On May 25th, most Americans will enjoy a day off of work. Kids will have wrapped up or will be about to wrap up another school year, and the promise of summer fun will be in the air. What’s too often forgotten is that this bonus day off came at great cost. You see, on May 25th—Memorial Day—we are meant to pause and remember, so that the sacrifices of America’s fallen war heroes are never forgotten.
My Grandpa, James Marion Lester, served in the Bastard Battalion in World War II. My dad served in the Army Reserves. Neither of them paid with their lives, but they served our country well. Mike and I can name many family members, friends, and church family who have also served our country.
This past winter Clint Eastwood produced and directed “American Sniper” starring Bradley Cooper. It was a powerful reminder that there are men and women serving our country all over the world. Some pay the ultimate price. The rest pay a price in their own right.
In honor of our veterans, I have the privilege of giving away two Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital HD copies of “American Sniper.” This is a $44.95 value! One is going to a veteran of our choosing and one is going to a civilian (that could be you).
The movie doesn’t come come out until May 19th, but I have two copies sitting beside me right now. (I know people. ;)) [Okay, the truth is I’m helping out my friends at Grace Hill Media who is handling the PR on this movie. It’s a sweet gig.]
From director Clint Eastwood comes “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, whose skills as a sniper made him a hero on the battlefield. But there was much more to him than his skill as a sharpshooter.
Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield, and as stories of his courageous exploits spread, he earns the nickname “Legend.” However, his reputation is also growing behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head and making him a prime target of insurgents. He is also facing a different kind of battle on the home front: striving to be a good husband and father from halfway around the world.
Despite the danger, as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing tours of duty in Iraq, personifying the spirit of the SEAL creed to “leave no one behind.” But upon returning to his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller), and kids, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.
TO ENTER … a Rafflecopter giveaway
Now that you’ve entered to win, I encourage you and your family to pause wherever you are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”
** This is a win/win. Even if you aren’t the lucky winner, you can buy your own copy here on the same day that this contest ends (May 19). $1 of your purchase will be donated to Wounded Warrior Project up to $1,000,000!
If you’d like to read a few more details about the movie, here they are …
Burbank, CA, April 15, 2015 – From director Clint Eastwood comes “American Sniper,” arriving onto Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD on May 19 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, A Mad Chance Production, A 22nd & Indiana Production. “American Sniper” stars Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, whose skills as a sniper made him a hero on the battlefield. But there was much more to him than his skill as a sharpshooter.
A two-time Oscar® nominee for his work in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” Cooper stars alongside Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict, Kevin Lacz, Navid Negahban and Keir O’Donnell.
Oscar®-winning filmmaker Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Unforgiven”) directed “American Sniper” from a screenplay written by Jason Hall, based on the book by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. The autobiography was a runaway bestseller, spending 18 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, 13 of those at number one.
The film is produced by Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan. Tim Moore, Jason Hall, Sheroum Kim, Steven Mnuchin and Bruce Berman served as executive producers.
About Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment’s home video, digital distribution and interactive entertainment businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios. An industry leader since its inception, WBHE oversees the global distribution of content through packaged goods (Blu-ray Disc™ and DVD) and digital media in the form of electronic sell-through and video-on-demand via cable, satellite, online and mobile channels, and is a significant developer and publisher for console and online video game titles worldwide. WBHE distributes its product through third party retail partners and licensees.
Tiny Hands is on the ground delivering desperately needed aid to those who are homeless, without food, and–in many cases–without hope.
We received an exciting update this morning:
The people in a small village in Gorkha District all lost their homes in the earthquake and were in great need. As it became dark on Friday, rain started pouring down on them. They all huddled together in what was left of the church to pray and try to stay dry as much as possible. They had no tarps or food.
Just ten minutes after they prayed, our Tiny Hands staff arrived with supplies including tarps and food they prayed for! The people were so thrilled and thankful. We received a call in Kathmandu a few minutes later thanking Tiny Hands for our help that the Lord used to directly bless them in their immediate time of need. God is good and so faithful!
You can be a part of Helping Hands for Nepal.
GIVE TO IMMEDIATE RELIEF: funds for tents, blankets, and food. Follow this link.
GIVE TO LONG TERM NEEDS: Donate to long term needs: extra resources to combat increased trafficking and orphaned/abandoned children in the aftermath of the earthquake. Follow this link.
Please make your most generous donation today.
Tonight, I dropped my boys off at the church where they were fed supper before youth group. Next, I went to an event at a nice hotel, and then drove through McDonalds for an Artisan chicken sandwich. As I sat in a long line of cars waiting for my food, it occurred to me that I don’t have to worry about food or water for my kids, nor do I have to be concerned about whether the roof will come down on their heads after I kiss them goodnight tonight, … and tears ran down my cheeks.
Saturday morning (April 25), we woke to the heart-stopping news that Nepal had been struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. It seems that things are now marked in time by “B.E.” (Before the Earthquake) and “A.E.” (After the Earthquake). These last five days have been mind-numbing, and we are on THIS side of the ocean. For those we love in Nepal, well, there simply aren’t enough adequate adjectives to describe their experiences.
