Monday, May 18, 2015

This Isn't About a Bunny

This is the kind of post that I hesitate to share, because the likelihood is high that a reader could entirely miss the point and the true heart from which I share it. 
I will tell you now, that if you read this and find the focus to be on me or some kind deed that I have done, then I have not done my due diligence in writing the story. 

And it's not even a story about a bunny...but the bunny is where I'll begin. 

It was a couple of weeks after Easter, and I had gone in to the local Hallmark store to pick up birthday cards for upcoming family birthdays.  There on the 75% off table, was the sweetest, softest little stuffed bunny.  The stitching and design were so delicate and sweet.  I admit, even in my 40's, that I am a sucker for a stuffed animal!  I just love them, and now my babies are so grown up that I rarely have occasion to buy them anymore.  I went through the cards and made my selections, and still kept going back to the bunny.  I wracked my brain to think of any little one that might want it.  I have no little nieces or nephews. Maybe I should just pass on the bunny.  I started for the register a couple of times.  But the bunny just wouldn't let me go. I picked it up and added it to my purchases. 

On the drive home, my thoughts turned more into a prayer.  I know it sounds weird...but it's true.  I looked over at the bag with the bunny poking out of it, and  I prayed that God would lead me to just the right child to give it to.  I prayed that I could use that little discounted bunny to share the love of Jesus with someone. 

For weeks now, Bunny has been my driving companion everywhere I go.  I have kept my eyes open as I drive, as I shop, as I walk, whatever I'm doing,  always wondering if today is the day that I will give Bunny away.  And I've waited. 


The first time I saw her, I was immediately worried.  She was sooo pale, and there were dark circles under her eyes.  She looked so weak and sickly,  I was convinced she was ill.  I felt her forehead but she wasn't warm.  I tried to ask her about any symptoms, but she barely spoke.  The little girl I'm describing is 9 years old.  She had seen her teenage neighbor getting on our church bus to come to the Sunday night youth program, and had wanted to come too.  At her age, she really wasn't supposed to be coming, but we don't turn anyone away. 

Part of our program always involves feeding the youth. Food is a vital part of any outreach ministry because you can always safely assume that there are truly hungry people in your midst.   Feed the body and then feed the soul. 

So I kept an eye on my little friend as we lined the kids up for the Sunday night meal.  I was thinking she was sick and may throw up or something.  Instead, I watched as she gobbled up her food and was transformed before my eyes. I asked her if she felt better as she went skipping out for game time. This little gal who a short time before could barely hold her head up, or say much at all, flashed me a big smile and said, "YES! I ate and I feel much better!"
It hit me like a brick.  She hadn't been sick at all.  She was HUNGRY.  I asked her if she had eaten that day and she said no.

That was two weeks ago.  Tonight, I knew little Sylvia was supposed to have Bunny.  When I gave it to her, I stooped down and looked her in the eye and I told her to promise me that whenever she held the Bunny and played with it that she would remember that Jesus loved her very much.  That He cared so much about her and her life.  I told her that I loved her too and I placed a kiss on her forehead. 

Our year at this church is quickly coming to a close.  I don't know how often, or if ever I will see Sylvia again.  And a little stuffed Bunny can't do much..,no, it can't do change the hard reality of the life she lives on a daily basis.  That all of these kids live. 

This isn't a story about me.

This isn't a story about a stuffed bunny 

This isn't even a story about a little girl. 

To my way of thinking, this is a story about a God who cares enough about hungry little girls to use stuffed animals and flawed people like me to reach out to them. 
There's so much hurt and pain and trouble in this world.  The more your eyes are opened to the needs around you, the more overwhelming it can seem.  It can feel useless to even try sometimes. Yet
God has chosen to use us as vessels of His love and redemption to the world around us. The real question is are we listening closely enough for His voice to show us avenues of ministry.   He does this through big miraculous undertakings sometimes.  And sometimes He just does it through small things.  Like stuffed bunnies.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reflecting: One Year With Cancer

(This is a post that I did on Facebook back on March 5th, the one year marker of my Dad's cancer diagnosis.  For those reading the blog who don't follow FB, I will give a brief synopsis.  Dad's cancer was found during a routine colonoscopy, that had been put off a few months due to a busy schedule.  He was 58 at the time, in reasonably good health, with no symptoms of this, so it was truly a shock.  In the early days, each test came back worse than the one before.  It had metastasized to the liver, and there were spots on the lungs and kidneys as well.  We are eternally grateful for a swift-acting medical team, who wasted no time in consulting together and drafting a VERY aggressive plan of treatment that began within days of diagnosis.  The oncologist is a Christian man, and at his first meeting with my parents he joined hands and prayed...he prayed that if it be God's will that God would heal Dad in such a way that his own services wouldn't be required. But that if God chose to use him, that He would grant wisdom for every decision made during treatment.  God's presence was so real in that room, and from that moment, my parents felt peace and trust.  They always felt safe with the care Dad received.  What was deemed inoperable took a turnaround, when Dad's body responded so MIRACULOUSLY to the treatment!! So 11 months later, they sent him to Vanderbilt University in Nashville for surgery.  Surgeons there successfully removed the remainder of the stubborn tumor in the liver. They removed 70% of his liver and 25% of his colon.  And today, while Dad is recovering from a difficult surgery....he is cancer free! Thanks be to God!! )

