A Blue Rosary

I have a beautiful blue glass rosary hanging from my bed. If you know me, you might find this odd, since my Catholic background consists of some dearly loved relatives, several years of Christmas mass, and numerous viewings of Sister Act (1 and 2). I’ve never actually prayed the rosary, although for someone with a chronically scattered mind, the idea of something to give structure and direction to my prayer time is very appealing. The rosary is there not for my daily prayers, but as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. When I see it, it reminds me that every unexpected twist in my life is part of His plan and is leading me closer to Him.

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You see, this particular rosary belonged to my grandma. It was a gift I found for her on a visit to the Vatican while backpacking through Europe after college. At the time, it symbolized everything that was beautiful about our relationship. It was a reminder of travel, a love of which she had encouraged in me all my life. It was a symbol of the faith that is universal in all those who love and seek the Lord, that her protestant granddaughter would give her something so meaningful to her own way of worship. It represented the endless discussions we’d had over the years about who God is and how we relate to Him. We didn’t always agree, but we always spoke with love and respect. Now it means even more to me.

This week marks the second anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. A grandmother who taught me so much: how to knit and quilt, how to play cards, how to shop like a pro, how to love unconditionally, how to find humor and joy in everything, and how to be strong when life is crushing you. One of the last things she said to me when I visited her in the final weeks of her life was, “Don’t forget me.” How could I? Not a week goes by that I don’t miss her, that I don’t wish I could call and tell her some exciting news or ask her advice about something. I wish I could hear her tell me her stories again. I think she would be proud of me, raising my sons to love God, people, and learning; working to improve health and community care, especially for moms and children; and keeping up with my writing. There are 1,001 things that make me think of her nearly every day. The Murano glass rosary by my bed is just one of them. She is far from forgotten.

One of the things I remember best about my grandma is her love of storytelling. She loved a good story, whether it was a book, a movie, or her own history. I was privileged to hear her relate the joys and struggles of her life many times, so richly that at times I felt like I had  been with her in New York City in the 1950’s as she completed nurses’ training, or smelling spring tulips in Holland on her trip of a lifetime to Europe. As I look back on her story, I see the theme of God’s faithfulness. I see the countless ways He provided for her, prepared her for the storms, and showered her with blessings.

My grandmother was certainly not perfect, but she was blessed with a number of excellent character traits. Among them were courage, compassion, and common sense, all of which served her well in her life: in a career of over 30 years as an ER nurse, as she faced the loss of her beloved husband after just a few years of marriage, in her walk for several years as a single mother to three small children, and in her final battle with cancer. She loved fiercely, and she fought tirelessly for those she loved.

God also blessed her with an outstanding network of friends and family that surrounded and supported her throughout her life. She had parents that encouraged and inspired her, and helped her get back on her feet after becoming a young widow. Her eight younger siblings loved and respected her all her days. She remained close friends with several women who had gone to nursing school with her to the very end of her life. She found love and partnership again with the man I always loved as my grandfather. Her children and grandchildren loved and admired her. Many others were there at key points in her life to care for her, encourage her, and walk with her. At her memorial service, everyone who was able brought or sent in the Christmas stockings she had knitted for generations of family and friends. They were hung on the wall, and stretched the full length of the ballroom. It was a visual testimony to how many lives she touched and was touched by.

Not only was my grandmother blessed with a strong character and support network, she was blessed with many moments of God’s goodness and joy. She experienced success in her own career as an RN, and saw all of her children graduate from college and become successful in their own fields. She saw plays and musicals on Broadway. Her travels took her across the country and across the world. She glowed at the wedding of her eldest grandchild, and several years later she bounced her first great-grandchild on her knee and sang the same songs and rhymes to him that she had sung to his mother 30 years before. For a woman who valued family above all, it was a sweet gift. In the final month of her life, she was able to visit the ocean one last time with many of her siblings, where she laid in the sunshine, reading a book and listening to the waves. It was a little preview of heaven for her. Even in her last conscious day, she was blessed with the knowledge that when her life on earth ceased, her eternal life with her Heavenly Father would begin, and she would be reunited with loved ones who had made the journey before her.