If you’ve followed our family for any amount of time, you know that my daughter Kadi and I went to Nepal with Tiny Hands International in March of 2014. I was doing research (and she did the photography) for a book, which I’ve been working on ever since: “Intercepted: Letting the Needs of a Broken World Wreck Your Comfortable Life.”
You see, when we saw the plight of those who need help most in Nepal, we asked God, “Now that we know, how far do you want us to go to live out our convictions and call to ‘be His Kingdom’?”
What did we know after our trip last March?
B.E. (Before the Earthquake)
We learned that Tiny Hands International works in two ways.
1. They are a non-profit Christian organization intercepting women and children at the border checkpoints of countries with high trafficking ratios. An estimated 30,000 people are trafficked into India from Nepal and Bangladesh every year and are sold as slaves—some as young as six-years-old. Through their transit monitoring programs, they have prevented thousands of women and children from a life of torture and unimaginable brutality. The number of crimes involved in a single case of trafficking (rape, kidnapping, murder, among others) and the fact that it is perpetrated on helpless and innocent victims and carried out systematically, day-after-day makes trafficking the greatest injustice in the world today. Tiny Hands border monitors (Nepali people) intercept these individuals before they are raped, as many as 40 times a day for ten years, experience the worst kind of torture daily, and robbed of everything an innocent child should possess.
2. Tiny Hands’ second ministry is to children. Throughout the developing world, children are cast aside by poverty, war, and the destruction of families. Orphaned, abandoned, and abused children often become drug addicts, prostitutes or succumb to disease and violence. Tiny Hands finds these children and places them in loving homes with carefully chosen parents.
That was B.E. (Before the Earthquake). Oh, Tiny Hands is still working in these two ways, but it’s going to look different now because … the earthquake.
A.E. (After the Earthquake)
According to the National Emergency Operations Center, Ministry of Home Affairs in Nepal (as of April 29), there are currently 5,582 dead, 11,175 injured, and $415 million (Currency: U.S. dollars) needed for humanitarian relief. These numbers are expected to climb.
On our own, we are undone, but God …
God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.
The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
So now what? We know that A.E. for Tiny Hands will look different for a while. Now, in addition to the ministry Tiny Hands has always done, we are also joining the relief efforts. We are going to start where we are. With that in mind, we are first meeting the needs of those who are already connected to Tiny Hands.
While we have reported that all of our 15 children’s homes were accounted for, and the children and their Nepali parents are safe, that doesn’t mean they haven’t been significantly impacted.
The families living in the four children’s homes in Kathmandu were sleeping outside in the first days after the earthquake, but have now moved back inside. Cyrene Home was blessed to receive a tent from the Red Cross earlier in the week. (Thank you, Red Cross!)
When our Tiny Hands staff found the Peace Home family, they were in a “tent city”, but were without shelter. The staff was able to round up tarps, rope, clean drinking water, medicine, and mats for them to sleep on for the next few nights until it is safe to go back inside. Peace Home had damage and may need a new home to move back into. So we believe we will need to find at least one new permanent home for our children.
Many of our Nepali border monitors have lost their homes and all of their belongings. For the time being, these border monitors, their families, friends, and communities are living outside with no covering. They desperately need water, food, and basic supplies. We don’t have numbers yet, but they will all need our help. We have had no word from our Tibet border monitor team. We fear the worst, and ask that you please join us in praying for these partners in ministry.
As we see it, we need at least $100,000 for immediate relief. We need tents, buckets (for water), food, medication, and much more.
Here is the harsh reality of life A.E. in Nepal … disaster creates additional chaos in a country, and that leads to increased exploitation of the vulnerable. We anticipate there will be a significant increase in trafficking and orphaned/abandoned children in Nepal, resulting in the need for more children’s home placements and greater border monitoring staffing. The long-term recovery is going to be substantial.
Tonight, my kids are going to bed in their rooms, with full stomachs and plenty of water sloshing in their bellies. Yours too?
What if your littles had been born to you in Nepal? What if you were among the 8 million affected people? What if you were among the 126,000 pregnant women? Here’s the most important question, “Now that you know, how far does God want you to go to live out your convictions and call to ‘be His Kingdom’?”
Will you learn all that you can?
Will you pray?
Will you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Tiny Hands as we offer healing hands for Nepal?#HH4N
Will you give?
Friends, I’m simply asking you to do what you can, from where you are, with what you have.
Seven and a half years ago, she walked into the Bible study class I was leading. We were working on Priscilla Shirer’s study, Discerning the Voice of God. That fall there were many broken hearts in the class: a marriage ended, a baby died, dreams ended too soon, ministries changed shape, cancer knocked on the door and made an unwelcome yet grand entrance … and God spoke.
“Love like Jesus, and walk her Home.”
