Torn Between Two Sides

Torn Between Two Sides

I LOVE to be inspired.

Good recipes, great decorating, creative parenting or insights to the Scriptures all move me closer to how I crave my life to feel.

I flip through magazines, read books and scour the internet looking for scraps of connection. I want to connect to the hope of better through seeing great things in others.

Then I get distracted, wondering why my jeans are so tight (again), forlornly wrapped in the mundane.

Eventually, I go back and pursue more ideas. My life is a cycle of being pulled between my ideal and my real.

Sometimes I love what I see. One one side there are people doing UH-mazing things. They are feeding the hungry and articulating the plight of the oppressed. They post pictures of fabulous and funny times with their families. There is no talk of perfection. They make me realize people with bad tempers and mental illnesses lead fulfilling lives that dig in to hard places.

It thrills me.

And then they start talking about the Bible and what their opinions of what it means to be a Christian are, and the air from my emotional balloon escapes.

On the other “side” are women whose Biblical exegesis calls me to deeper understanding and love for God’s word. They help me realize what a difference the principles in 2 Kings can make in my life, and want to share it.

But it sometimes feels like their primary ministry is to criticize others. Even though I often agree, I am uninspired. Their lives look sterile and unapproachable.

Once on a video study the teacher talked about sin that sneaks in our lives. I was totally on board with that. Sin sneaks in our lives all the time.

Her transparent moment of sharing? Unintentionally collecting pens from businesses in the bottom of her purse. What a thief. I wanted to get up and walk out.

Let’s be clear. The sins that sneak into my life are far more dramatic than that. I convince myself that winning the lottery will solve all my problems (because God’s provision is not enough). Laziness is a plague that consumes me. My temper is so, so much better than it used to be, but I still have some weak moments.

In the small group after the video I complained about the pen-sin and was immediately chastised. Someone pretended to be repenting for her own previous grumble, but then quoted me directly as the example of what we should not be doing. It was silly and cowardly.

Apparently, in her world, Bible study is only for people who love every word of every study ever done. We can just check our brains at the door and nod our heads in pious bobble-head agreement.

Have you met me? Like that’s gonna happen.

I once read a blog by someone whose theology and lifestyle are SO far away from what I believe. But as I read the blog I could totally understand why women loved her. Several times I brought a paper copy of the blog to circles of women who I am on the same side with and asked, “What is great about what she is saying?”

You might have thought I was asking people off the street to explain the theory of Quantum Physics. It was nuts. Woman after woman was unable or unwilling to see what was being offered by this person as praise-worthy. They were all willing to dissect the theological points they know are wrong and assume the very worst about intentions. In spite of my pleas not to focus on the Biblical disagreements and discover what we could learn from her, the conversation always turned to what the Bible really says or that she was looking for money and attention. I was apparently asking too much.

I regularly find myself torn. This group of women over here, who I could not disagree with more politically and Biblically, have lives I admire and walks with Jesus that compel me to think about others more. They seem like they are parenting with passion and facing hard things boldly.

But the Jesus they refer to is not necessarily who I see when I read the Bible.

On the other side my brain can engage in conversations about hermeneutics. After time together I love my Bible more and am invigorated to study; but the lack of transparency in their lives leaves me hollowed and wanting. I am not certain I have any desire to be as polished as they look. They assure me they are doing the work of the Lord outside of sharing their discernment but I have no idea what that means. Their sticky sweet language can leave me shaking my head and asking, “What does that look like in real life?”

And I find myself wondering, if knowing and loving the God they are teaching me about does not compel me love others more, what is the point? Furthermore, if they talk in a language that has no practical understanding, how can I share with others?

Years and years into this faith journey, I am yet to hear someone explain what it actually mean to die to yourself.

This summer I hopped on a plane to meet a gaggle of friends in Austin, Texas. Brought together by the mission of launching books, this rag-tag group of widely varying ideas, priorities and beliefs, has enriched my life immensely–even though I disagree with many (if not most) on some pretty big things. My life is bigger and more vibrant because of them. Couldn’t that be the work of the Lord?

Does God move in spite of, or because of, differing views?

In some things I am achingly black and white. In others, not so much.

Once, in a Women’s Ministry leadership meeting, a woman on the team took a book I recommended and threw it on the ground. Then she stomped on it. Then she looked at me with hate in her eyes and said, “Nothing we do will matter until we get the anti-Christ out of this ministry.”

It was a book on time management.

I clearly told everyone it was not a Christian book. I simply thought that it could help us get organized so we could serve with greater efficiency and excellence. Guess what?

I still love that book.

