Parties, papers, and podcasts – oh my!

Thank you for the support you all have given me with the launch of Simple Mercies. I absolutely love being able to share it with the world and everyone has been so generous to help spread the word. Two dear friends opened up their homes so I could speak about the book and I so enjoyed meeting new people whose compassionate hearts make our community a better place. If you are interested in me speaking at your home, church, or organization, please don’t hesitate to reach out at lara@mercymatters.net

I have also been busy recording different podcasts. Here is one I hope you will enjoy https://ultimatechristianpodcastnetwork.com/meet-lara-patangan-author-of-simple-mercies/?fbclid=IwAR3eBHR2sLfOibvvmB3COFtL3Xz8ST9IR1pWPdNgG-hAYLUiGOfdqS2XosE

Lastly, I wanted to share this article that recently ran in The Florida Times-Union about the year I spent doing works of mercy. The author, Beth Reese Cravey, really did an amazing job capturing both the spirit of the book and that year. (I apologize for the gaps in the article. I had to make it into four PDF’s to share it here. And, by me, I mean my husband who actually reminded me that I was his only employee and that maybe I should be nicer to him. His comment made me really happy because by saying this he did the work of mercy to “admonish a sinner” while simultaneously bringing me grapes — “feed the hungry.”  So, if you think about it, I’m a soul-saving kind of boss).

To purchase Simple Mercies: https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Mercies-Works-Mercy-Fulfillment/dp/1681924536/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8 or locally at http://bit.ly/larabooks

 

Simple Mercy: Keeping Children Safe

Nancy Sebastian has spent much of her life working to keep children safe. This is how Nancy does mercy:

“Sharing what we know about personal safety with the children we love is an act of mercy that can save a life. It’s as easy as teaching a child to cross the street. Children who recognize red flags and know circumstances to avoid will be safer. The same is true for teens. In addition, teens dealing with depression and anxiety are now at an all-time high. Showing concern and kindness can make a huge difference to them.

Everyone wants to know they matter.

I feel very blessed throughout my life to have been able to empower children and teens to protect themselves and their peers from harm and live safer, happier lives. As a mother, teacher, school counselor, and now Executive Director of the KinderVision Foundation for the past 27 years, my journey has been one of amazing grace and awesome miracles, both personally and professionally, with the well-being of young people always a priority.

KinderVision began in 1991 as the result of the abduction and murder of a 7-year-old little girl. Her case remains unsolved. We wanted to prevent future tragedies so we created a video with personal safety tips for young children in English and Spanish narrated by an 8-year-old little girl and a police officer. We personalized our safety video by recording the child on the end to encourage viewing. Hundreds of thousands of children have benefited from that program. It is now digital and the safety tips can be found at www.KVKids.org.

Ten years ago law enforcement asked us to create a program for teens, the age group most at risk for victimization. The Greatest Save Teen PSA (Public Service Announcement) Program was our response. In this peer-to-peer personal safety program, teens choose any topic on teen victimization, research it, and create a 30-second video message for their peers. The messages are then organized by topics and used by schools across the country to raise awareness, engage students in discussions about personal safety, and end teen victimization. Read more

Mercy: Sex Trafficking

Ruby Greers may be a grandma but she doesn’t shy away from a hard fight. And, perhaps it is because she is a grandmother that she works so hard to help eliminate and educate others about sex trafficking.

This is how Ruby does mercy:

I’m especially passionate about educating young people because I saw a quote from a 17-year-old survivor of sex trafficking who said, “How did I not know about this?  Why didn’t someone warn me? Had I known, I would have never fallen into this.” 

Whether it’s sex trafficking or labor trafficking, most people simply don’t know much about it or realize how prevalent it is, not to mention how evil it is. It makes me angry that traffickers seek out the most vulnerable people and exploit them. Many people do not realize that pornography fuels sex trafficking and that some of the people “acting” in those videos may actually be victims of sex trafficking who are being forced to perform.

I got angrier when I attended an all-day seminar titled Sex Trafficking in Schools in Florida (How crazy is it that there was a NEED for that seminar?) and learned that traffickers are putting “recruiters” in schools to befriend the most vulnerable, unhappy kids and that the porn industry is targeting six to 10-year-old children by putting “click here” buttons on gaming sites. Many of our 12 grandchildren are in or near that age range and I could just envision the younger ones sounding out “click here” thinking they were going to get more jewels or swords or whatever, and instead getting a pornographic pop-up.   It’s just a click away on any device. 

So maybe my efforts to educate people about human trafficking are self-serving in that I’m using some of the energy God gave me to burn off that anger. Or maybe I am trying to protect young people like the grands I love so much.  Or maybe the Holy Spirit has hit me on the head enough times to realize that we are ALL vulnerable when we trust the wrong people and those wrong people see us as money in their pocket.  Whatever the reason, I can’t not do it… I can’t just walk away from the subject unless traffickers miraculously realize it’s terrible to take advantage of other people.  Because as long as there’s a demand for paid sex and for cheap goods and labor, there will be human trafficking.  But, God willing, there will also be this grandma educating anyone who is willing to stand still long enough to listen.