Today has certainly been a day of reflecting. My mind has gone back to March 5th of last year, and how one moment brought so much shock and change into our lives. Those first few hours and days after Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer (which was discovered during a routine colonoscopy), are seared into my memory: the overwhelming flood of emotion and question, the desperate prayers being thrown heavenward, the helplessness and fear, the concern of how to help my children grasp the news and not be too devastated.
The keen eye and ear you develop for anything that resembles Hope is amazing. all comes flooding back. I remember. I remember Peace that came in like a whisper, so quiet in the night. I remember knowing Jesus was in my room when fear threatened to choke me in the midnight hours. I remember fully understanding what other people had meant when they described being "carried on the prayers of others".

You learn so much about yourself during times like these. I surely have. Sometimes you completely surprise yourself with what you discover during a crisis. You start finding it easier to dissect what you value most and what kind of "energy" you want to surround yourself with. Wow...for sure in the beginning, anything that even smelled like negativity or just seemed inauthentic was met with a scalpel.
Your focus becomes laser sharp. You learn where you are weak and where you are strong. I learned more about prayer and trusting than I ever expected to learn in a lifetime. Not that I have in any way "arrived"at some super-spiritual destination as a result. Not at all..for one must continue to practice these disciplines in the days of joy and good news, or the lessons learned in the dark will grow dim. Still learning that too.

As much as you learn about yourself, you learn a lot about others, and relationships, too, during times of crisis or chronic illness. Don't be surprised if you look around you at some point along the road, and find that some fellow travelers have fallen back. Maybe the raw nature of the realities you're dealing with made them uncomfortable, maybe they didn't know how to "be" around you at that time, maybe it was just too much for them. Whatever the case, I think this happens more commonly than often discussed. Sure, that's painful...but you also quickly learn some other things as you survey the path you're journeying. You will have friends that stay close and hang in with you like glue. Lifelines. Prayer lines...when you're too weary to say another word. Friends who guard your heart and can be trusted with it; who don't need you to wear a face for them. What a blessing beyond the realm of my vocabulary to describe! You will find people willing to stand on your parents' lawn with you on a chilly spring night for 2 solid hours, just to PRAY. To lift up the feeble hands.

You learn there's nothing sweeter than the prayer of faith prayed by a child.

You will learn that your phone will ring, your email will ding, your mailbox will fill...with words and notes, gifts and assurances of prayers from friends that maybe you haven't seen in 20 years. Our family experienced that more than once these last twelve months. What a beautiful thing that has been. What an encouragement.

You learn to celebrate. You learn that "every good and perfect gift comes down from Above, from the Father of lights".

I may never know "why" this thing came to our doorstep exactly. As Sonya Isaac wrote, "cancer don't discriminate, or care if you're just *58". What I do know is that my Dad has always desired that God would use it...all of it...for His own Glory's sake. That He would somehow use it to bring Honor to His name. I believe that from that very first night one year ago (when the affects of the drugs were wearing off and the news was only beginning to sink in), and Dad had Mom drive him to the home of a man seeking God, that the tone was set for how this journey would be walked by God's grace. My Dad did in fact lead that man to Jesus that night, and he has continued to reach out in testimony to every Doctor and nurse, fellow chemo patients at the clinic, and others along the way. Eternity will show what God chose to do through these acts of love and faith.

I have attempted to share only my own personal feelings as I reflect on this last year. I can't fully speak for the whole family, for that's another thing I've learned: every single cancer diagnosis is different, every course of treatment is different, and everyone's way of processing and dealing with the enormity of it is different. And thank God, He's a personal God who can meet each one of us at our individual point of need.

To God be the Glory, great things HE has done!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Copy-Cat Blogging

I'm stealing the Daybook idea from my friend, Kimberly.  Because I just really want to blog again, and this gives me a good way to get the ball rolling. :) So, without further ado, a look into my day....

Outside my window....for the first time in a long while, there is sunshine.  Ah, sweet sunshine...finally melting away the last remaining clumps of ugly hardened snow.  I need sunshine like I need air.  When it's been too long, my whole world suffers.

I am thinking...oh about so many things. Decisions that have to be made. Needs to be met.  And the importance of just walking and trusting by faith.

