November 19, 2017
November 03, 2017
Families are the first places where we learn to love people who are different from us.
Religious differences teach us to love a universal God.
Different cultures add richness and beauty to our lives.
Differences can be just as unifying as similarities.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
November 02, 2017
October 31, 2017
October 30, 2017
15 For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.
16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
I know that no matter how much you feel like God wouldn’t want you. Like you're pocket lint and all you're good for is to be thrown away. I know that God is next to you. He is waiting, with his hand outstretched, saying, “Please take my hand. Allow me to help you. Accept the gift that I am trying to give to you”. If you will ask God with an honest intent to know, He will answer you. I promise you this.
October 29, 2017
September 04, 2017
Are you a member of an organization that was started by citizens to help make the world a better place?
How much of your time is spent volunteering?
How much money do you devote to philanthropic causes?
These are questions we should all as ourselves as we consider the applied role that citizenship and religion should play in our lives.
Active community service is not only central to my belief as a Christian generally and a member of the Mormon Church specifically, but participation in society is incumbent upon us as citizens of a democracy.
“Western societies are not held together primarily by the overall enforcement of laws, which would be impractical, but most importantly by citizens who voluntarily obey the unenforceable because of their internal norms of correct behavior. For many, it is religious belief in right and wrong and anticipated accountability to a Higher Power that produces such voluntary self-regulation.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Read the transcript of his talk The Complementary Functions of Religion and Government in a Global Setting here.
One of my favorite things about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the humanitarian aide work that we are involved in. LDS Charities is an example of a faith-based organization (FBO) that is an active part of our Civil Society.
There are many different definitions of civil society, in general this refers to a third-sector of society, separate from both government and business. Civil society usually refers to nonprofit organizations formally and any charitable group informally that is focused on philanthropy, volunteerism, and contributing to the overall good society in the world.
This year, I am in graduate school full-time completing a one-year Masters in Public Administration program with a certificate of advanced studies in Civil Society Organizations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
Prior to returning to school, I was a civil society junkie without ever knowing the term civil society. I have been actively involved as a member, teacher, leader and Public Affairs representative for the Mormon Church. I have been a National Face of Accreta and president of the New York chapter of Hope for Accreta, a Red Cross Spokesperson, MOPS member, a PTA and PTO member in 4 different states, a PTA board member, President, and district board member. I helped to design the Finding Common Ground 6 week interfaith dialogue course with the El-Hindi Center for Dialogue at Interfaith Works of CNY. I was a sponsor and planner for Dinner Dialogues, World Harmony Day, the Duck Race to End Racism, Refugee Ambassador Program, and The Spirit of America. I'm currently serving as the National Communications Chair on the board for American Mothers, Inc. Additionally, I have been part of many informal, socially involved groups including my Tully Mother Cluckers book group, various quilting clubs, mom preschool and play groups, and as a member of many online Facebook or blog groups. I love civil society.
For twenty years, I was a full-time, stay at home mother and homemaker who rarely stayed at home. One of my favorite parts of not having a 'career' was the fact that I could choose how I spent my time and efforts. Early on, I realized that my family and community were equally blessed as I served outside my home. My eight children have grown up sitting quietly beside me as I attended community meetings, helping me to set-up and clean-up from community events, interacting with friends in our communities who were physically, ethnically, and religiously diverse. My children have developed a natural ease and confidence, they are quick to help, they aren't afraid to plan large events, suggest large projects, or to lead large or small groups of people. Because we were always involved in our communities, my home had to function smoothly and orderly. Civil society has blessed my family.
Civil society or charitable efforts have brought about great changes in societies around the world. As we work together to find peace, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, respond to disaster, rescue, teach, heal, and love each other, our world is becoming a better place. Goodness begins with citizens.
I believe in civil society.
August 26, 2017
I was scared of refugees when I was first asked to pick up a large Muslim family who was arriving from the Middle East. I got the call from my friend, Daryl, who works with Interfaith Works in CNY who works along with Catholic Charities to settle refugees in Syracuse. She called because it was a large family and they needed my 15 passenger van to get them from the airport to their new home. She mentioned that they usually provided a meal but due to the late notice, they didn't have a meal planned. I was sitting in library story time and withing 5 minutes all of my fellow story time moms had agreed to make part of a meal that I could bring with me later that night.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that being there, at that airport that night, was a transformative moment for me. I was born-again, again. I saw a family walk nervously through the halls of the Syracuse International Airport and stop, unsure how to proceed through the revolving doors that separated us. Their clothing surprised me because it was very American. The parents wore colorful, native outfits, but the children were dressed in shirts with NFL team logos or funny American "drink milk" slogans. They wore shoes awkwardly, flip flops really, and were obviously cold but had no jackets. All of their belongings were packed in a few zippered, plastic bags, similar to the recyclable bags you can buy to bring your groceries home in.