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Grandma and me on my wedding day

Grandma didn’t have financial wealth to pass down to her children and grandchildren, but we each inherited great treasure from her legacy. And me, I was given back the rosary that had come from Italy 10 years before and been beside her bed ever since. Now it is beside my bed to remind me not only of the exceptional woman who had loved me all my life, but also of the God who had loved her all her life. No matter where her journey took her, no matter how close or distant she felt to the Lord, He was there. I take great comfort in knowing that I have the same God shepherding me as I encounter the trials of my own life.

Whose legacy inspires you? 

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Thank Heaven for Little Boys

If you asked me to tell you the first word I would use to describe today, it would be “miserable”. I’m dealing with the almost unbearable discomfort of the last days of pregnancy, I’ve got a cold or allergies or something (like I could breathe before that anyway!), my sleep was fitful, short and interrupted last night, and my toddler was crying about everything this morning. Everything seemed wrong. Going to the Walmart 5 minutes down the road seemed like an epic journey that I might not survive. ( I did, by the way. And only forgot one thing on my list.)

And yet, if I think about it for a minute, today has been an amazingly blessed day. Blessed for so many reasons, but mostly because of that same dramatic, crying toddler from breakfast. The boy who sang our favorite lullaby, “Edelweiss,” to me while snuggling on my shoulder because he saw me crying from the pain I was in. The boy who helped load and unload the grocery cart, even though he can barely reach, because he wanted to help his mama. The boy who joyfully snuggled up with me to listen to my birth relaxation cd’s (I may ask him to be my coach at the hospital). The boy who spent an hour gleefully watching the men at the “‘struction site” pouring concrete for a garage (extra thankfulness for a gracious family friend who invites said construction-crazed toddler to “help” at the worksite).

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This boy is in paradise. A very dirty paradise. 

My sweet son’s compassion for his family and his untempered joy at things that would seem so small to us truly blesses me daily. I love how he tells me every day about how we are going to go to Heaven and see God and do so many fun things (He strongly believes that a significant part of Heaven has to do with candy. Toddler theology). Yes, he still asks “why?” 8,436 times a day. Yes, he still cries about not being able to wash all the dirt off his toy trucks. And yes, I’m still a little nervous about how I’m going to handle two (two, two!) little boys starting soon. But this I know: God has put these boys in my life for a much bigger purpose than I can begin to understand. I mother them, nurture and teach them; but they recreate me in the image of the Father by the way they love and stretch and challenge and teach me.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant with each of them, until death do us (temporarily) part, I will be thankful. Thankful for the hugs and kisses and made-up songs. Thankful for the sleepless nights that remind me to pray. Thankful for the constant reminders that I cannot rely on myself. Thankful for being entrusted with a responsibility that I know I don’t deserve.

Thank Heaven for Little Boys…

A Prayer for Contentment

Discontent is a universal human affliction. And it is particularly epidemic in our affluent and Western culture. I know that I have more than most people, and far more than I deserve, and yet I can always find something that isn’t good enough about my life and circumstances. Our natural drive to be better and have more can serve us well if channeled through the lense of God’s will and His perspective for His glory, but when our focus turns to making more of ourselves, and for ourselves, we lose sight of the greatness of His blessings that have already been poured out on us. If you find yourself, like me, often tempted to be discontented with your life, join me in a prayer for contentment:

Lord,

When I am tempted by discontent, remind me that I already have more than I need or merit.

When I am tempted to envy another’s reward or recognition, remind me that my reward comes from You and not from men.

When I am tempted to compare my ministry with someone else’s, remind me that You have called me and prepared me for the ministry You have given me.   

When I am tempted to compare my children to others, remind me that you have specifically chosen each of them for my family.

When I am tempted to compare my parenting with another’s, remind me that you chose me for the calling of raising the children you placed in my family.

When I am tempted to compare my family’s income with another’s, remind me that money can’t buy peace, harmony, or time together.

When I am tempted to fear change, remind me that You make things new and beautiful in Your time.

When I am tempted to boredom, remind me that You have created innumerable wonders here on Earth, and have many more awaiting me in Heaven.

