Feb 26, 2015

Teri's Smile

I've been waiting for the right time to show you this picture.  It is so very special to me, not only because it shows physical beauty, but also for what it represents:  a garland of joy, beauty from ashes.

Teri is in the middle of her Chemo now.  Two more harsh treatments to go.  There have been three experiences that I have had during this that qualify for the "I never, ever want to do that again", although really, I would do it in a second for the woman I love so much.  One of these would be shaving off half of her hair, after half of it fell out.

Here is the second one:  last Thursday they couldn't attach the Chemo from the IV to her "port", a device which was surgically implanted within her chest, which then feeds the chemo directly into her veins.  It was discovered the port was "flipped", a rare but known occurrence, where the device turns over inside of her, making it impossible to access.  They then decided to use her veins to drip in the Chemo.  Well, Teri is famous for having difficult veins to access, and after a number of minutes of "poking and hoping", Teri passed out - for over 5 minutes.  911 was called, and fortunately they were able to awaken her before the ambulance arrived.  The doctor told us today he was 5 seconds from putting her on the floor, and doing CPR.  Hmm.

All this happened as I was on my way to Mexico.  No one told me, cause Teri et al didn't want to "alarm" me.  Imagine then my "alarm", when I read about this ordeal on Facebook between concerned friends and prayer partners!  I had a "moment".  But God saw us through it, including the minor out-patient surgery Teri had yesterday to put the port right again.  More cutting, more scars, more blood being drawn, more needles, more bruising, more signatures, more insurance approvals, more deep fatigue, more checking your attitude at the door, or better, at the foot of the cross.  We need a category for these things when they assault us, and I can't think of a better filing cabinet for experiences that 'take life' than the cross of our Savior.

I asked myself just today - is God still good?  Of course I believe it. Am I abiding in it?  Am I walking in it?  I also remind myself, would I think that God was still good if I was being marched down a lonely Libyan beach by "Jihad John" - who would behead me in front of cameras that would show my bleeding disembodied corpse on the global stage?  I am convinced that my faith needs to be large enough for tragedy and horror, not just medical inconvenience.  What this means to me, is that my attitude must never be related to my circumstances, and I don't know about you, but that I find to be very hard.  But also necessary.

And that brings me back to Teri's smile.  Here she is, trying on wigs. This was not an  "…ok, I guess I have to go find a wig…" moment.  Oh no, not for Teri.  It was an "Awesome!  I get to go try on wigs!" moment.  Some dear friends went with us, and got in on the action.  One of them found this one, as the last to try on, and guess what?  Teri loved it!  So now I have a blonde wife!

But the smile…  this is the outward sign of someone who is walking in the deep-weeds with Jesus - so closely, that there is no degree of separation from her faith and her attitude.  And there it is, written all over her beautiful face...

Feb 16, 2015

"I Find God In Suffering"





CASE: Kayla had been held hostage by ISIS since August 2013  in Raqqa, a militant stronghold in northeastern Syria.  The Christian aid worker was abducted in 2013 as she left a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders in Allepo, Syria.  United States confirmed on Tuesday 10 February 2015 that the 26-year-old has been killed at the hands of terror group ISIS




12 FEBRUARY 2015:  Kayla Mueller, killed at hands of ISIS, drew comfort from 'deep Christian faith 


The United States confirmed on Tuesday 10 February 2015 that 26-year-old American aid worker Kayla Mueller has been killed at the hands of terror group ISIS. President Barack Obama said that Mueller represented what is "best about America," while her family revealed that she drew comfort from her "deep Christian faith" while in captivity.

"Our hearts are breaking for our only daughter, but we will continue on in peace, dignity, and love for her," Mueller's parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, and her brother, Eric, said in a statement.

The aid worker had been held hostage by ISIS since August 2013, The Guardian noted. Supporters of ISIS said last week that Mueller had been killed during a Jordanian air strike, and though the U.S. confirmed the news, it could not determine the cause of her death.

Mueller was reportedly taken by militants in Syria while working at a hospital run by humanitarian group Médecins Sans Frontières. In a letter to her family written sometime in the spring of 2014, she asked them not to worry and claimed that she was being treated with respect and was unharmed.

She said that her deep Christian faith gave her comfort during her captivity:

"I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator.  There was literally there was no one else ... + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall."

The aid worker had travelled to Syria to help provide aid to refugees and those suffering in the ongoing civil war. Before that she also worked for humanitarian initiatives in India, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Mueller said in a 2013 interview with the Prescott Daily Courier, a newspaper from her hometown of Prescott, Arizona: 

"I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine, if this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you."

Fox News revealed further details about Mueller's capture in a report on Wednesday, and noted that she had spent several months being transferring between holding cells — and was held both at a children's hospital in Aleppo, and the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.

Mueller became the fourth U.S. citizen to die at the hands of ISIS, following fellow aid worker Peter Kassig and journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in 2014. 

Obama vowed to bring those responsible for Mueller's death to justice.

"Kayla represents what is best about America, and expressed her deep pride in the freedoms that we Americans enjoy, and that so many others strive for around the world," he added in a White House statement. "In how she lived her life, she epitomized all that is good in our world."

Mueller's family said that they are proud of her work, and noted that she lived with a purpose.

The family added: "We remain heartbroken, also, for the families of the other captives who did not make it home safely and who remain in our thoughts and prayers. We pray for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria."

Kayla Mueller 

Mueller, 26, had a long history of volunteering to help women and children, having worked for aid groups in Arizona before setting out for other countries.  She spent her life moving quickly — earning a college degree in five semesters, helping at hometown AIDS clinics and embracing overseas struggles between hope and hopelessness.  She saw the need for humanitarian aid in the mountains of Tibet, in tiny Palestinian villages and, finally, in Syria, where she is believed to have died after being taken hostage in August 2013. 

After attending Northern Arizona University, she worked with aid groups in northern India, Israel and the Palestinian territories. She returned to Arizona in 2011, where she worked at an HIV/AIDS clinic and volunteered at a women's shelter. Late that year, she moved to southeastern France and worked as an au pair while learning French in preparation for a planned move to Africa.

But the plight of families fleeing the violence in war-torn Syria drew her to Turkey in December 2012. She worked with the aid groups Support to Life and the Danish Refugee Council, assisting women and children who crossed into Turkey as refugees.

She also ventured into Syria to help families separated by the fighting. Her trips into the country took her to Aleppo, where she was eventually kidnapped.

She was abducted as she left a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders and was being held in Raqqa, a militant stronghold in northeastern Syria.

The family statement included letters Mueller wrote to relatives, including one on her father's birthday in 2011.

"Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love," she wrote. "I find God in suffering. I've known for some time what my life's work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering."

In correspondence to her family, which she slipped to other detainees who were being freed, Mueller was contrite and seemed to be trying to assuage her family's worry. She told them she was being treated well and was not in harm's way.

She said in the letter that she was willing to wait for her freedom if it meant that her family would be absolved of the burden of negotiations.  "I DO NOT want the negotiations for my release to be your duty, if there is any other option take it, even if it takes more time," she wrote. "This should never have become your burden."

Her family described her as relentlessly optimistic. Even while held hostage, Mueller said she found reasons to be grateful.

"By God and by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light (and) have learned that even in prison, one can be free," she wrote. "I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it."

She closed her letter with a song she wrote while captive, once again making a plea for hope against hopelessness.

"The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, (without) your hope there would be nothing left."