expected as a token American to explain US politics—prepared this republication of a Facebook post made back in October of 2012, but I shied away from publishing it.  Our missionary organization discourages us from political involvement, and so I again distance myself from that aspect, seeking here only to encourage grace, love, and healing as a nation, regardless of the disagreements that too often and too greatly divide us.

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Mourning Aunt Kate

Aunt Kate passed away a few hours ago.  She was 96.

Aunt Kate was already 53 when I was born*, but she was always a spitfire.  She’d grown up on a farm and kept many of the habits; even at the age of 60, she gave the best and fastest wheelbarrow rides in the county.  She loved having us kids over for energetic visits and chased us around between chores (and probably because of them).  She worked her garden well past retirement, and there were always peas and cherries and green peppers to share.  Living at the same house for about seventy years, she was as much an institution of Hibbard Avenue as her neighbor’s grape vines—and her knowledge of everyone there was about as extensive and winding as those vines.

* It never occurred to me until tonight that I was the last-born of her direct nieces and nephews.  Although Aunt Kate had grandnieces and grandnephews who are younger than me, my brother Jim and I are the youngest children of her siblings.  Dad was the youngest of seven, and he didn’t marry until age 42, so all of our first cousins were born about fifteen to thirty years earlier than me.

Blessed with the metabolism of a small rodent, she ate like a farmhand and dished servings to match, even though no one else could avoid gaining weight at her table like she did.  She was famous for baking pies in quantity and quality, giving up lard for Crisco a few decades later than most. There were always at least two sitting around, and every visitor would wind up with at least “just a small piece, Kate,” which is to say a fifth to a third of a pie.

She was also adept at making spaghetti and meatballs from scratch, using tomatoes she’d can herself every year and a recipe that never seemed to turn out right for anyone else (perhaps if we all compare notes, we’ll figure out the whole thing).  More than anything else, that was her dish, and no matter the chef or recipe, it’s never as good as I remember hers being.

She loved cooking up a big batch on a Saturday night for family dinner at “the farm,” as Uncle Ed and Uncle Bill’s place was called.  Neither of them ever got married, so Aunt Kate took care of her brothers for many years, and that included a lot of cooking along with the cleaning.  She was very devoted to family and enjoyed her role, as well as the grief they could playfully give each other.  It sometimes seemed she enjoyed nothing as much as a good chance to be outraged, but the saddest part of writing a sentence like that is not that it might be misunderstood by those who didn’t know her but that she won’t be able to live up to it over this occasion of teasing.  Heavens to betsy, she loved to laugh and smile.

In like manner, she fully embraced the Heffron family tradition of showering each other with loving profanities, often acknowledging someone’s arrival or sass with the friendliest “you little $%!+” that one could ever hope to hear.  I never heard her take the Lord’s name in vain, though; she may have been sassy, but she wasn’t blasphemous.  If anyone else’s memory differs, then perhaps she put on an extra effort around me as my godmother.

Her husband, Uncle Harold, passed away in 2000, and for many years, Aunt Kate had a sweet relationship with Stuart, who’d been their friend for many years and who lived in a different town.  Although she endured some teasing, we were happy that she had such a kind and gentlemanly beau. His passing a few years ago was sad for all of us, but especially for his gal.

Aunt Kate had a full and long life, and I’m so blessed to have been part of it.  It’s heartbreaking to be so far away right now, but I’m glad I had a chance to see her again in September and to chat a few times by phone and even by video call.  I’m also grateful that God told me moments before she passed that I should really call my parents, who were at her bedside then.  Across 8,000 miles, I was able to tell her again that I love her and appreciate her, and that I’ll be making some spaghetti sauce again soon.

It won’t be the same, but I can always remember.

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