When I am tempted to envy someone’s bigger, newer, better home, remind me that my true home is with you, and that the shelter you have provided for me is more than enough.

When I am tempted to see my clothes as dated and out of fashion, remind me that You clothe me in garments of righteousness.

When I am tempted to compare my physical strength and beauty with others, remind me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in Your image.

When I am tempted to envy someone’s latest vacation, remind me that in You I have perfect rest no matter where I am.

When I am tempted to begrudge another their good fortune, remind me that You have already blessed me far beyond what I deserve.

Amen.

May your focus be on God and His goodness this week, and may you see His blessings everywhere.

Woven with Thanks

Last night, somewhere between midnight and 4am, I spent a good portion of an hour lying awake for no good reason. This is par for my course as a pregnant mom of a toddler (who still wakes up at least once a night because he needs a graham cracker/there’s a moose in his room/he got lonely). I don’t think I’ve actually slept a whole night through since sometime in 2012. But that’s not the point.

During these midnight musings, I have learned that our parents lied to us as children. If you just close your eyes and lie there quietly, well, it will be quiet and dark. It will not help you fall asleep, and you mind will not suddenly think to itself, Oh, she’s trying to sleep; I’ll quit bothering her with the task list for next week and the panic about whether potty training is damaging her child’s psyche. Since I’m too lazy to be one of those people who say, “Well, I guess I’m not sleeping, I should probably clean out the garage,” and I’m too pregnant to take large doses of sleeping pills, I knew there had to be another way to quiet my mind. So I turned to prayer.

Not prayer that I would fall asleep quickly. I’ve tried that once or twice in the past, and I’ve come to the conclusion that God’s not really in the Ambien business. No, I start praying through the needs of my friends and loved ones. (That’s where Facebook really comes in handy. You know exactly what kind of prayer your friends need, even when they haven’t asked for it, if you know what I mean.) I usually get through several before I start to drift off.  

I haven’t found anything that calms my spirit in the middle of the night like bringing the people I love before God. Not only does it bring peace, but in my intercessions for others, I find God speaking to me. Take last night, for example.

I was starting to run through my list of people and their needs, when that nagging voice of some Sunday school teacher from childhood piped up, “Always begin your prayers with thanksgiving,” (presumably so God doesn’t think you’re taking Him for granted and ignore you). For a moment, I thought, Well how am I supposed to thank Him for divorce or mental illness, Mrs. Holypants? Hmm? But then He showed me a picture of how we can thank Him in even the most joyless situations.

I suddenly imagined our prayers as a basket or cloth being woven. We go in and out, up and down as our lives and circumstances change. We weave the threads of supplication and intercession all through a framework of joy and thanksgiving. Lord, give strength and wisdom to my single-mom friend. Thank you for the ways you have provided for her and the people you have surrounded her with to support her. The struggles I am praying for on her behalf lead me to recall how faithfully God has upheld her even in the midst of a life-storm. Father, bring peace and healing to the one struggling with depression. Thank you that she is bringing awareness to her condition and that she is encouraging others. I want to see her mind and spirit healed, but in the meantime I rejoice in the courage and boldness she has found and in knowing that her transparency is going to bless others.

Thanksgiving is an absolutely integral part of our prayer life. It’s not a magic password to the throne (Thank you, God, that all of the past seasons of NCIS are on Netflix. Ok, I’m listening. Did you see Season 10, Epsiode 5? I mean, yes, go ahead with your request. Um, yeah, could you heal my friend’s sister’s cousin’s dog? I think he’s got mange or something yucky.) Prayer is about change. The more I pray, and the more I find ways to thank Him, the more I am changed, which I believe is the true purpose of prayer.

Prayer, in my personal opinion, is not meant by God as a means for us to manipulate the divine providence and sovereignty. If it were, no one would die from cancer, parents wouldn’t bury their children, and the innocent wouldn’t suffer. So Mrs. Holypants from 4th grade is right, we do need thanksgiving if we are going to have a meaningful prayer life.