I am thankful...for blessings large and small.  The last year has been filled with the anxiety of  watching my Dad fight Stage 4 Colon Cancer.  God has done an amazing work in spite of the bleak outlook in the beginning.  I'm thankful that doctors were able to do surgery and get ALL the cancer, which had also metastasized to the liver.  I will blog more about this at a later time.  To God be all the Glory, for the great things He has done.

In the smells pretty scrumptious, if I do say so.  Tonight's dinner is Pork Chop and Wild Rice Casserole, which is a family favorite.  *One of my favorite kitchen tips is keeping a bag of frozen chopped onions on hand.  Sooo quick and convenient to pull those bad boys out when whipping up a recipe.

I am wearing...unfortunately, an arm brace.  I'm suffering a recurrence of  inflammation in the elbow joint, making my left arm nearly un-usable.  Hurts so bad to bend it or stretch it, or apply any weight to that arm.  I had this problem last year about this time; wearing two braces and taking a prescription anti-inflammatory helped a lot.  The doctor told me then if it continued to be a problem, I would probably need physical therapy.  So I'm none too happy to have it show up again.  :( Ain't nobody got time for that!!!

I am contemplating...what it means to live a Christian life in a way that authentically represents Jesus, in this modern culture that's always shifting further and further away from  His principles.  Of course, no easy answer for this contemplation.  But it's on my mind a lot these days.  There's so much noise, and so much "standing up" and "fighting for our rights" coming from the Church world.  Meanwhile, we don't seem to be having much success in influencing the world around us.  So, therefore I'm contemplating....

I am reading...oh this is fun: I've been reading up on SAT preparation and guides.  Even though this is still several years away for our oldest, it feels like it's getting closer every day.  Time goes SOO quickly!! Apparently, there is some controversy/question over whether the SAT standards will be changed to reflect the implementation of the Common Core in public schools.  Crazy world.  As for some light, non-intellectual reading, I've picked up some Christian fiction for the first time in a long time, and I've enjoyed that as easy bed-time reading.  Found a new-to-me author named Stephanie Grace Whitson.  Her "Key on the Quilt" series is quite good!

I am looking forward to...a special surprise I've been planning for our Lauren's upcoming 15th birthday! Can't wait to see her face when she sees her gift.  (I'll fill ya in later!) :)

A favorite quote..."A good laugh and long sleep are the two best cures for anything." Irish Proverb

One of my favorite things...I've become so very fond of enjoying a cup of soothing tea in the evening.  My Keurig makes this easy and convenient.  Such a wonderful little luxury in the midst of a sometimes hectic and chaotic life! This blend is the best~

Well, that about does it for this edition of my Daybook.  I didn't do all the prompts. Maybe another day! The natives are getting restless....lots to accomplish still before I can snuggle down with that book and cup of tea!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

From My Heart, for Pastor's Appreciation Month

In many places across the country, churches are celebrating and acknowledging October as Pastor Appreciation Month.  As I’ve heard or read about various expressions of love and honor, my mind has gone back over the years of my life, and the Pastors that I have been blessed to have.  The very first Pastor I remember is from my early childhood, right here in Winchester at the little Wesleyan Church.  Bro. Wolfe seemed like a giant of a man to me, with snow white hair and a booming laugh.  His smile could light up a whole room.  These some 35 years later, a warmth washes over me to remember him, for the depth of love that he expressed for his congregation.  As a little girl, I knew my Pastor loved me!

We moved to Florida while I was still very young, and what an awesome thing it was to be a child attending Children’s Church at Hobe Sound Bible Church at that time! George and Ruth Vernon made every week exciting, and the songs and stories they shared with us are with me to this day.  Once a month they would bring in special speakers, like dear Brother Winter who spoke to us children with such tenderness and compassion. When I was older,   I came to have great respect for the teaching preaching of the Pastors I grew up under for many years; men such as Robert Pelton, G.R. French, Robert Whitaker.  These men left an indelible mark on my life and in my thinking and understanding.  Sometimes I find myself having a memory of a sermon from years ago that made an impression on me, and called to mind now, influences my thoughts and decisions.  Then there was Pastor Pierpoint during my college years, with his colorful illustrations and stories!   I can’t turn to the book of Philippians even now, without remembering the time he spent teaching that book.  

After Derek and I were married, we soon accepted a call to minister alongside Pastor Greg Makcen in a place called Tuscaloosa, AL. We had never even heard of it before! J  The time that we spent there was such amazing preparatory work for the years that would follow.  More than we could ever have realized at the time.  Greg was our Pastor and our friend and our neighbor. He modeled for us an unrelenting passion for souls, and an incredible work ethic in the ministry.  We learned a lot from him.  Sometimes we are still surprised to discover traits and priorities coming out in our philosophy of ministry, that we can point back to as a result of our time in AL.  Bro. Greg was taken from this life too soon, at such a young age! We honor his memory and the place he will forever hold in our hearts.