When Jesus intercepts your life, and you become one of His children, you have an opportunity to join the family business of loving like He loves and walking alongside others on their life journeys. Hebrews 13:16 reminds us, “And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.”
This blog post could be another beautiful tribute to Emma. Many have eloquently posted these, and she is worthy of countless more. Emma and I talked every night on Messenger for the last couple of years, and I think I knew her heart. I’m confident she’d be blessed and touched by the precious words shared by those who loved her. I’m equally confident that she’d be saying, “Enough about me already, what about you? What about Jesus?” So many times, as I sat curled up on her cozy couch or the end of her hospital bed, she’d say, “We know I’m dying, but how are YOU doing? How’s YOUR heart?” That was our Emma. And if you knew her at all, you know that she loved Jesus, above all else, and just wanted us to love and obey Him too.
This post could be about the last few weeks of caring for Emma and specifically the call that came last Saturday saying, “You need to come now.” That’s too fresh and perhaps too intimate an experience to share. I’m certain God will speak clearly about whether or not that story will ever be told.
No, if I were running this post past Emma, she’d agree that it should be about Jesus and what He asks of each of us.
I can’t count the number of times Em would say, “There are not enough words to thank you for …” I always answered, “Em, I’m just loving you like Jesus and walking you Home.” We agreed that it was the most beautiful way to spend one’s lifetime, regardless of its length.
I saw a huge community of believers love like Jesus and walk with Emma’s family. For some, it meant making meals (oh-so-many meals!) or dropping off homemade bread or groceries. For others, it meant laundry and cleaning help, or giving rides to the kids. Still others sat with Emma in the last few weeks, keeping her company and doing tasks around the house. And while those who loved tangibly are great in number, those who PRAYED are innumerable. Some were only able to help once, and others helped countless times—yet no tally was ever kept—certainly not by the One whose opinion matters most. I pray that those who shared the journey will treasure knowing that they obediently did what Jesus asked by walking a stretch of the road with Emma. For that privilege, we can all be thankful.
A few months ago, I wrote about concentric circles that delineated how to avoid saying the wrong things when someone you love is suffering. The person who’s suffering is at the center. Children, parents, siblings, and intimate friends are in smaller rings than less-familiar friends and acquaintances. Though many may believe the “journey” is over and we can all “get back to normal” now, we know that Emma’s homegoing only marks a new leg of the journey for those of us who were the closest to her. It will take some figuring out. It will take some time, but we’re going to keep walking—one-step-at-a-time. And we’re going to keep loving people like Jesus.
I recently shared with homeschool friends that four of my homeschool students just finished reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. We were all captivated by the plight of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Two things happened as a result of finishing this book.
1. It prompted us to seek more information about the Lost Boys of Sudan.
We were super excited to learn that a fantastic new movie called The Good Lie starring Reese Witherspoon is releasing December 23! I marked my calendar to order it. Then one week later I learned that I had the opportunity to review this very film. What’s more I’m getting a FREE copy to give away to one lucky winner!
Here is the synopsis of this story:
They were known simply as “The Lost Boys.”
Orphaned by the brutal civil war in Sudan, which began in 1983, these young victims traveled as many as a thousand miles on foot in search of safety. Fifteen years later, a humanitarian effort would bring 3,600 lost boys, as well as girls, to America.
Mamere and Theo are sons of the Chief in their village in Southern Sudan. When an attack by the Northern militia destroys their home and kills their parents, eldest son Theo is forced to assume the role of Chief and lead a group of young survivors, including his sister Abital, away from harm. But the hostile, treacherous terrain has other dangers in store for them.
As the tattered group makes the difficult trek to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, they meet other fleeing children, forging a bond with Jeremiah, who, at 13, is already a man of faith, and Paul, whose skills become essential to their survival.
Thirteen years later, the now young adults are given the opportunity to leave the camp and resettle in America. Upon arriving in Kansas, they are met by Carrie Davis (Witherspoon), an employment agency counselor who has been enlisted to help find them jobs—no easy task, when things like light switches and telephones are brand new to them.
Although Carrie has successfully kept herself from any emotional entanglements, these refugees, who desperately require help navigating the 21st century and rebuilding their shattered lives, need just that. So Carrie embarks on her own unchartered territory, enlisting the help of her boss, Jack (Corey Stoll).
2. It stirred us to action.
We are hosting a Sole Hope party with a purpose in January. We’re inviting 20 other homeschoolers to join us as we cut out supplies for shoes. Sole Hope provides handmade shoes to children in Uganda to help prevent foot-borne diseases. Our job was to cut the material for the shoes based on templates they give in a kit. They send the assembled materials to Uganda and pay local shoemakers a fair wage to make the shoes. [We were struck by the need for shoes as we read about the Lost Boys of Sudan.]
Participants at our party will hear more about Water for Sudan, Inc. This organization was started by one of the former Lost Boys of Sudan – who just happened to be the main character of A Long Walk to Water.
If you want to enter to win the DVD of The Good Lie, enter here: