Saturday, September 27, 2014

Don't Miss Exceptional Movie Focus on a Part of Africa


Africa Tree - Cover Copyright 2012
The upcoming October 3, 2014, release of The Good Lie movie should interest a wide audience, not only those involved with refugee or immigrant issues. I hope readers here will make a point to see this movie.   

Resse Witherspoon's dark-haired lead is on the dramatic side, reminiscent of her June Carter Cash role in Walk the Line. She draws more seriously on the comic side that movie-goers remember from Legally Blonde, as The Good Lie trailer shows. The film includes performances by former refugees from Sudan who returned for scenes they had left behind in their homeland.  

I wrote about Sudan and a place called Juba years ago, and named the article "No Place to Call Home." I feel some connection with other parts of Africa, having studied some and walked streets and driven through towns in Zambia and South Africa. I visited those countries as an onlooker with people vitally involved with refugee and migration issues. I tried to listen and observe as fully as possible.

You may see ads for The Good Lie movie and note the Africa tree photo. It's the same kind of tree on the cover of Refugee Was My Name by Mogama (2012), shown also in the lead photo. Sudan (The Good Lie) and Liberia (Refugee Was My Name) have in common certain historical and present-day experiences. 

Regular people today quietly involve themselves with the ongoing millions of refugees and needs for places to call places. They continue to take part in good answers, however complicated the moving parts of solutions.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Death by Marriage"

Death by Marriage is a free ebook (Kindle) mystery novel by Jaden Skye. I have not read it, but I might. I enjoy a fast mystery story.

The title of this book generated thoughts about the deep pools of dangerous relationships. We hear of harm, even murders, that end either once-promising or always-dangerous relationships. I also thought of questions sent to Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post, an advice columnist and one of my favorites.

Letters to Carolyn Hax reflect parent-adult child, adult child-parent, live-in lovers, engaged couples, about to become move-in friends or lovers, in-laws, siblings, employees-employer, and almost every other relationship combination you or I might think of. The array of dilemmas should be no complete surprise to anyone in circles of relationships.

Relationships gone or going wrong, whether in or outside marriage, flood the news with tales of shock about lives of celebrities in sports, entertainment, and politics. The majority of troubling relationships, however, do not make the news or do so only when tragedy has occurred. What I notice in the letters or regular people to Carolyn Hax of the Post is how often people seem to be very uncertain about themselves, their actions or lack thereof, and others' actions or lack thereof, all at the same time. This is part, I think, of being in situations that hit life at its fullest points of hope or dreams.

It's a good sign, I believe, when people seek advice, help, confirmation, affirmation, or a more objective views. Many of the problems are not uncommon, if most of us would admit, although the situations may be somewhat unexpected. They are, basically it seems to me, part of personal identity and being so close to emotionally-charged challenges that it's difficult to admit the solution, or resolution, or even to think of it. 

Unreal expectations often lie at the bottom of our close relationship problems at one time or another. I could also say "unagreed" expectations, for many people in relationships seem to keep a lot of their thoughts and hopes to themselves. There is fear of really talking, face to face, honestly. There is fear of telling oneself, and so it seems easier to tell Carolyn. And I don't blame or judge anyone for that. To seek guidance from someone good at giving it is, in my view, a wise move.

I cannot help wondering if a third party not impressed by others' money, influence, appealing ways, or other circumstances might have been available to people at risk who were ready and willing to ask, talk, and listen to words in their own best interest, for the future. It's scary when one wants something or someone so much that truth is covered over...or second thoughts are pushed aside, those nagging hints of trouble that are quickly blanketed over with hopes, dreams, and fictional thinking.

Coming from a close, loving family and being in a long, close, and loving marriage and family situation, I find that my heart goes out to those in the news or in the advice columns who are in the midst of some extremely uncomfortable situation. Who among us has not been "there," at some time, I wonder. I am relieved and happy for those who seek, ask, and consider carefully...before deciding to continue further into a relationship that bruises the spirit.

Everyone can choose freedom for themselves, however hard-won it may be, and each person can allow their future to have the best opportunity. Beautiful doors of love, and I include friendships and family here, are often just ahead, although as yet unseen. I have seen this happen in almost mysterious ways. To prepare for a better life often requires letting go of the person we now are, the one avoiding change, and  letting ourselves out of boxes of limited expectations. Emotional turmoil and unrest in relationship can often end with a clearer eye to recognize patterns and our own roadblocks, rather than disasters we see in the news.

Beginning with honest admissions to one's self can be freeing, especially when a caring and wise listener can be there, even at the end of a letter. To hear and to offer another that freedom of honest expression is, to me, a great gift. In addition, there is much to be said for writing thoughts down...and for praying, often, from an open, ready heart. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Humanitarian View of Unborn Human Life

There are resources where girls and women help each other, including: Silent No More.

Jean P. Purcell

Among the most frightening times in some young or grown women's lives is dealing with the fact of pregnancy not intended, expected, or wanted. There is an abundance of responding counsel on both sides of the question, "What can I do!?!"

I became a counselor of girls and women in the crisis of unwanted pregnancy after I investigated what abortion was from surgical to post-surgical points of the process.  The facts convinced me where I would stand on the controversial subject. To me, saving unborn human lives became a humanitarian effort. These lives develop in the same way that every human being a woman's womb. I believed, and still do, that the womb, designed for this, should be the safest place possible for human life to strive to keep growing until the time of birth.   

I saw first-hand a young woman return to the counseling clinic where I volunteered. She had had an abortion, and the second time she visited the pregnancy clinic she brought a pregnant high-school friend. She said she wanted her friend to know there was another way. She wanted her friend to hear facts, and she stayed with her friend throughout the walk-in meeting. I saw the relief on her face when her friend agreed to see a video about abortion, what the surgical procedure involves, the risks, and what some post-abortive women had to say about their abortions and their regrets.

Women I know who stand with pro-life efforts to protect two futures--the biological mother and the biological human life she carries--show deep compassion for the woman in the cross-hairs, so to speak, of different opinions and voices. They give of their time freely, to try to help two lives.

We now know that DNA is part of every human system, early on. We did not know that until relatively recent times. Criminal convictions are being reversed in light of what DNA tells about specific factors of the human identity. However, every abortion decision, once carried out, cannot be reversed and a unique identity, with unique DNA, perishes.

Many unborn human lives are spared, born, and either are raised by the mother and/or her extended family or by one or more adoptive parents. All of this happens within less than one year of the mother's life. Whatever the difficulty of allowing adoption of one's baby, there is always the knowledge that he or she, the unborn child, lived to receive the gift of time to strive for life and a future. In this knowledge, the mother can go forward with her dreams for her future, having taken care of another human life's chance at a future, the life in her hands long before the little human being's birth.

Women I know who stand with pro-life deep compassion for the young girl or woman in the cross-hairs, so to speak, of different opinions and voices.

Are you in an unwanted pregnancy situation? Are you a post-abortive woman? There are resources where girls and women help each other, including: Silent No More.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

September 11 - Remembering the brave and the comforts of God's people

Prayer was an instinctive response on 9-11-01 after two passenger jet airplanes flew into the Twin Towers in New York City. A church called Trinity right next door was spared and immediately opened its front doors for entrance to food, water, and coffee for the courageous responders at Ground Zero. This was the church to which the first U.S. President, George Washington, walked after his inauguration at Federal Hall, New York City.

Soon, prayers and action grew on 9/11/2001, as more news arrived: an airborne attack on the Pentagon building and a fourth plane crashed into farmland in Pennsylvania. Thinking about the tragedies felt around the world and the future of freedom in the world, I remember that this country was founded by men and women of spiritual resolve. As for the past and the future, the hymn "O God Our Help in Ages Past" has come to mind:

O God our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast
and Our Eternal Home...

This year I think of the helpless victims and of those who gave their lives to try to save others. Whether walking, running, or driving toward the disaster, firefighters, police, emergency medical responders, and others instinctively or by training did not count the cost of their lives. They went to try to help save others. I suspect many of them had already, upon assuming their jobs, counted the costs as best they could and committed themselves to serve their city and its people, wherever they originated.

This Sunday night, I watched some minutes of footage of that day in Manhattan, New York City, when the Twin Towers were attacked as the first sign of terror. As the towers fell, film shows the always-alarming cloud of debris that threatened to smother people fleeing on the ground, through the streets. 

There is no denying terrorism anymore. Tonight, watching and remembering, there is also no denying courage. We can trust that there are untold stories of those who did not survive the destruction of that day. Many very likely died because they drew on courage not to leave others trapped and alone. I know that such a supposition has a basis, due to stories of those in New York and at the Pentagon who survived due to the help of others who did not panic, did not run, did not give in to their own pain, and assisted others.

In New York, at the Pentagon, and in the field of Pennsylvania where the fourth airborne terror-driven plane crashed, the world watched terrifying and deadly scenes. The world later heard cockpit and plane tapes of passengers of great courage. From reports based on cockpit talk we now know that the terrorists were terrified at the end. They knew they had completely lost control of their mission in every respect.

Like those who have perished at home and in other lands, 
we will one day face death, 
whether from natural cause, illness, or tragedy. 
We have no idea how or when 
our deaths will come.

Many wait now to decide what they believe about their lives, their courage, and Eternal Life.  Many believe that their inevitable death will bring a void, a nothingness. Others have heard that Jesus Christ is worshiped as the Son of the living God and shed His blood on a cross at Calvary to cover the sins of every person who would accept that substitution payment for wrongs done to self and others.  Many postpone a major decision about faith, hoping that first they can answer hard questions about the Bible and good/evil. I understand the hesitation, because I once lived that way, wasting years lived without peace with God. Yet, God has restored those years and more: "I will restore the years the locusts have eaten," He has promised. Since 1980 I been able to say with certainty and as an adult, "I believe in Jesus Christ and have placed my life, which I value, fully into His keeping."

I love to offer what God has taught me about how to live, through biblical words and other explorations of Christian faith since 1980. I have learned that understanding begins, to whatever extent, after faith is settled regarding Jesus Christ. Delay does not help. I do not know why it works this way. Only when we no longer desire understanding more than we desire God do we see a door of faith opening to vast territories of understanding.

My soul is in God's hands by faith, which is the evidence of the unseen things. Even that statement of being in God's hands is an image of something larger than words. It seems to me, although I cannot and have no need to prove it, that God has had my life in His hands since I was 12. My years of doubt, due to failure to trust Him in every situation of life, have been forgiven. That forgiveness is a vital part of what the Cross and the Resurrection mean to me.

One thing I have learned as a Christian 
is that true understanding is unavailable
outside of faith. First, I began to believe and
to express needs and questions to God; 
then came understanding that I was unable to gain
before I trusted in Christ, from the heart.  

I try to encourage others not to be stubborn as I was. I try to encourage those who seek without finding to seek God's face first before being distracted by religious or theological questions. Knowing God by faith in Him opens the door to asking all the questions we desire to ask.

Even now, even if you do not realize it, you are beloved by the loving God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. I dared to believe that truth after I read C.H. Spurgeon's written words saying that this is so. I began to realize, slowly through ensuing days and months, that God helps me with any question I desire to ask Him. Without Him, answers seem to hide. And, answers I still do not understand I can, by faith, lay aside for whatever time needed.    

Without understanding how it works, by God's grace I do know that this living hope of Christian faith is indestructible. Once a person sincerely decides to trust God through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection...there is a life within an amazing, living hope. There is also, among innumerable other graces, an amazing inner peace that comes in as one faces unavoidable troubles of living in the world. 

Death will find you and it will find me, eventually, in the realm of time. I am in God's hands for life beyond death, and I hope the same assurance and confidence for you and everyone. How and when death does comes, I have the promise of life in the reality of the eternal Life. Trusting God and seeking Him daily, with thanksgiving, I leave with Him the matters beyond human control in the now and in the future.

Physically, death will find you, and death will find me. 
It is only an unknown matter 
of moments, days, or years.

There is the living hope of Jesus Christ. While we are living on this earth, there is love for one another, help to one another, and remembrance of  those who have died and those who may yet die at violent hands. On September 11, 2001, for helpless villages of Iraqi citizens in recent weeks, for those beheaded as innocent men in recent days...I hold this living hope that is in Christ. I, along with you and others, honor their lives on earth. We remember in our prayers their families and friends. We hold a promise of free eternal life bought on a cross at Calvary and verified by the Resurrection of Jesus on the third day. By faith in Him, I have this promise of an Eternal Home, through the Person of the living Lord. I earnestly desire that no one fail to claim this great and precious promise.

...Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according 
to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again 
unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
(I Peter 1:3, King James Bible).


Saturday, September 06, 2014

Abortion: A response to a recent Washington Post featured columnist

ThumbnailLeslie T. Dean is a guest writer on the topic of a Washington Post article by Janet Harris, "Stop calling abortion a 'difficult decision'," (August 15, 2014).

After reading Janet Harris’ opinion article in The Washington Post, I was profoundly moved to respond to her comments. Ms Harris transparently shared that she is a post-abortive woman, and her strong “pro-choice” advocacy helps me to understand her need to defend her platform. And that is a good thing, because now we are on level ground. Only first-hand experience gives someone the right to argue life and death issues with intelligence and knowledge.
Informed decision
In her comments regarding the use of the term “difficult decision,” Ms Harris states: “. . . it implies that women need help deciding, which opens the door to paternalistic and demeaning 'informed consent' laws. It also stigmatizes abortion and the women who need it.” 

As an RN of 35 years who has stood at many bedsides reviewing huge packets of paper with patients before they have any invasive surgery, I fully understand the need for informed consent. It removes any surprises in patients' post-op care and prepares them for any side effects that may be unwanted, but unpreventable. It’s “fair-warning," as is almost every medicine ad we see on TV today. The possible side effects almost outweigh the good intentions of the drug. However, the patient is fully informed before they enter into the therapy—or the surgery.

Why should abortion—also an invasive surgery—be treated any differently? Could it be because it’s a hot political issue? Who is truly at risk? The baby’s fate has already been decided, but what about the welfare of the girl or woman?

Parental consent
Parental consent is an issue that goes hand-in-hand with informed consent. If a parent must give permission for an aspirin, why would they not be needed for a surgical procedure? Ms. Harris only addressed this issue briefly, yet I take this opportunity to say that teens are incapable of making a decision this complicated without a parent’s guidance. Cognitively, they are not ready.
Two studies prove the outcome of teen-abortion choices. 
  • Teens are at much higher risk of a suicide attempt after abortion. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found suicide attempts increased ten-fold for teens who were post-abortive in the preceding 6 months.
  • New Zealand researcher David Fergusson and colleagues found that 50% of post-abortive teens (15–18 years) had suicidal thoughts and behaviors, double the rate for teens who had become pregnant but never aborted and double the rate of never-pregnant teens

Moral decision respects two lives
Ms. Harris shared:  
“An unwanted pregnancy would have derailed my future, making it difficult for me to finish college and have the independent, productive life that I’d envisioned.” Ms. Harris candidly gives her opinion, and also shares, “women who have their first child out of wedlock get less education and are more likely to be unemployed and single—even many years later—compared with other women.” 

The blatant missing piece in these comments is the obvious: adoption as a consideration. Ms. Harris could have still finished college and gone on to live a productive life—with the knowledge that her baby was safe in the arms of a couple that was unable to have their own baby. All the women she refers to could have been educated, had a job, and married—after giving up their babies for adoption. 

How sad that adoption is rarely considered an option in an unplanned pregnancy. This issue became a place of introspection for me. Years ago, when asked why I didn’t choose adoption, my quick, pre-formulated answer was always the same, “I didn’t want strangers raising my baby!” But, I could abort my baby,and that was a better option?