When we moved to Kentucky, in the short time prior to accepting a new ministry call, we attended church with my parents. There we were privileged to sit under the beautiful teaching of Pastor Bill Konstantopoulos.  Bro. Bill is from Greece, and he preaches with a quiet confidence and authority.  His Greek accent only helps enhance the authenticity you feel as you listen to him make Scripture come alive.  His sermons are committed to memory, and we always marveled as he strolled the platform delivering 3 and 4 point outlines and subpoints with effortless precision, ticking them off on his fingers one by one!

God soon moved us into a new ministry role at Mt. Zion UMC, where we were privileged to serve for 6 years.  We have many precious memories of our time there and the friendships made.  During that time we worked with Pastor Bill Kidwell.  He was a spiritual father figure to us, a mentor, and friend.  Brought into our lives at just the right time to walk life’s journey with us.  We shared together, prayed together, cried together….what a blessing he was to us! Ironically, he left KY for AL! We still miss him and his wife Nancy!

In most recent years, Derek has been serving as Youth Pastor and Music Director for First Methodist here in town.  We have been challenged by the great preaching of Pastor James Williams, and now are getting to know our new Pastor, Jeff Carter.  We pray wisdom and blessing on him as he is beginning  his time of ministry among us!

On a more personal note, I want to acknowledge the beautiful Pastoral heart of my husband as he has so faithfully reached out to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the people of the churches where we have been, and truly to the surrounding community.  Derek’s love for God and people is a challenge to my own heart, and I feel blessed to witness up close how God uses the gifts He gave Derek to advance His Kingdom.  Additionally, I have marveled in these last months as my Dad has been valiantly fighting the fight against cancer, how his heart for the people he pastors has never missed a beat.  During even the worst weeks of physical weakness and weariness,  he has found new strength to make it to that pulpit on Sunday mornings, or to hospital bed-sides throughout the week.  God is giving him strength day by day, and how thrilled I was to hear of the honor his congregation showed him last Sunday!

 I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge as the friend, wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law of men in Ministry, that while these roles are truly places of reward and fulfillment, they can also be fraught with pain.  Pastoral families experience the highest joys and deepest hurts in ways people may never fully realize. 

So, were I lifting my ice cold Ale8 in a toast today (!), I would say “here’s to our Pastors and their families.  May the Lord richly bless you and keep you, and may you know His presence and guidance in every step along your journey.  You fill a place in life that is sacred, anointed by God Himself.  May He give you every grace to walk worthy of it. WE APPRECIATE YOU!!”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Ebenezer

Happy Thanksgiving!

This has always been far and away my most favorite "holiday" of them all.  I love everything there is about Thanksgiving Day...the food, the family, the fellowship, the focus, the traditions.  It's good to have a day to pause and reflect on the goodness and blessings of life, even though sometimes November rolls around and life isn't treating us particularly well.  There is always something for which to be thankful.

A few years ago, I sat down late one night during Thanksgiving week and blogged about my life's journey...the presence of God at every juncture and fork in the road.  It was good to stop and look back over my shoulder.  To see His gracious kindness to me all of my life.

I don't have much to add or to "improve" upon from that post that I shared from my heart before. It is still my testimony!  I have, however,  been in such a state of mourning these last weeks as I've been reflecting on the state of our nation. Grieving for the folly of our choices and for the trouble that is sure that follow those choices.  Praying also for the peace of Jerusalem.  These are uncertain times we live in.

During this Thanksgiving Week,  however,  I have been thinking over and over about a phrase from a hymn.  In the second verse of the hymn "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" written in 1758 by Robert Robinson, he begins with the words, here I raise my Ebenezer. Most hymnals will clue you in that Ebenezer means "stone of help".  But if you dig a little deeper, you will learn the story behind that symbolism. In I Samuel 7, we read that the Philistines have learned that all of Israel had gathered at a place called Mizpah, and have thus mobilized their army and are advancing to war against the people of  Israel.  The Bible tells us that the Israelites were badly frightened and they went before their prophet Samuel and begged him, "plead with our God to save us from the Philistines!" So Samuel did go before the Lord with a burnt offering and called on God to deliver Israel from this conflict.  Just as he was offering the sacrifice, the Philistines arrived for battle.  God spoke with such a mighty voice from Heaven that the Philistines became confused and unable to fight;  the Israelites rose up and defeated them and chased them from Mizpah.

To express their gratitude for the Lord's help and deliverance, verse 7:12-  "Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah.  He named it Ebenezer... "stone of help"...for he said "Up to this point the Lord has helped us.

What precious and powerful words!! Up to this point the Lord HAS helped us!! So, take heart my friends! As I have reflected on this, I have felt challenged to find an Ebenezer Stone for our family, and to consistently write on that stone throughout the year the things the Lord has brought us through.  I can hardly wait to get started.