Not because it gives us points towards answered prayers, but because as we thank God, we see where He has already answered our prayers and provided for us in ways we never thought to ask. In light of His faithfulness revealed by our thankfulness, we see how pain and tragedy really are part of God’s merciful plan to draw us into a deeper knowledge of Him. Our sufferings become less about how we feel or how we are affected in the immediate, and more about how God’s grace is weaving through a story that began long before us and will continue long after us.

Thanksgiving fills us with hope. It reframes our perspective. It reminds us of God’s promises and His faithfulness that never fails. It reassures us that His mercies are new each day, just as we need them.

 

How are you thankful?

Anticipation

You probably all recognize these lyrics from the Carly Simon song, “Anticipation”:

Anticipation, anticipation
Is makin’ me late
Is keepin’ me waitin’

That has been my mental theme song for the last few days as I count down to the uncertain birth-day. I’ve been physically and mentally ready for about 3 weeks now. In fact, today could be the day. I’m definitely feeling different things, new things, much less comfortable things, and it is his due date. But then again, he could be tenacious (or lazy) and hang out on the inside for another week or two. I can’t really be sure.

 

And that’s driving me crazy. I don’t like that I can’t really make any specific plans, because I never know when I’ll end up in the hospital. I don’t want to start any big projects, because they may get interrupted indefinitely. And my energy seems to decrease a little every day. (If he does stay in another week or two, they may accidentally admit me to the hospital for experimental zombie-reversal treatments instead of labor and delivery.) To add to the crazy, my hormones (oh, wondrous things, those) have decided to rebalance again, and so I find myself on the verge of a mental breakdown at least once a day. Yesterday I broke down in tears over a cell phone.

 

Yes, I admit it. I ordered a new, shiny, hopefully-not-demon-possessed cell phone, and was so excited about getting free overnight shipping. Then I woke up and realized that my beautiful new technological umbilical cord was being overnighted to my mom’s house, not mine. I would have to wait a whole day longer to get my phone. Cue the irrational, inconsolable pregnant lady waterworks. I was kind of embarrassed to be with myself, it was that silly.

 

I quickly realized that I wasn’t really crying about the phone though. I mean yes, there was the chance that my old one would go up in a puff of smoke before I got the new one, leaving me virtually cut off from the whole world (!), but it wasn’t really a big deal. No, what I was crying about was having to wait. The stress of waiting for my little guy to come had found a way through my usually calm outer shell, and I had to admit that I didn’t think I could do it anymore. I was just so tired of waiting.

 

I bet you’ve been there too. We all have to accept waiting as a part of life. God often asks us to wait for things. Sometimes it’s to build our patience and perseverance. Sometimes it’s because His perfect timing says, “Not yet.” The longer we live, the more we wait. And yet, it doesn’t necessarily get easier, does it? All we can do is what I did yesterday – cry out to God and ask for His grace, His strength in the waiting. It’s okay to tell Him that you don’t feel like you can do it much longer. It’s okay to tell Him that your patience feels like it’s about to run out. He already knows, and He very much cares. If He’s asking you to wait for something, He is also offering to sustain you in your waiting.

 

I don’t know if my little guy is going to come tomorrow, or if he’s going to wait until next week. But I do know that I can make it, however long the wait is, because I’m not relying on my own strength to get through. You’re waiting on something right now, I just don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s for that soulmate you so long for, or maybe for your own child, whether just a hope, or a wiggling, kicking reality. You might be waiting anxiously for the results of your lab exam, or your final exam. You might be waiting for a cure. You might be waiting for that job to call back, or just for something to change.

 

I know it’s hard. My waiting has a time limit, a known, happy outcome, and it’s still hard to wait, so I know that it is even harder for those of you whose times and outcomes are more uncertain. Please know that for the Father, the outcome is not uncertain, and the time is in His hands. He loves you and cares for you, and He will not make you wait forever, nor wait without a purpose. Trust Him, take heart, and look forward. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” Have faith, my friends, have faith.

Can We? Part 3

Welcome back, friends. I’ve been out of commission for a few weeks with a minor surgery and then a stomach bug, and I’m very glad to be back on track. As we are in the last week before the election, I have just a few more thoughts I want to share with you. Today I’m going to ask my final questions about things we need to stop doing. Next time, I’m going to ask some positive questions about what we can do to make our country better, no matter what side of the political fence we stand on. As always, I realize that I run the risk of offending just about everyone with my questions, but I feel that if we hope to improve the condition of America in any way, we must ask ourselves these questions.