Psychological research results
Ms. Harris quoted a study reported in the Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health journal, which found the vast majority of women seeking an abortion—87 percent—had high confidence in their decisions. The study was based on 5,000 women in only one clinic, and made before counseling. Here is the rest of that story: “Certain variables were negatively associated with abortions, being sought by women with high confidence: being younger than 20, being black, not having a high school diploma, having a history of depression, having a fetus with an anomaly, having general difficulty making decisions, having spiritual concerns, believing that abortion is killing and fearing not being forgiven by God.” (italics added) 

Let me offer another study: In 2011, a study conducted by Priscilla K. Coleman from Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA, was based on 22 published studies. Only the strongest studies were included, with a combined number of participants totaling over 850,000 women, with research published from 1995-2009 in The British Journal of Psychiatry. In the largest study of its kind, researchers concluded that women having abortions experience an 81% increased risk of mental health problems.
"Years ago, when asked why I didn’t choose adoption, my quick, pre-formulated answer was always the same, 'I didn’t want strangers raising my baby!'”- Leslie Dean
The British Journal of Psychiatry also reported that almost 10% of all mental health problems are shown to be directly linked to abortion. The study is the first meta-analysis of research conducted on abortion’s impact on mental health.  It found that post-abortive women are 37% more likely to suffer depression, 110% more likely to engage in higher alcohol use, and 155% more likely to engage in suicidal behavior. The post-abortive women I have met over the past 22 years, have repeatedly shared these problematic issues. Present company included.

In the following statement, Ms. Harris makes the most crucial of arguments. Actually, she has laid bare the psychological truth of this “difficult decision.”  Here is what she says, “In fact, most women—even those who obtained abortions within the first six weeks of pregnancy—would have preferred to have their abortions earlier than they did.” 

She later states there is no moral or religious reasoning behind it; the reason women want to have an abortion as early as possible is the “mother-baby bond” phenomena. The earlier the pregnancy, the less form the baby has. The less form the baby has, the easier the justification—“It’s not a baby—just tissue.” It makes the abortion “easier.”

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in February 1983 that looked at the impact that ultrasound has upon the choice that a pregnant mother will make concerning abortion. (Please remember, this was way before the 3-D and 4-D sonograms we have now; they were much more rudimentary in the 80’s.) The article entitled "Maternal Bonding in Early Fetal Ultrasound Examinations" observed the following:
One of us pointed to the small, visibly moving fetal form on the screen and asked, 
How do you feel about seeing what is inside you?
She answered crisply, It certainly makes you think twice about abortion! 
....asked to say more, she told of the surprise she felt on viewing the fetal form,
especially on seeing it move:I feel that it is human. It belongs to me. I couldn't 
have an abortion now.

The mother was asked about her experience with ultrasound. She said:It really 
made a difference to see that it was alive.

Asked about her position on the moral choice she had to make, she said:  
I am going all the way with the baby, I believe it is human.

The physician/authors of this study concluded by saying:

Ultrasound examination is likely to increase the value of the early fetus for parents who already strongly desire a child. Viewing the fetal form in the late first or early mid-trimester of pregnancy, before movement is felt by the mother, may also influence the resolution of any ambivalence toward the pregnancy itself in favor of the fetus. Ultrasound examination may thus result in fewer abortions and more desired pregnancies.

“Humiliating evidence of failure in judgment”
There is one last issue Ms. Harris raised that I would like to address. She wrote, “An unplanned pregnancy is highly stressful, and for many it is humiliating evidence of a failure in judgment.” 
A humiliating failure in judgment?  As a woman who had two abortions, let me share a real-life failure in judgment:
In the past you have had an abortion. Then, you become pregnant with a baby you do want to keep. You go to the doctor, and he performs a sonogram so you can see your precious baby. (The doctor) is excited as he points out the parts of your baby. You see the baby's heartbeat and him moving inside you . . . and you catch your breath. You know. You know, without any doubts, what you did to your other baby. You know it was alive.

That is a failure you can never erase. You bought the lie, and you made the choice, That was my humiliating failure in judgment. Not once, but twice, and no one cared enough to tell me the truth. The truth allows informed decision. Sometimes the “difficult decision” doesn’t become difficult until years have brought wisdom, and wisdom has brought truth.

About the guest writer: Leslie T. Dean is the author of a published novel, Forgiven Much. She is part of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign in Maryland, a Registered Nurse and licensed counselor. Ms Dean is in demand as a speaker on college campuses and other venues. Look for her on social networks, or comment below.

The Washington Post article that prompted this response has a link here.