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by Thy help I've come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the throne of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood. 

On this day that we give thanks, let us also raise up our Ebenezer yet again...let us remember that the Lord our God is one Lord.  He who watches over Israel (and us) doesn't slumber or sleep.  Even in these days that trouble our hearts, He is the Lord Almighty....our eternal Stone of Help.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Journey to Election Day, 2012

It’s been a long journey to tomorrow’s election.  For the candidates.  For the campaign workers.  Even for me. 

I was just a child when I first felt a spark of interest in political figures.  I remember sitting in our family room, scooted up as close as I could get to one of the giant speakers on our stereo system (amazing to remember the size of those things now that we have it all on little bitty ipods!),  and listening to President Ronald Reagan in his debate against Walter Mondale.  I loved the sound of his voice! To this day, a clip of Reagan speaking stirs a deep nostalgia within me.  I grew up in the era of Reagan and Bush 41; their 3 terms combined pretty much took up my childhood years.  Living in south Florida, near President Bush’s mother, it was not terribly uncommon for crowds of us to line the streets when the presidential motorcade drove by and we could wave to the Bush family as they came in town for a visit.  It was always exciting to catch a glimpse of him. 

By my junior high years, I was really into the election process and paid pretty close attention to it for my age.  I also began to take an interest in politics on a local level,  and the church and school that I attended did a great job of making information accessible about the various candidates.  I was in 7th grade when I wrote my first letter to the editor of the Stuart News and had it published.  (it was a dramatic, very juvenile letter on the horrors of drunk driving. ;)  But it was a start.  It was a passion for being involved and part of the discussion.) 

My senior year of high school, I submitted an essay to the VFW “Voices of Democracy” contest and won first place in our district and third in our state.  I was SO excited to be invited to a rally later that year. I was  asked to read my essay to the crowd that assembled there, and was able to meet our local and state representatives! It was truly an honor.  

What an exciting day it was when I first registered to vote!  I have lived in a few states at election time since I became eligible to vote.  But I have always endeavored to stay informed of the local issues on the ballots, and to be a knowledgeable voter. 

For the sake of brevity, I ‘m going to fast forward to the 2007-2008 election cycle.  Since that’s where tomorrow’s specific election began for me.  

We were coming to the end of a President’s two terms, so the field was wide open on both sides of the political spectrum. (In short, while I didn’t understand or agree with everything Pres. George W. Bush did, I held and still hold him in high regard as a leader and a man of conviction and strength.  I miss him.)
But that brings us to 2007.  Various people began to throw their hat in the ring on both sides.  I can’t remember the number exactly, but it was something like 18 people who started originally on the GOP side! WOW! Some of them I knew a good deal about, and others were only names to me.  As with this year,  I watched EVERY. SINGLE. DEBATE.  Both the Democrat and Republican debates.  I should take the time to research how many there were in that cycle as well as this one.  But, trust was a LOT.  There oughtta be some sort of prize for that, doncha think?!

But I I watched that stage LINED with candidates in 2007, I was wide-open.  I was looking and listening and saying “come on.  Show me what ya got.  Court me.”  I didn’t have any pre-conceived notions or favorites.  And I’m not much of a bandwagon girl, so the fact that the evangelical crowd started going ga-ga over Huckabee early on didn’t impress me much.  I found him very very likable, a guy I’d love to have over for a meal or something, but I didn’t really see him as a President. (sidenote: Derek and I did have the chance to meet him, shake his hand and have him sign our book about a year later.) As the field slowly began to narrow, Mitt Romney was drawing my attention more and more.  He had me at “hello” with his demeanor and speech.  I liked what he said and the way that he said it.  It was always a great mystery to me when he was denigrated or mocked for his vocabulary or alleged starchiness.  I never ever saw him that way.  I’ve delved into my psyche a little bit about this, and I think the simplest answer may well go back to my childhood and the male figures in my life:  truth is, if you look at my dad (if you know him) or the type of statesman gentleman leaders who were in authority over me most of my life, you will see a common “type”.  Well dressed.  Well spoken.  Dignified.  A striving for EXCELLENCE.  

That’s what I saw in Romney then .  I was sad that the GOP culture was so resistant to him.  I wasn’t thrilled when McCain became the nominee.  For a number of reasons, I thought we could do better.  But I was certain of one thing, beyond the shadow of any doubt:  John McCain LOVES his country and his bruised, battered and crippled body bears the scars of that love.  So while I may not have been a whole-hearted supporter of him, I found it easy to cast that ballot for him in ’08, if for no other reason than I was certain he would always do what he felt was best for the USA. 