Note from me: One of the reasons I wrote my new book, Simple Mercies, is because oftentimes we fail to recognize the way small acts of kindness can make a difference. For the next few weeks, I’m highlighting simple ways that others are sharing mercy as an organic part of their daily life. If you or someone you know would like to participate in this series, please email me at lara@mercymatters.net to share your own story of mercy. If you would like to learn more about the ways that mercy can bring peace and fulfillment to your life while answering God’s call to serve, preorder Simple Mercies, at this Amazon link or San Marco book store http://Bit.ly/PatanganSMB ~ love, Lara

 

 

 

Simple Mercy: Diversity

Latasha and I attended Bishop Kenny High School together. I didn’t really know her well. This wasn’t because she’s black and I’m white. It’s because she was smart and athletic and in different classes and social circles than me. She was the girl who ran towards the ball and I was the one who ran away from it. As the Captain of the 1990 Girls’ Basketball State Championship Team, Latasha did plenty of running towards the ball.

These were not differences based on race but just on who we are as individuals. Admittedly, I didn’t think much about race back then. I could tell you this was because I was thinking about boys or passing algebra but it’s just as much because I didn’t see how it affected me. And, no matter your skin color, racial injustice affects us all. Mostly, it goes against Jesus’s message to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

In her volunteer role as the Chair of the Task Force on Diversity at Bishop Kenny High School, she works with the school to deepen the level of understanding of racial diversity and inclusion that reflects the tenets of our Christian faith. “Bishop Kenny is in a unique position to combat this hatred and promote diversity and inclusion because it is educating the next generation of leaders. We must ensure that our children understand the history that created barriers for people of color and the need for intentionality when addressing issues around race,” Latasha said.  “We cannot be afraid to tackle this issue head-on. We are all charged with standing on our Christian principles and truly trying to figure out how to make an impact in our daily lives. Our children are listening to and watching us.” Read more

Have Mercy: Feeding the Hungry

It started with a few men, a few down on their luck families, a few small acts of mercy that 40 years later is making a big impact on the hungry.

In 2018, Carolyn Chesser established the Jim Dotson Foundation in Jacksonville, Florida in memory of her father who was one of the men that started the outreach program that now operates out of Fort Caroline Presbyterian Church.  It has grown from feeding church members families in need to operating a twice-monthly food pantry that feeds more than 2,000 people, hosts a monthly hot breakfast, and includes a clothing and toy ministry.

Carolyn said they are able to do this with the help of donors like Louis Joseph, who is the business of feeding people himself at his restaurant, The Mudville Grill. The beloved neighborhood institution, like most restaurants, was hit hard by COVID. Still, it hasn’t stopped him from using his restaurant as a platform to give back.

Louis and I went to grade school together at Christ the King and high school at Bishop Kenny. While we learned about serving the poor at school as part of our Catholic faith, Louis also recognizes the role his parents played in teaching him to give back. “I was raised by two wonderful parents who taught me at a young age to live my life with a warm heart. We live in a caring community. I try to support it in any way I can.”

Keeping a 55-gallon drum at the restaurant to collect canned food items for the foundation seems like the perfect way to honor the legacy of Jim Dotson. A few people doing what they can to help –and collectively making a difference for many. Read more

The Value of Life: An Unexpected Blessing in the Middle of the Storm

*This post first appeared at Our Sunday Visitor: https://www.osvnews.com/2020/04/20/the-value-of-life-an-unexpected-blessing-in-the-middle-of-the-storm/

As a Floridian, I’m used to the rush and rumble of hurricane season.  Being quarantined feels like a similar drill: gathering supplies, overconsumption of snacks, board games, and boredom.  There is also the obsession with news updates, the what-ifs that cyclone through conversation, fear of the unknown, and the prayers that calm the storm of anxieties within.

The main difference between hunkering down for a hurricane and huddling in our homes for a quarantine is that the hurricane only lasts a few days.  The storm passes and the focus shifts from preparation to recovery.  Being stuck in the purgatory of this virus, not knowing when or if life will return to normal; being isolated from family and friends; having the promise of cherished events broken; the loss of income and freedom, all while the looming fear of losing life centers itself as the eye of the storm, has cataclysmically and almost instantaneously redefined life.

As I have feebly tried to wrap my head around all of it — the world-wide scope, and the dire implications of noncompliance, I am in absolute awe of the measures that have been taken to protect lives.  Could it be that we actually value life after all? For so long, nations have chosen warped notions of freedom by legislating the killing of the unborn; they have confused justice with life-taking judgment through the use of the death penalty; and they have chosen money over the mercies of caring for the poor, neglected, and suffering.  The heroic efforts that are in place to protect and save lives are unprecedented.  The recognition of the value of life is a welcome gift amidst this suffering and sacrifice. It’s a chance to not only redefine life in terms of our routines but to re-root ourselves in the purpose of life by resurrecting God’s command to love our neighbor that for too long has been buried under the debris of sin, selfishness, and self-reliance. Read more

Time to Act

During my senior year in high school, I had a small part in the school play, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.  My role was of the scandalous secretary who was presumably having an affair with her boss. I wore a tiny off the shoulder black dress and slung my waist-length hair around with a flick of my wrist while hinting to the more dutiful office employee about my clandestine relations.  That was almost 30 years ago and the only flicking of the wrists I do now is after washing my hands in the kitchen sink when I’m too hurried to use a dishtowel.