Can We Stop Legislating Morality?

Just so you know where I’m coming from, I’ll be upfront and say that I adhere to a pretty conservative Judeo-Christian moral code. I have strong beliefs about right and wrong, good and evil. It disappoints me when others don’t live by the same set of morals, because I feel that they are God’s laws, not just man-made rules. However, no matter how much I want people to obey those laws, I recognize, and I am convinced that God also recognizes, the right of man to choose not to follow a moral code.

Now, when it comes to society and government, it is necessary that there be laws which all members of society must obey. It’s the only way to protect the individual members and to ensure the functioning of the society as a whole. These laws generally encompass those things that directly harm others, such as murder, assault, theft, or fraud. The problem we run into is that whenever deeply religious people, be they Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, or anything else, become part of the government, they bring with them a desire to have everyone follow their moral code. Because they are in a position to affect legislation, they feel that it is their responsibility to make laws that will ensure people follow their code or face the consequences. That’s the downside to living in a country with many accepted religions.

The real problem with trying to legislate morality is that we have a non-religious government. While our founding fathers certainly acknowledged the importance of God in the formation and maintenance of our nation, they were careful to never specify a religion or denomination to guide us. And really, this makes sense. I, as a Christian, should not be required to follow laws that are unique to Islam or Hinduism. And a Buddhist should not be forced to follow rules that are unique to my religion. The things that are commonly held among all, those make sensible laws. The unique and peculiar regulations, though, should be reserved for each religious person to follow individually.

Sadly, I find that it seems to be predominantly Christian politicians and voters that want everyone to play by their rules. We want to regulate people’s sex lives, how they entertain themselves, and what substances they use. We feel like it is our responsibility to keep people from sinning. In fact, we feel that we can obtain God’s blessing on America (or turn away His wrath) by making laws against the things we think displease him. But history does not prove that to be true. Think of prohibition. Many well-meaning Christians sought prohibition, because drunkness and the things it led to were against God’s laws. And yet, when alcohol became an illegal substance, drinking actually increased. Years ago in America, adultery was against the law. And yes thousands, if not millions, of men and women continued to be unfaithful to their spouses. Laws don’t make people good, they only provide for punishment.

Think about this though, if you really want to change America: what would happen if instead of trying to legislate morality, we tried to change people’s beliefs and values through kindness, compassion, and generosity? If we believe that adultery and pornography are sinful and against God’s laws, why don’t we put more effort into building strong young men and healthy marriages rather than fighting against sex in the media?  If we believe that abortion is wrong, why don’t we devote more of our time, money and energy to caring for at-risk mothers rather than lobbying old white men to make new laws? If we believe that polluting the environment is wrong, why don’t we put more money and power behind research, processing, and education that will provide cleaner energy, better recycling and healthier people?

We put so much effort, money, and passion into changing laws, but we don’t put nearly as much into changing hearts and minds. Yet that is where America will truly be changed – in the heart of each individual citizen, not in the halls of Congress or the chambers of the Supreme Court. Granted, we could make a case for outlawing any of the things I used as examples. They all have the potential to cause great harm to individuals and to society. Don’t think that I am advocating lawlessness or anarchy. But we, especially those of us who call ourselves Christians (or profess any other deeply-held faith) ought to be more concerned with the influence we have over the hearts and lives of individuals than with the influence we may have in places of political power. We need good laws, but we need good people even more.


Can We Stop Seeing Immigrants as the Enemy?

Immigration – it’s the first step of the so-called American Dream. You can’t build a better life in America until you are actually there. It’s why the Statue of Liberty is known around the world as a beacon of hope. The culture we consider “American” today is a product of the mixing of immigrants from around the globe (and if we’re being very technical here, even Native Americans were once immigrants, so there would be no America without immigration). Without immigrants from England and France, we would not have become a nation. Without immigrants from Africa (both slave and free), Italy, Ireland, Poland, China, and Japan, our nation would not have grown. Without immigrants from Mexico, South America, India, Thailand, Morocco, and Vietnam, we would not have the richness of diversity which we enjoy today. Our food, art, and language would be homogeneous and boring. I can’t imagine an America without ethnic diversity.