As for Barack Obama, I remember my first introduction to him at the DNC of 2004.  What a fresh face, an energized spirit,  a hopeful tone he presented at that convention! I remember being impressed with what I saw, and filed his name away in my mind with the sense that he would be running for President someday. The day came much sooner than anyone could have reasonably predicted.... I remember when he announced his candidacy...I was on bedrest,  pregnant with my fourth child.  In the time that had elapsed between these two events, I had indeed learned more about Barack Obama, the junior Senator from Illinois.  I knew him to be voraciously pro-abortion, not merely pro-choice.  He had championed abortion extensively in his home state of IL.  I knew him to be very liberal in all aspects of political philosophy, and to be a “redistribution” advocate as well.  He proudly accepted his title when voted the most liberal member of government in DC.  That was quite a feat.  I watched him squash the longstanding Clinton machine with relative ease, also quite an accomplishment.  It had after all, been Hilary’s turn.

I wish I could have celebrated the wonderful milestone of having elected our first African-American President when Election Day 2008 was complete.  I felt all the historicity of it, just like anyone! It was a big deal...something I would have been thrilled to celebrate.  But the truth was, I knew we were in for a lot of change in America that wouldn’t reflect my values.  And indeed, President Obama has proven to be a much worse President,  just the job on its face, than I ever expected.  I knew there would be Obamacare and higher taxes, etc.  That was no surprise.  He promised those things while campaigning.  What I didn’t expect, was just the general sense that we were captain-less in a storm.  He devoted all his time and energy to Obamacare and meanwhile, our economy was just flailing! We have needed a leader at the helm, a  person in that Oval office doing the hard work!! But at the risk of sounding trite (and I hate that in political discussion), I confess that I have found it personally offensive the time he has spent on the golf course, and with celebrity fans of his, and on luxury vacations.  I fully understand that our president needs time off from time to IS the most important and stressful  job in the whole wide world....but I think Pres. Obama has overdone it big-time.  Big-time.  Somewhere I heard the term Celebrity-In-Chief, and that pretty well sums up my feelings.  

For our family personally, the economic conditions of these last four years have wreaked havoc on our finances.  When you are living a paycheck to paycheck existence and the cost of basic living just keeps going up and up and feel that! And we have felt it!!

Enter 2011, and Mitt Romney announces he will run again.  Again, I listened to the voices of all those on the stage vying for the nomination.  Again, my gut goes back to Mitt time and again.  I will refrain from re-hashing the 2011-2012 Primary season.  It was brutal.  But now that we are one day to Election Day, I am more confident than ever before that Romney was the right choice all along.  And who knows, it may have been the way things were meant to be.  For I am also certain that Mitt Romney is a better candidate and better man all around for the process of these last four years.  There is a surety, a conviction, and confidence that emanates from him.   This is the time when the man meets the hour.  The challenges we face as a result of the Obama years are a tailor-made situation for a man like Mitt Romney to get his hands on.  His whole life experience has prepared him for this time.  I firmly believe that he will turn this thing around from the fiscal cliff we’re headed toward.   Unlike Obama, I think his work ethic is such that wild horses couldn’t keep him from rolling his Costco sleeves up and getting to WORK on our problems! I think he will relish it. 

So, my little trip down memory lane turned out not to be so “little”.  And to think, I left out huge chunks of the journey!!

Yes, it’s true that no matter what happens tomorrow God still reigns, and He is still in control and Jesus is still King.  I’ve seen those little memes floating around in cyberspace.  All those things are true.  It is also true, however, that we reap the consequences of our choices.  We are being given an opportunity to put a halt to the uber-liberal agenda of our current president.  We are being offered the chance to change course in a dramatic way.   This does not mean that Mitt Romney is a great savior, or that he is the “anointed one” like Obama was called in ’08.  My support of his candidacy and my hope in the success of his presidency is not a blind rock-star faith, like he will save the world.  I just think he’ll do the job.  I think he’ll do the job well.  I think he will renew our bond with Israel, which is kinda sort-of a big deal.  I think he’ll make us proud.  Not a “we worship him “ proud.  Just a “what a great President” proud.  There is a difference and I take offense at the assertion out there that Romney supporters are groupies.  

I came to my support of Mitt Romney by way of a long and winding road that leads to the voting booth tomorrow.  I have prepared myself for the responsibility associated with that vote, I have disciplined myself to be informed, and I will cast my vote proudly knowing that I am worthy of the honor.  Of all the votes I’ve cast in my life, this one means more to me than all of them.

Friday, August 3, 2012

We Are Making This Too Hard...

I've decided to write some thoughts and share them regarding the recent and ongoing "scandal" involving Chick-Fil-A, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and what I consider to be a gross over-exaggeration of a simple situation.