Unlike my children’s lives, mine isn’t particularly well-documented so when I came across an old VCR tape of the school play, I thought it would be fun to transfer it to DVD.  The decades-old recording had aged much like the cast of characters it chronicled.  Faces were a blur and I had to rely on sound more than sight to distinguish fellow classmates.  It’s odd to think back that far, at how young we were, how sure we were, and how unsure we were.   Dizzy hopes for the future dangled like a cliffhanger in the drama of our own lives.  One of the boys who had a leading role in the play passed away last year.  His grainy silhouette was punctuated by the boom of his voice.  His animated gestures and rhythmic inflections belied the premature hush that came upon his life.  It made me sad. Read more

Out of the Ash: American Heroes

I remember exactly where I was when a plane crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It was a profoundly sad day. It changed lives and an entire nation. I will never forget the unthinkable, unimaginable horror as I huddled around the television watching the ash of innocence unite a country in anguished grief. As the morning went on, the plane crashes went from one to four, each one an almost unrecoverable blow of terror, multiplying devastation into exponential heartache.

A new commitment to patriotism rose like a phoenix out of ashes on that pivotal day. We were less naïve and more united. A surge of civilians stepped out of their air-conditioned offices and into the desert heat to join our military. They traded the comforts of civilian life for the trials of war to ensure freedom.

I don’t doubt the urgency of the call to serve that those newly converted soldiers felt. I was almost eight months pregnant with my first child on 9/11. Things that mattered to me before that day—the décor of the nursery, the name I would choose, decisions about going to work afterward, and finding a pediatrician—were suddenly inconsequential. Somehow, life as we knew it was in jeopardy. My body was full of the promise of life, and the sky was falling. Read more

In the Mess: Easy Like Sunday Morning

I know songs have been written about the ease of Sunday morning, but I wish someone would write one about the angst of a Sunday evening. That’s the twitchiest night of the week for me as I transition from the charms of the weekend to the schisms of the work week. I feel like the amiable comic book character, Pig Pen, created by Charles Shultz, traveling in my own dust storm with all the to-do’s swirling around me making a filthy mess of what was once a peaceful mind.  The more I do, the more I realize how far behind I really am and the dirt cakes on — further muddying my panic.

I sort through emails.  I make piles.  I do laundry.  I boss children — an echo of repetition.  I try to remember what I needed to talk to my husband about.  I usually can’t.  I make lists.  I pick up abandoned glasses and clip close half-eaten bags of chips laying carelessly on the counter.  In all my busying, I only seem to find more to do.  Each task leads to another – a maze in the making.  I scatter about in the dusty swirl of tedium past bedtime – past reason.  My son asks me to review his cover letter for an internship he is applying for and I stop.  In that instant, where I was given one more thing to do– when I was already so done, I would have envisioned being buried under the muck of a mudslide.  Instead, I felt the clarity of grace.  I felt its calm and its cleanse, as I realized I belong in the middle of the mess.  It’s there that my independent, almost adult child asked for my input.  It’s there that the mess suddenly stopped choking me and I breathed into the precious moment of mothering.

Our to-do’s will never be done and life will always be messy no matter how much tidying we do.  Serving others in the midst of it is the grace that makes life meaningful.  It gives order to chaos.  It realigns priorities and it reinvigorates efforts. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:16).

Read more

Everyday Heroes and Popeye the Sailor Man

When I was little, I loved to watch Popeye the Sailor Man. There was something so good about the one-eyed spinach-eating sailor.  He was gruff and marbled his raspy words.  His body was disproportionate with massive forearms, and legs that bowed out in curvy clumps.  He had a tattoo on his arm, a pipe in his twisted mouth, and Olive Oyl, his waif of a love interest, on his arm.

Wearing a white Navy outfit, he embodied the everyday hero.  Maybe that was the draw to him.  He wasn’t polished and refined like a prince.  He wasn’t movie-star handsome.  He didn’t speak eloquently.  He ate food from a can.  He was mostly bald.  Occasionally, he even sported a bit of stubble as if he couldn’t bother with the vanity of beard-grooming.  After all, he had bullies like Brutus to fight.  In every episode, Popeye ensured that good triumphed over evil.

I grew up believing that people were good.  Bad guys were just television entertainment to enforce the seemingly universal truth that we all want the same thing – for the good guy to win, order to exist, and happy endings to prevail.  We certainly couldn’t accept the havoc brought by bullies such as Brutus. Read more