Perhaps that is because I grew up in what is generally regarded as the most ethnically diverse county in America. I was surrounded by people from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Korea, China, India, Iran, Bangladesh, Uganda, Ethiopia, Peru, Chile, Bolivia and beyond. My life was enriched by this diversity. I learned more about history from talking firsthand with those who had escaped the Communist regimes of Southeast Asia than I ever did from a textbook. I learned to respect people regardless of their current circumstances as I interacted with those who had been doctors, teachers, and scientists in their home countries but now worked in shops or did landscaping and housekeeping because the privilege of living in America was worth the sacrifice of their careers and respect. I learned to look out at the world and not in on myself, to accept the differences in people, and to not judge someone by their accent, fashion choices, or cultural quirks.

But I see an undercurrent in America, reaching back to our very beginnings and stretching through to the present, an idea that there is an “Us” and a “Them”, and that the “Them” is the enemy of everything we stand for. They don’t speak our language. They don’t go to our churches. They don’t follow our traditions. They won’t put money in the bank. They just want free healthcare and education. They are taking our jobs. They’re a drain on our resources. They are threatening our way of life. Throughout America’s history, there has always been a “Them”. The Irish and the Jews in the eastern states, the Chinese and Japanese in the west. The African immigrants, former slaves and their descendants in the south. Today it seems to mostly be immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries. There is always someone we don’t want in our neighborhoods, someone we don’t quite trust. It is almost as if we require a common cultural enemy in order for our identity to remain valid.

Now before I get all kinds of comments saying, “It’s not that I don’t like people from other countries, it’s just an economic thing,” I’d like to make two statements. One, for many of you, it is that you don’t like people from other countries. Or more specifically, they make you uncomfortable. Maybe you don’t think they’re bad people, but you would prefer if they stayed home. And yet, when you take a vacation to a foreign country, you think everyone should cater to you by speaking English and having  a McDonalds on the corner. Check your logical integrity, please. Two, I understand that there are significant economic ramifications for unlimited immigration. My point here has nothing to do with official immigration policy, but rather the attitude of the average American citizen towards the average immigrant (legal or illegal). Just as your ancestors and mine came to America seeking a better future and life for themselves and their families, the vast majority of those who are coming into our country today are simply looking for a better a chance. They’re not here to take over our culture or to leech off the government. They have made great sacrifices to be here, and they want the opportunity to be productive, contributing members of society.

Maybe this is a hot-button issue for me because I have so enjoyed ethnic diversity, and because I have traveled to so many different countries and experienced their cultures. In Mexico particularly, I have held babies who are destined to grow up in a shack made of cast off trash without water or electricity, I have given food and clothing to children who spend their days collecting anything of value from the city dumps, and I have sat and talked with the mothers who just hope that their children – by some miracle – won’t have to work as migrant harvesters the way they do. In none of these people did I see a sense of greed or the desire to take advantage of the “wealthy Americans”. Rather, I saw people with a tightly woven community, transcendent joy, and strong values. In my own opinion, we could do with a lot more of that here in the U.S.

Throughout the Bible, God commands His people to show kindness and generosity towards the foreigners in their midst. He never told them to worry about the economic implications of immigration. If Jesus spent so much time teaching about loving one another and caring for “the least of these”, shouldn’t we, if we claim to follow his teachings, show that love, compassion and care for all of our neighbors, regardless of their culture, language, or immigration status?

Can We Stop Putting Ourselves First?

Oh boy, this is the hardest one, and encompasses everything else. I am as guilty as anyone else of this. Much of our political culture in America is built on the concept of inalienable rights. Who doesn’t love having rights? The right to say whatever we want, worship whatever or whomever we want, arm ourselves however we want, work wherever we want, drive whatever we want, live wherever we want, marry whomever we want, have as many children as we want, etc. The problem is that we have become intoxicated by our rights. What started out as the simple rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have been so carefully specified that we are at the point where rights have begun conflicting with one another and we have begun to think that our personal rights supersede the responsibilities we have towards others.

Take these for examples. Our right to the fruits of our labor means we fight against taxes that pay for government programs we feel are either unnecessary or poorly run, but many (certainly not all, thank goodness!) that rail against high taxes and public welfare programs also have poor records when it comes to charitable giving to organizations that would presumably replace those welfare programs. The right to free speech is inviolable until someone says something that we find offensive. Then they should be off the air, hit with a fine, and their books banned. We don’t want gun control (“We’re not violent, really!”) but then we plaster our bumpers with stickers like these lovelies:

“Keep honking, I’m reloading”, “Pro Life, Pro God, Pro Gun” (as if the three are connected somehow), “Gun Control Means Using Both Hands”, and “I Don’t Call 911 [with picture of handgun]”. We cannot make rational arguments for the right to have our guns if we support our arguments with asinine slogans and belligerent attitudes.

The bottom line is that we fiercely fight to protect the rights we hold dear, and fiercely fight against rights that we feel would contradict our personal rights or beliefs. Perhaps we would be better off going back to the original three, and not restricting any unless they violate established laws of the nation. We must realize that we are not the center of universe, that our rights are not more valid than those of anyone else. We should quit seeking to flaunt our rights, and rather live in such a way that we put the comfort and well-being of others above our own. Saint Paul was pretty clear that this is the Christian way of looking at things (Phillipians 2:3-4), and the teachings of many other religions agree. You will find that the less you worry about holding onto your own rights and privileges, the more freedom and joy you will find.

So Get Out There and Vote!

Friends, I am not here to tell you which political party to support, which candidate to vote for, or where you should stand on the issues. Those are decisions that each of us must carefully make for ourselves. And I do mean carefully. Find the facts, use your brain, and make a choice. You don’t have to vote the way your parents did, the way your spouse or your pastor or your boss does. That is the beauty of this free country. You get to have your say, and the people who disagree get to have theirs. Of all the rights to cling to, this is certainly one to hold tight on.

Now, if you’re like me, you may at times be discouraged by the political process and by the individual candidates. To be honest, I’m not thrilled with my options this year. There are times when it’s tempting to say, “I can’t really get behind either candidate, so I won’t vote,” or, “My candidate isn’t going to win, so why bother?” I know, I’ve been there. I’ve thought, maybe I just won’t vote this year, but then I realize that if I don’t vote, I am basically saying that I don’t deserve or want the privilege of having a say in my government. I might as well be saying, “Just let someone else decide, it’s too much for me.”  I can imagine the founding fathers, the civil war soldiers, the heroes of WWI and WWII, all rolling over in their graves and saying, “Then why the HECK did we put our necks on the line to make sure you had a choice?” I don’t want to dishonor them or make their sacrifice worthless, and so I’m going to continue doing my homework right up till election day, and I’m going to go in to that voting booth and make a choice, even if it’s not the best of all possible choices, even if I think my side will lose.

I will go in thankful to be exercising a freedom that so many others are denied, and I will come out knowing that no matter who wins, no matter which laws are passed, my God is watching and caring, and that He will not be surprised when the final results are in.

Starting Summer with a Glad Heart

Well, I’ll confess. I haven’t even touched this blog in nearly 2 months. Unless you have taught school, you may not understand the quagmire that is the last month of school.You might also find it hard to grasp the need to do as close to absolutely nothing as possible for a week or two once school lets out. But I’m sure any of you who are working mothers, or stay at home moms with several children and a busy schedule can understand the need to complete a two-week thorough cleaning and reordering of one’s house. (Okay, second confession – I haven’t quite gotten all the way through the cleaning part, but it’s much better than it was!). So now I’m out of the quagmire, fairly well rested, and ready to get on track (with so many things, not just this blog).  I am starting the summer with a glad heart. Glad for the beginning of a beautiful summer, glad for the end of another school year, glad for the changes that lie before me, glad for the blessings of God in my life and the lives of those I love.  I look forward to bringing encouragement and gladness to you over the course of the summer. Which means, I suppose, that I should send this off, and get back to work on the “serious” stuff.

 

Happy Summer to you all, and may your hearts be glad!