First, I would like to qualify all my remarks by saying that this post isn't likely to be cleverly written or particularly witty.  I've read a bunch of cool stuff (from both sides of the argument) floating around Facebook and blog-world.  Most of it is really witty and clever with lots of punch lines and hooks.  Some of it has bounced from one extreme to the other and lacked balance in my view.  SO....this post is not about that.  I'm not going to expend that much effort to make you go "wow", and I certainly don't expect this to go viral. :)  I really just want to remind anyone who cares to read/listen about some basic, simple truths that seem to be lost in this fabricated debate. 

I'd like to begin with the reminder that this whole issue doesn't even have to be "fought" on religious grounds.  Of course Christian people are going to feel the pull to support Christian philosophy.  Something would be wrong with us if we didn't!!  However, in this situation, folks who aren't particularly religious or concerned with biblical worldviews were also inclined to agree that something was amiss here.  Namely:  TRADITIONAL American values.  When we break it down, we have a business owner in the USA asked a question about his views on marriage, to the which he strongly articulated his Christian (and concurrently traditional) view on the matter.  Nothing wrong with that.  People who disagreed with the statement said "phooey on you", and "what a terrible view." Nothing wrong with that either, being this whole thing is taking place in America.  Then, Christian folks started saying "hey, we support Mr. Cathy's statements and we appreciate his stance.  And anywho we love Chick-Fil-A!"  Still....nothing wrong.  It's the First Amendment playing out the way it should and does.  THEN...drumroll.  Enter at least 2 U.S. city mayors who make public statements about banning the company from their cities, and "because you don't share the values of our city (HUH?????) then you are unwelcome to do commerce here."  Ding ding ding!!!! We have a winner:  THIS IS WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG.Notice it was the entrance of government in the discussion.  They always muck it up.  All Americans who value our system and our freedoms should rightly have been very concerned about that.  We should never sit idly by and be unconcerned during such an assault on American freedom.  (religious or otherwise).

I found all of the preceding chain of events to be pretty clear and easy to understand.  It was the stuff that started to come out afterwards....mostly Christian people who shouldn't have been on opposite "sides" at all....that started concerning me.  I got that really uncomfortable and uneasy feeling that this situation was being used to fight other fights instead of the one we were actually facing.  The more I saw it happening, the more sad I became and so for the most part, I stayed out of much of it.  (a few comments here and there; hey! I'm human and I'm ME! :))

Mostly, what I saw and read was this idea that to agree with Chic Fil A, and to go buy a sandwich there on Wednesday, meant that you were ignoring the plight of the world, and that you were jumping on a bandwagon in ignorance, you were unenlightened, maybe even a person of hate and bigotry.  That you were being unChristlike because Jesus didn't defend himself, so why should we defend ourselves or others in His name.  And on.  And on. And on it went.  My head was spinning.

In "arguments" like these there are always some threads of truth.  And a person who isn't defensive and somehow clinging  to their rights, may actually stop and say "you know, I'm gonna go have my Chicken Sandwich and waffle fries, but I'm also gonna do some soul-searching and see if I need to step up my efforts to support biblical and/or traditional values in other ways."  Because let's face it, what happened on Wednesday was was something fun to be a part of.  But if we're honest, we HAVE to admit that it required no sacrifice, and didn't do anything to further the Kingdom of God.  Most people I know made a great day of it.  Went with friends, hung out, took pics, had a great time, spent a little money, and in the end they got yummy food, and the chance to say I Stood for something!!! And PLEASE don't misunderstand me:  there is NOTHING wrong with that!! It's just another reminder of how incredibly blessed we are to live in this land where we are free to do that, with no fear of physical harm or imprisonment.  We are a blessed people!

Now the pessimistic news:  I know it's not always going to be that way.  The day is really is....when Christian values and traditional values are going to be the minority.  When there will be no ground-swell of support for them.  Gay marriage will become the norm.  All manner of immorality will be even more before the eyes of our children than it already is.  The closer we get to the return of Jesus, whenever that is, things are going to get progressively worse.  Yes, even in this beautiful land with so much promise.  What I'd like to point out, and seem to be struggling to do, is that just because we know it's coming, doesn't mean we shouldn't do everything within our power to stem the tide!!  Doesn't mean we should just roll over and let it happen before its time.  We have a God-given responsibility to be salt and light, and we have a citizen-duty to stand for what's best for our country.  And we need to do that.  If we hold it off 5 yrs., 10 yrs., or 6 months, doesn't matter.  It's that much longer to know that we gave our kids a chance at life with traditional moral values as the seed of our culture.

Another thread of truth running through the criticisms of Wednesdays efforts were the concerns about the other horrible things happening in the world, going unnoticed by the Christian community.  The first and most important thing I can say about this criticism is that it does NOT have to be an either/or situation.  No reason at all why we can't band together in a grand way to make a statement of support not only for biblical marriage, but also for free commerce and limited government.  Like we did on Wednesday.  No reason at all why we can't do that AND practice "true religion, undefiled: caring for orphans and widows", etc. like Scripture teaches us.  I urge my brothers and sisters in the Lord to not draw these lines in the sand and begin fighting one another over things that are so easy for us all to agree on!! All of God's children should want to obey the WHOLE of Scripture, and be His hands and feet.