It is hard to describe the people, because they had a depth in their eyes that is hard to describe. I saw pain, hope, exhaustion, excitement, fear, love, worry, and gratitude. My soul immediately loved them and I yearned to ease their concern and welcome them to their new land. I have NEVER felt more proud to be an American then I did in that moment. In that moment, I felt like the statue of liberty, representing America to these people.
Emma Lazarus' poem was etched into my soul with a strength and love that will ever remain.
Give ME your tired, your poor, your HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING TO BREATHE FREE, THE WRETCHED REFUSE OF YOUR TEEMING SHORE. SEND THESE, THE HOMELESS, TEMPEST-TOST TO ME". (I love this inspired poem. I love the image of a brass warrior, a Greek giant who guards against intruders who has been by a welcoming MOTHER holding a torch in her hand to guide weary travelers safely to our doors. Yes! Let us welcome. Let us hold our torches high! Not just to welcome kings, but to welcome the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to BREATHE free. We breathe free my friends. Can we not share this great gift? Isn't there always room for one more at our table?)
I remember the sign-language, charade style introductions. My husband helping with bags and logistics and me, trying to catch the mother's eye to smile deep into her soul. Instantly I was drawn to the children. The teenagers had eyes that held secrets no teenager should have to carry, but the young children still twinkled with mischief and joy. As I buckled these sweet children into my van, into my own children's car seats and boosters, I literally felt my heart attach to theirs. I knew then, as I know now, that these families need our help. They are not 'foreigners' or even terrorists. They are my brothers, my sisters, my sons, my daughters, and not only did my conscience demand that I help them, I knew that my religion meant NOTHING if I did not love and serve His children who were seeking refuge.
And, since that day, I have shared my conversion story with many people. I have helped to initiate some beautiful efforts to help refugees in our area. But, there is so much more I wish I could do.
I get overwhelmed when I think of all the world problems. I frankly get overwhelmed when I try to write a To Do List of all that I have to do for my own family each day. But, I have learned an eternal and essential lesson. Our families are BLESSED as we SERVE with them. Perhaps I should say SERVING others is actually BLESSING your family.
Jesus taught the parable of the loaves and the fishes. Share all that you have and He will multiply it. He makes 5 loaves and 3 fishes enough to feed 5000. I believe in miracles because I have SEEN miracles. I have watched me teenagers become holy, kind, loving young adults BECAUSE they serve others.
I don't feel sorry for refugees. God holds them in his hand and His light shines in their eyes.
The reason I believe in a loving God even when I see tragedy around me is two fold.
First, I believe trials refine and purify our souls. I believe suffering is temporary and holy. One of our main purposes in coming to Earth (indeed even one of our Savior's main purposes in coming to Earth) is to descend below all things. As we ache, we are able to feel comforted. As we yearn, we recognize answers. As we want, we feel true gratitude. As we are filled with sorrow, we have room for a fullness of joy. Suffering highlights all that is real and true in life.
Second, I believe in a God of Compensatory blessings. He compensates when times are hard by sending angels round about us. He blesses us with gifts and understanding, compassion, empathy, eternal perspective, community, and peace. In the midst of great suffering, He sends true healing.
Perhaps this is why I love refugees so much. I feel within them a refined soul. I feel their nearness to God. I feel their humility and their pure gratitude. Having watched naturalization ceremonies where refugees have become American citizens, and having sat with them as these new Americans talk about what they love about our country, I have felt renewed in my love for democracy, and citizenship in this land that strives for freedom and justice for all.
I am not bragging about the service that I have done. In all honesty, I have done VERY little. My heart is bigger than my capacity to serve at times.
I'm sharing with you my deep, heartfelt conviction that we can and should love our neighbors more.
We should start with a desire and try to do something, even if it is a small thing.
We should invite people into our homes who are different religions, different colors, different nationalities. We should love their children and share the gifts God has blessed us with. As we do this, our families will be blessed. Not just blessed by God because they are doing some noble service. Blessed by the people we THINK we are serving because really, it is an honor to serve people who are refined.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
—Joseph Smith, 1843
Do you want to help refugees in your area? Click here to read 40 Ways To Help Refugees in Your Community.
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“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” (The Velveteen Rabbit, by Marjorie Williams)