I can't overstate how strongly I believe that when we pull our heads out of the sand, and when we venture out of our comfortable little bubbles, we will be stricken with the truth of the lostness and broken-ness, and poverty, and despair, and hunger, and homelessness, and just the daily struggle to survive that lies just outside that bubble. I mean it...not far from YOUR front door.  Just down the block or under the bridge.  At the community park.  Where you live.  In your town.  In my town.  People are hurting and hopeless.  Sex trafficking is a real threat all over this country.  Children go to bed with their tummies growling.  In your town.  In my town. 

In light of that knowledge, one can't HELP but wonder!! What if we harnessed that amazing energy and enthusiasm, that gutteral urge for justice....and what if we took ONE DAY to determine to make a difference in these areas??  Chill bumps break out all over my arms as I type this, because I can taste it.  I know what it would mean.  If Chick Fil A set a world record in one day because of the sheer force of the people's desire to see right prevail...then it only stands to reason that that same force could accomplish powerful results in our communities.  I made a (almost) tongue in cheek comment to a fb friend about  what would happen if everyone in this country who has knowledge about child abuse (think the Sandusky disgrace) would decide to stop protecting and covering, to emerge from their cowardice and do the right thing.  What if on one day all those people grew a spine and reported what they know?  How many children would be spared the horror, the soul-killing trauma of sexual abuse.  I know that sounds like dramatic hyperbole, but wow.  I can't help it.  This is just one example of what harnessing the desire for justice and putting it to good use can do.  Why stop with National Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day?  Seriously?  Why stop there?  We have an army already in place....why not let the Word of God be our Commanding Officer and take our next marching orders from Him.

We could do it if we wanted to.  We could do it Jesus' name.  And you know what?  I'm pretty sure that  a Jesus-honoring company like Chick-Fil-A would be one of the first to ask, "what can we do to help?"

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On Chronos, Schole, and Kairos

I have looked and looked at the title I assigned this post.  Really hoping that when you readers see it, it doesn't sound like "On Dasher, On Dancer On Prancer..." in your minds. :)  Now on to the purpose of this blog.  I'm so weird, I know....

 I happened to catch a little blip from one of those 5-minute Christian radio commentaries as I was driving this morning.  Set my mind to thinkin'.  I like it when that happens.  I like to think on good things. In this commentary, the speaker turned our attention toward Ephesians 5:16, where we are instructed to "Redeem the time, because the days are evil." 

After doing a little digging, I learned that there are three different words for "time" in the Greek language:  Chronos, which refers to the natural passage of time.  (where we get our word chronological); and there is Schole, which means leisure time, spare time, time of ease (someone please fill me in on what this is?? can I get a witness?). In this particular Scripture, the Greek word used for time was Kairos, which refers to an opportune time, a specific favorable time, the "right time", or a crises moment.

So if we are to redeem the moments of opportunity, the moments of crisis decisions, then we need to be learning to pay attention to those moments.  We need to be living in the Spirit so that we can sense when He is prompting us to tune in a little closer and make the most of what is right before us.  This kinda rang a bell for me, because as I have continued to think on this through the morning, I recognize that when I am closer to the Lord and His Word, I am more likely to be led into moments of redemption.  I have seen this play out in both significant and "insignificant" ways. 

As a parent, the more I am watching for Kairos, the more likely I am to have meaningful teachable moments with my children, that would surely have been missed in the everyday Chronos otherwise!! Without question, the times of greatest joy and peace in my parenting journey have occurred when I have allowed God to help me pause and use what is right in front of me to convey His truth to my kids.  I have blogged about this in the past.  I never equate those times with creativity or any great skill on my part.  I truly view it in light of this Scripture, that God is helping me seize that exact moment and redeem it.

 As a daughter of God, the more I am walking in His Spirit, the more likely I am to break from the typical daily pattern, and notice another human being struggling on their journey.  These are the moments when I see a complete stranger in the Walmart parking lot, and am overwhelmed with the urge to pray for that soul, though I've never seen them before and will likely never see them again. Or to walk over to a sobbing young person on a bench and simply say "I'm sorry you're hurting.  I care.  Jesus cares."  I have had moments like that recently, that cannot be explained by any rationale other than the presence of the Holy Spirit prompting me to Redeem the Kairos.

It makes me sad to think of all the moments I have let slip by unredeemed because of my own selfishness, or frankly just my own pain that makes it hard push past to doing the right thing, and look beyond my limited sphere.

Let this be an encouragement to us all.  Begin looking for those nuggets of time, those moments of crisis opportunity and see what beauty God can bring from them.  He is, after all, the Great Redeemer!