Recently, I decided to leave a book launch team because the divide between beliefs was too much for me to navigate with clarity and integrity. I posted in the Facebook page what I was doing and why. While it would have been easier to slip away, I believe in the power of conversation. 

The author was gracious and engaging. The women in the group covered the spectrum of agreeing and understanding, trying to talk me into believing a different way, and disagreeing but understanding. It was the kind of conversation we should be having more of. Restoring civil conversation has to become a priority.

Ultimately, I do believe that Biblical truth matters more than anything.

The women with the lives are leading people in their Biblical direction, which I disagree with. They have Christian audiences, speak at churches, regularly talk about God and have book contracts to build followers and share ideas. I don’t dispute that. I have tremendous concerns about it. This highlights real questions that should be wrestled with.

  • God created the Bible. Do we believe that or not?
  • There is a consequence for sin. Do we believe that or not?
  • The Bible clearly calls many things sin. Do we believe that or not?

I concede the arguments from other viewpoints are boring to me. They claim the Bible was written in a different time. It was for a different culture. We have progressed beyond that. Seriously, if one more person talks about putting God in a box, I may vomit.

As if we can. If God is not omniscient then He is not the God of my understanding. God knew about 2017, when the Bible was written before the birth of Christ. Do we believe that, or not?

However, I see the women with the theology repelling people. Not all people, but some people. The people who love the discerning voices (those people who are warning against the loose beliefs of others) often already agree with the pointer-outers. Confirmation bias makes the words comforting to those already in line, but not effectively convicting to those who are not.

Is that the point?

 

From where I sit it looks like in order to reach the people who don’t already love God’s word and crave its truth we must live lives that matter.

  • Can we talk about your faults? Can you tell me which Bible verses helped you with that? Will you share when you believed God was moving you to change and to grow so that thing maybe wasn’t so dark in your day to day life?
  • Does loving God and His word draw you in to serving and helping? How and where and why?
  • Will you help me to understand how the words on that page apply to my life?
  • Will you share with me enough of you that walking with God can feel real AND vibrant AND hard AND beautiful?

It is easy to pick apart other people. It is easy to say how other people are failing and doing things all wrong. It is my second nature. I believe it is Andy Stanley who says flaws are much easier to see looking out a window at other people than they are looking in a mirror at one’s self. I live that truth daily.

Balancing that with a passion for Biblical truth is gentle ground. I want to gather a group of women who are willing to sit in the discomfort of differing opinions and examine them closely in the light of Scripture. It thrills me to unpack how Korah’s rebellion or 1 Kings Chapter 22 speak directly to some of the biggest issues that divide the church today. I want people to stop rolling their eyes when I say, “I know I disagree. I don’t believe that is true, but I absolutely believe they love and serve Jesus.”

This is going to be tough. The divide is wide and getting wider. There are moments when it feels like all hope is lost, but GOD IS STILL GOD. His word is still good and true. His people are still here. I am one. Please, Lord, let me live this life for You with excellence and passion with and alongside people I agree and disagree with equal love and respect.

 

 

 

No, I Won’t Unite. And Know, That’s Not My Right

No, I Won’t Unite. And Know, That’s Not My Right

The rain pummeled the East Texas ground on a humid, August evening. The lightening was the most spectacular display of electric sky I have ever seen in my life. I was awe-struck by its power and beauty.

These last days have been full. We got the keys to move in to a rental house.

At the same time my husband’s brother and sister brought my mother in law out from California. We moved her from one memory care unit to another. In California she was an hour away, in Texas ten minutes. We were busy with details and caregivers and the grief that comes with decades old dementia.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of the world doesn’t matter.

Earlier this summer my hubby took our teenager and grown son on a tour of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. Their precious feet walked on the ground that hosted hatred and violence this weekend.

I don’t know everything that took place during the riots, but I know enough.

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When I get a friend request on social media from someone I have not seen for years, I generally send a message that says something along the lines of, “I am a right-wing, religious nut. Ignore any political posts you don’t like but know that I do post other funny things and pictures of my kids, who are adorable.”

I am pretty darn comfy my own political skin.

Most people who know me know that I am a right leaning conservative. It is a secret to no one.

But if anyone saw the horror that was called “UNITE THE RIGHT” and thought that might be what I believed, I would be sick to my stomach. That is not the platform of anyone seeking political solutions to real problems. They promote and espouse ideas that are not even rational.

What happened last weekend was terrorism. It was vile, putrid poison in souls spilling out to infect anyone it came in contact with. My son told me there were swastikas and Nazi salutes. While I was unpacking Depends and walkers, he was watching the news and keeping me informed.

We were disgusted.

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I saw a picture online of men carrying “torches”. My first thought was, “Did they order those from Oriental Trading Company?” Seriously, I have used those tiki torches for luau-parties in my back yard. Who does that? 

Then, I looked again. I gazed past the angry expressions and saw people who look just like those I have known my whole life. They could have been my brother or my son. They appear the same as friends and neighbors. People who look like that have sat at my table, in places I work, in the stadium of the football field at the local high school.

I want hatred to be obvious, so that it can be singled out, dealt with and shunned. I don’t want it to look like the average guy sitting at the movie theatre next to me. It is so hard to change what we can’t even recognize. 

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I know I live in a bubble. While people I know may look like the terrorists in Charlottesville, I don’t know anyone who thinks like they do. At least, I don’t know anyone who would admit it to me.

While I can be a delight, I am not known in far and wide circles for my ability to hold my tongue. If any one I knew held the vile opinions spewed a few days ago, that person would likely hide it from me. Seriously. (All who know me are nodding in agreement.)

I was in my 40’s before I’d ever heard someone use the “N word” in real life. I was working at a restaurant and a regular customer said it to someone else in conversation.

I turned and told him to stop. He apologized and said he would never say it in front of me again. I said, “That’s actually not good enough. It is a word designed to incite hate, and you should never say it again.” He got up without eating and left the restaurant.

But here’s the thing I am keenly aware of: He was not going to burn a cross in my yard or poison my pets. My life was not in danger. My boss would NEVER be angry at me for losing the customer. My bubble insured that would be a two minute interaction with no lasting consequences to my life, except on my own personal values.

Had I said nothing, a tiny part of me would have atrophied.

I am all for a debate of conflicting ideas, but not all ideas are debate-worthy. Loving this nation and being of European descent does not make one a White Nationalist. I am numb that white supremacy is still a thing. How on earth?

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In my bubble there is little, if any, thought to race in my daily life.

In California my mom, who began slurring her speech five years ago and has gotten progressively worse, had a general practitioner and neurologist. In Texas she also has a general practitioner and a neurologist.

In California we had five years with no help. In Texas we had one appointment and a diagnosis.

All four doctors have different ethnic backgrounds.

On the list of what matters to me regarding medical care for my mom, race is nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t care less. All I care about is who is going to help.

That, I have been told, makes me a racist.

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I have been told the only way to view these current events is through the lens of America’s 400 year history of oppression by the white man.

I have been told pockets of racial ease are part of the construct to actually oppress, and that it is more complicated than I know.

I have been told that the only way I can be a part of solutions is to spend extended time with people of different races and cultures.

Meanwhile, I am just trying to find where I packed my family’s socks and figure out if I left the ^%@#** new silverware in the basket at IKEA. How many meals can we share washing our one fork in between servings?

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Where is the place for me in this conversation?

I love this country. I believe it is flawed in history and execution and yet is a beacon of hope for generations far and wide. On our very worst day, the freedom experienced here is unfathomable elsewhere.

Somewhere, today, a woman will be imprisoned for being in public alone. Someone will be executed for being gay. A Christian will spend another day in prison, perhaps with no decent food or restrooms, because of an unwavering belief that Jesus died on the cross for all mankind.

Does that minimize genuine struggles of minorities here? Of course not. But it goes through my head anyway. If the only way to bridge the divide is to think the worst about this nation, I am not a part of the bridge.

What do you do when the people shouting the loudest about solving the problems make you want to hide under the table and excuse yourself by saying, “I am just trying to homeschool my special needs kiddo and visit my mother in law in the memory care wing of the assisted living facility where she lives.” 

The conversation is painted in terms of two sides, each side achingly monolithic in the eyes of the other. According to some on the left, hating Obamacare makes me a racist. Voting for Trump makes me a racist. Failing to live my days with constant apologies for my white privilege makes me a racist.

With that the conversation ends.

I am stuck here feeling lost and out of sorts, spent and weary by what is already on my plate to deal with, but also devastated and disgusted by what is happening; and exhausted and unsettled by the solutions people offer. One thing, however, is incredibly clear–no, I won’t unite with your hatred and I want the world to know, that is not the Right that I vote for and believe in.

 

 

In The Meantime

I was excited to begin what I thought was going to be our tiny house season. 

We packed our family up and moved across the country in the hopes of a better life. Sometimes muddled dreams twist my hopes and convince me that better must be bigger.

In the process of getting ready to someday drive across the country to a new life we began to peel back and get rid of layers of stuff.

  • Books we’ve already read, goodbye.
  • Book we’ll never read, go–be enjoyed by someone else.
  • Old clothes, now gone.
  • New clothes can be worn by someone else.
  • Papers in the trash.
  • Old magazines recycled.
  • Decor from another era, adios.

So. Many. Things.

Things rob our energy, time and attention and drain the life out of things that matter…creativity, relationships, memories with people we love.

I let go of cosmetics I purchased when I lived in our first and only apartment.

I prayed for forgiveness for the layers of distractions that weighted down my days…each tiny level seemingly harmless. But day after day, thing piled upon thing, waste after waste morphed into a soggy, grey cloud of depression.

It wasn’t a pit, but a weight keeping me from color and vitality and passion.

Through dozens of loads to the thrift store, truck beds full taken to the dump, we freed space in our thoughts and home to search for the best version of us.

This family is my greatest treasure from the Lord.

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Here we were. One month living in another state, waiting for paperwork so we could move into a one thousand square foot house. Our tiny house. I envisioned leaning in to family time, forced by proximity, with our new little puppy scampering on the rental worthy tile.

It was going to be perfect for this small season.

But it fell through…for reasons that are lame and didn’t need to happen. We tell ourselves this is still a part of His plan for us. This family.

We are shifting into a possible medium season–Lord and potential land lord willing–of a slightly larger house. There is a room to home school, a large yard for a puppy to roam and a patch for a vegetable garden. We can walk to the library. There is a Rib Master restaurant around the corner, just a family bike ride away. Greasy fingers and easy meals together over tables in the Texas heat sound like progress.

I believed I was moving to find a house to buy, but am now praying for a house to rent. Life is wild and funny.

These days are numbered. College is coming for one child; the achieving of milestones calling for another. The third, who is actually the first, is always on our minds and the financial ability to visit more is a vital hope for this new life. In His time our house in California will sell. Someday we will buy a new home here. In the meantime, we are praying to do life more simply.

 

 

4 Times Is CLEARLY Not Enough

I went to yoga for the fourth time in two weeks.

Okay, one of the times was a relaxation/stretchy/destress-y thing and not so much a strength building thing. It was my favorite of the four.

When it comes to actually doing yoga, I strongly resemble a walrus on a tread mill. It is just not pretty. Seriously, I cannot now, nor have I ever been able to touch my toes while my legs were straight. The only way I can put my palms on the ground is sitting on my rump.

Midway through every class I have absolutely no idea what in the love of all that is sane I am doing there.

Something is certain, however, and that is after 4 times at yoga I am not stronger. My clothes don’t fit better. I don’t love it.

CLEARLY it will take more than this to achieve my goals.

At the stretchy/relx-y yoga thing I loved, the instructor said the foundation of her life is her relationship with her Lord and Savior. HE spoke directly, through this perky teacher, to the nagging voice in my head whispering yoga and Christianity were not compatible.

I can assure you, as I am holding my aging body in Downward Dog AGAIN, I am praying to the Lord. When I am breathing at the beginning of class, I am praying for His will and strength to become. 

I am overwhelmingly convinced that for my life to move forward I must become who HE wants me to become; and exercise is part of the discipline in doing that.

This morning the instructor mentioned over and over that yoga is a practice. I hate practice.

I love to do things that come naturally. I don’t want to have to work hard or get better. This is likely why I am middle aged, soft around the middle and less affluent than I wish I was.

Lying on the mat, my mother on one side and my daughter on the other, I must face that life is often delicate and sometimes broken. My mom (who has been losing her ability to speak clearly from a yet-to-be-diagnosed issue) and my daughter (who has not yet learned to over come her disability and still can’t speak) remind me time is fragile. So is hope.

I want 4 times to be enough with every fiber of my being. Enough to get my mom’s brain to start sending signals to the right side of her body; enough for my daughter to fully engage in the practice because an amazing speech therapist once said, “What you see in the body, you see in the mouth,” which means that becoming proficient at yoga poses may help her learn to talk; enough for me to be comfortable in my own body.

Although it may not be enough to arrive, today was a step forward. Forbidden from evaluating results for 6 weeks, I am focusing instead on breathing in His grace. I am practicing focus on Him. Breathing deeply I am praying silently, asking and listening, when conviction washes over.

Slowly the thoughts create an unmistakable picture in my mind, showing me a pattern desperate for change: Rather than asking God what His plans are for my life, I am coming to Him asking for blessings on my plans.

Sigh. Of course four times is not nearly enough. I have to keep coming back…to yoga, to prayers, to listening, to a place of repentance…and remind myself that God’s ways are better than mine.

THAT is going to take practice.

 

 

 

Epiphany Day

Epiphany Day

Epiphany is my favorite word.

Long before I became a Christian epiphany, defined as an “illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure,” meant learning and wisdom. Epiphanal moments were cherished.

I had them watching Oprah, laughing with friends and reading good books.

Decades later, I learned there was actually an Epiphany Day. What a beautiful discovery.

It was a long time after I discovered Epiphany Day that I learned it is actually deeply rooted in the birth of Christ:

noun
  1. the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).

The original epiphany was the beginning of the story for those of us adopted into God’s family.

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Just this week, 20 hours between midnight and dawn have found me awake and caring for a sick kiddo. Warm baths, cleaning up sick messes, dosing out medicines night after night stood in the way of precious sleep.

In addition, there have been a dozen hours in emergency rooms and doctor’s offices with my mother in law and my little peanut when I was finally convinced she was not almost better.

Lots of buggy things got in the way of my lists and my peace of mind.

But what has poison churning in my soul is none of those things, but rather what I see in the world of my teenager and the teens around the world. It is infinitely harder to raise high schoolers today than just ten years ago. Chatting with my pediatrician about the craziness and uncertainties in the culture and the world, and lamenting my ineffective search for answers, he said, “There are a lot of people to claim to have answers, but at this point they are really just opinions.”

Drugs, graphic images available 24 hours a day on hand held cell phones, distresses taunt and haunt from every visible corner. Not to mention a gazillion “sexual identities” available and supposed to be acknowledged and accepted.

I am a very simple “In the beginning God created them; male and female He created them” kind of a gal. While our doors are open wide to teenagers of all beliefs and walks of life, I yearn for simpler days and less pressure on our kids.

Social media bombards endlessly.

Pressures mount daily.

Already pondering and praying about these things, I was forced out of complacency in early December. A friend across the country asked for prayer when her son was in lock down at school. A young man hung himself in the gym and when the paramedics came to get him to the hospital, no one wanted the students scarred by the image. The boy in the gym was taken off life support a few days later. Within 24 hours of praying for that another friend across the state asked for prayers for her dear friend whose son had been killed in a car accident.

Sometimes it feels like filling my lungs deeply with fresh air is impossible, because the strain and fears I have for our kids has me so constricted…

I decided I would revive a practice I have used before of fasting on Fridays. I know what specifically I am fasting and praying for…sometimes I choose a Bible verse to pray when I runout of words…I allow myself drinks and break the fast at 6:00 pm. I use the pangs of hunger to remind me to pray and look to the Lord.

I threw it out on social media and some friends will be joining me in January, to fast on Fridays and pray for our kids.

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I want to be obedient to God. Obedience to His word and His nudgings matter to me, but this life of growing in Him is not always one with clearly defined edges. In my world it can be a bit fuzzy.

Is that what He is asking?

Am I sure?

I committed to praying on Fridays…fasting and focusing on freedom for teenagers everywhere, mine included.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. PROVERBS 24: 3-4

I know this is a good practice, but imagine my thrill when I looked on the calendar and the very first Friday of January is, of all things, Epiphany Day.

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And so tomorrow, Epiphany Day, I will begin my January commitment to fasting on Fridays. I will be praying for victory for our kids. I will be praying for joy in our families. I will be praying for a cleansing in our culture and a rise in God honoring ideas and principles.

Join me? You can join our little Facebook group here.

It is time. The need is huge. If you are a parent, friend, grandparent, aunt, teacher or concerned citizen, you are welcome to join us. For some of the stories that drove me to this there will be mourning, but my cry is that by the end of the month we will start collecting stories of victory.

“Even now,” declares the LORD,  “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Joel 2:12

 

 

 

 

The Begining of the Story

The Begining of the Story

Fatigued, full of family joy and a political hangover, I watched the WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR at Disney’s California Adventure the night after the election and the tears rolled down my cheeks.

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I thought about people I adore who were genuinely grieving.

It seems they believe, somehow, that this election means their stories don’t matter. They do.

The same way my story still mattered two years ago when things (politically) impacted my family negatively.

Friends who see things differently than I do stopped liking pictures of my kids on Facebook months ago. I suspect I have been un-followed and un-friended numerous times. I have un-followed some myself.

The next day I sat in one of my favorite places in the world: THE ANIMATION STATION. In the Animation Station scenes from the stories that become Disney movies are played to the music that makes them classics, the songs and the scenes of triumph and struggle; of conflict and restoration.

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While the familiar melodies in the background and the hypnotic moving pictures remind me of these stories of my children’s history on the huge screens, next to them come still shots in waves. Some images are directly from the movies themselves, other are drawings of ideas and future story lines.

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Tucked away in the air conditioned room of imagination it hit me: The beginning of the story is ALWAYS sketchy. The colors and the shading have not been filled in yet.

The stories that have meaning always have conflict. Without it there is no change; no growth; no victory.

My victory will be different than yours. My peace may come a different route. But the beauty and wonder of STORY is still here. The grief; the joy; the connection and the distance between people will always weave their way through our days. BUT NO MATTER WHAT OUR STORY WAS ON TUESDAY NIGHT, this is just the beginning. We do not know the ending.

May we pray for kindness and grow our capacity to see facts clearly, to distinguish the difference between them and feelings, and to give people the benefit of the doubt and the space to be heard with kindness whenever God gives us the chance and wait hands wide open for what is to come as the story unfolds.

It might be much better than you think…

Less Than A Week To Go…

Praise the Lord.

My family has a tradition to spend Halloween at Disneyland. This year we are changing it up. We will vote on November 8th and head down south.

No matter what happens on election day, the day after we will be in the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.

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Smartest decision I’ve made in a while.

This election season has been caustically dividing.

I realized the other day that only once during my adult life have I cast a presidential vote and gone to bed that night with my candidate declared the winner. I am not sure WHY I allowed myself to get so twisted up this go around, but I did. Praise the Lord I don’t have TV. I would likely have needed to be institutionalized…

As we round the corner into the final(ly) stretch, legitimate concerns on both sides about character are no longer what matter. We are here with these candidates. It will be one or the other. It is time to accept it and look at policy and the future.

Over and over again, during these contentious times, I have asked Never Trumper people what would have to happen for Trump to be a good president.

Not one answered my question.

Before we get too far, I should say that I watched Hillary’s entire convention acceptance speech. For the first time–ever–I did not agree with a single thing the opposing nominee said. Never once did I nod my head in agreement and think, “That’s a good idea.” Lest you think I am completely closed minded, I am the same person who thought that Al Gore’s VP speech at the ’92 Convention was fabulous. (“It’s time for them to go…”) So, I am capable of appreciating things from various sources.

From my perspective the only way Hillary could succeed as President is to fail at her stated agenda. Bummer.

Now I want to think through and articulate how Trump could succeed as President of the United States.

Pass a budget every year. In 2013 President Obama submitted a budget to Congress. Every single Senator and Representative who voted, voted against it.

He got zero votes.

That pretty much sums up how well things have gone for the last 8 years.

If Donald Trump can work with Congress enough to get SOME support that would be a step forward. But this is the greatest nation of the face of the earth, and it is unacceptable to NOT have a budget to work from.

Let’s start here. With the basics.

Repeal and replace Obamacare. I like what this article has to say about his plan. Obamacare has been a disaster for my family. Relief and hope for better medical care would be a welcome result of this grueling election process.

Increase the GDP. The third quarter GDP growth in this country was 1.4%. An article from 2015 in the Washington Post says, “Quarterly GDP growth or decline reflects real economic activity.” Low growth means low economic activity.

If you increase the GDP, you increase opportunities for a variety of walks of life. From the investors to the people working in manufacturing, higher numbers mean good things. Things have stagnated for years, and if Trump can get the GDP to 3%-4%, that would mean he is effectively leading.

Reduce the number of people receiving food stamps. Under this administration food stamps recipients are up 42%. I want to see every one who needs them getting them, while seeing the number of people needing them drastically reduced.

Make sense? I would love the solution to be two-fold. First, better jobs that come from reducing regulations, removing the Obamacare burden on small businesses (which leaves more revenue for investment), and tax incentives for job production.

Second, I would love to see the church play an even greater role in temporary aid for struggling families. I don’t have all the answers as to how this would happen, but I often think that most of the issues that divide the left and right of politics could be solved by a Christian community that took responsibility for solutions.

Make a significant change in the VA. I would like to see Veterans with easy, affordable access to medical care and counseling–counseling that helps and doesn’t just hand out medications.

I would love to see a reduction in suicides.

The VA offices in colleges are often woefully underfunded and provide no real help for veteran students.

Again, I don’t know what all the solutions are, but I know progress needs to be made.

I know this will make me a terrible Christian to some, but Roe v Wade is not my hill to die on. I care far more about the need for abortions than the legality of abortions and I see the solutions as economic in most places. Let me illustrate that for you:

Often women turn to abortion when they can not envision a decent life they can afford as a single mom.

Often men bail on fatherhood when they fear they cannot even pay their bills.

When moms and dads are working all the time and come home exhausted, families don’t get the intentional nurturing they need to thrive.

When dreams die, families struggle.

Let the politicians battle it out for legality of killing babies. The moral imperative on the church is the same regardless of what is legal, we must do a better job helping people know God and live Him out in daily life. If God is IN YOU, abortion is no longer an option.

My dream is not to take away abortion, but to take away the need for abortion. The only way I know to do that is to vote for economic policies I have the most hope will actually help people, and live out the Gospel that is the only hope to heal people.

There you have it. My somewhat measurable standard of what Donald Trump could do to preside well over this nation. And, of course, choose silence more often…

 

A New Corner

A New Corner

There has been wailing and gnashing of teeth here on Park Hill Road.

Mostly from me.

It was slowly becoming more and more apparent that I should homeschool my precious little peanut full time this year. A thousand little pieces of information added up to a clear picture: In order to make progress we’d have to make a change.

Homeschooling is time consuming and patience strengthening, but that is not where the wailing and gnashing originated.

I am just so sad that I am the best option for my daughter.

This is not some whoah is me, the sacrifices I must make thing. It is truth.

Last summer my little person and I hopped on a plane and flew to Connecticut to meet with a speech therapist and an aqua therapist. They worked with her and taught me and she bloomed.

When I pulled out of the parking space on the last day, I was a mess. In that school lot, the smell of chlorine thick in the rental car, a new realization was forged in my heart: We only grieve things we are grateful for.

I was so, so grateful for the time we had been given. And I was so, so heartbroken that we had to fly to other side of the country and leave them behind.

People who are excellent at what they do are unique. To see people who are gifted at helping my daughter was vulnerably beautiful. To come home where I have been unable to such find help was hard. And sad.

I had to grieve the loss.

I would MUCH rather have gifted, great therapists to work with my daughter than have to do it all myself as an amateur.

But we have rounded another corner and here we are: A homeschooling family.

I have it all thought out:

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I have prayed and researched and I believe God has guided me to the right focus and approaches for Ryan…If I do all I have set out to she will thrive.

If I do all I set out to do, our family will thrive.

My goals for the first trimester are fairly simple:

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For my Precious Little Peanut, that means stronger jaw, tongue and lips for speech; and core and hands for writing. For the rest of the family, it would just be good.

Here we are prayerfully, humbly on a new adventure; hauntingly optimistic that we will make progress. This I know: The biggest weak spot is me.

I am flakey.

I can be lazy.

I naturally gravitate toward chaos which means I have to fight me very nature in order to succeed at this.

But God.

I believe HE is for me. I have prayed through my natural laziness and made great strides. I have people praying for my character, so that I may be the educator my daughter needs.

So here and now, for this season, I am coming out of my corner swinging.

 

 

Missed Boat: A Letter to Women’s Ministry Leaders

Missed Boat: A Letter to Women’s Ministry Leaders

In my minds eye I see a group of women circling around a kiddie pool. There are rubber ducks and floating boats. There is splashing and laughing and chubby toddlers spilling out of swimsuits.

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Sitting close by are older, more experienced moms chatting with the younger gals engaging and listening. The sun is shining. The colors are vibrant. There is fruit cut and skin tanned and it is beautiful.

Behind them (just out of ear shot) is a grey, damp, worn down industrial shipyard. Lurching away from an old, beat up, barely functional dock pulls out a huge cargo ship. There are no windows. There is no color. Its destination is not clear, but trapped inside are the moms of teenagers who can barely catch their breath.

Leaders in women’s ministries everywhere: YOU ARE MISSING THE BOAT.

I remember my teen years well and do NOT hope to repeat them with my kids. (Do as I say, please, not as I did.) Our oldest is 26 and our middle is now a teen. It is MUCH harder today than it was a decade ago to raise sane teenagers.

There are moments when I feel I have this thing NAILED; then, without any warning, those feelings are replaced by a tight chest and sick stomach. I am nauseous at how many things there are seeking to poison our kids.

Poison their minds.

Poison their hearts.

Poison their values.

Poison their wills and want-tos.

It is not only the things looking to destroy them, but the very nature of the season of life that stack the odds against us. In her book The Teenage Brain, author Frances E Jensen, MD, explains:

Before leaving adolescence behind, a boy can have thirty times as much testosterone in his body as he had before puberty began…That explains why adolescents not only are emotionally volatile but may even seek out emotionally charged experiences–everything from a book that makes her sob to a roller coaster that makes him scream. This double whammy–a jacked up, stimulus-seeking brain not yet fully capable of making mature decisions–hits teens pretty hard, and the consequences to them, and their families, can sometimes be catastrophic.

The thing is, teens today have access to far more degrading and damaging things to excite them. Sexual images are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on hand held cell phones that can be tucked away in their pockets. Medical marijuana cards and prescription pain killers have put drugs in more homes than anything I could have imagined when I was a teen. It is easy access for almost any high school student to acquire mood altering substances.

Kids from middle class, activity attending families are crumbling under the weight of the realities our kids are facing. Imagine a Friday night, kids are drunk, a boy decides a girl (who can barely even walk and will not remember) must want to have sex…so he takes it from her.

Cast into the dirt, she is not sure what happened. Zipping up his pants, he is sure he’s done nothing wrong. At home, asleep, are the parents (of yet a different teenager) who bought the alcohol that got the kids drunk and started it all…

Versions of this scenario are playing out weekend after weekend after weekend…

Where can any of these moms go for help? Church?

YES! to MOPS and Mom’s mentoring groups and so many other programs sweeping the young mom cultures around us. That work is vital and holy.

But I personally have sat and watch thousands of tears roll from the eyes of moms of teens. Kids are gone–at boarding schools and military programs–last ditch efforts to stop the spiral. Women are sharing stories of feeling like their families are being damaged by this season of life with teenagers…living daily with an invisible anvil sitting on their chests crushing hope and joy. What can we do for them?

In our own area we have lost dozens to heroin. These were good kids from loving families.

The days of the typical addict laying in an filthy alley with a needle stuck in their arm are over. These are our friends and neighbors. We must wake up!

Let women’s ministries be a haven. May they be real and transparent full of answers and hope.

YES! Make meals for the brand new mama just home from the hospital. But are we helping the mom of the 15 year old connect around the table as well? With more than just words, can we come along side with answers and aid? Can we use our voices to tell the kids, “The future is bright. Set your standards high. Don’t sell yourself to the lowest bidder.”

Can we look each other in the eye and say, “I will hold your hand while we hold each other and our kids accountable?”

Can we gather around tables and collaborate, acknowledging that the teenage brain is seeking high impact activities? Let’s brainstorm about healthy opportunities to fill that need in the faint hope of keeping them from finding their own ways?

Yes, they may roll their eyes. No, they probably won’t volunteer to join our quest. Let’s parent anyway.

Recently I had the privilege of helping to plan a prom for a local boy who was restricted from going to his own senior highlight because of medical complications. A whole group of parents came to put the event together. I was STUNNED by the conversations…”You know, the high school just had their prom. If we don’t make this REALLY special no one will want to come.”

“You can’t serve a sit down dinner to high school kids. They don’t like that. They want, like, sliders and finger foods…”

Parents’ expectations of teenagers has hit an all-time low.

Our kids are going to be adults someday. Are we doing all we can to help them be productive ones?

500 teenagers got dressed up, sat down for a polite dinner, and celebrated with that boy–giving him the prom of his dreams. 125 other kids showed up in their finest to dance and join the after party…where tons of teenage favorite foods were served. The parents who doubted the kids would behave well were wrong.

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This is war for our children. We are fighting low expectations and morals, along with easy access to pornography, drugs and alcohol. Other parents and teachers are turning a blind eye saying, “Kids will be kids,” but, church, let’s not join their cry.

I often say that parenting is a crap-shoot. It is a roll of the dice, where we can guarantee no out comes. Let’s lock arms, look each other in the eye and say, “We are going to face this head on and do all we can to stack the odds in our favor.” Let’s listen to each other’s heartaches and fear. Let’s commit to praying boldly and telling our truths. Let’s tell God’s truth to our kids and your kids and their kids.

Let’s find ways to have fun with our teenagers and with each other. Laughter can build a bridge…Let’s see great examples and paint bright futures and let high school students everywhere know that we believe in them. Let’s invest in them and tell them we want them to make good choices and make their marks on the world, leaving a trail of beauty behind them.

When the wheels come off the bus, as they certainly will, let’s sit together without judgement and give support until we can breathe again. When our kids fail, which they MUST if they are to learn, let’s remind them that mistakes don’t have to define them; that taking responsibility is ALWAYS the best way to move forward; and that tomorrow provides a new opportunity to do better.

Time is running out…we can do this.

I Am Not Kidding

I Am Not Kidding

What we need to put into our [kids] minds is often sophisticated, consistently reliable language. What is readily available to us is often unsophisticated, consistently unreliable language.”-Andrew Pudewa

Once again it feels like the nation has exploded.

I hear gut wrenching cries. I watch bullets out of nowhere. I listen to the questions agonizing what do we do?

Today, Kelly over at Mrs. Disciple is discussing books for her Friday Five. Providentially it weaves beautifully into the scenes unfolding around the country and provides an eloquent answer. The way forward is to read.

I am not kidding.

Language is the motor of thinking, which propels behavior, which dictates results. If we want to change the results it is incumbent upon us to change thinking. Arguing and demagoguery rarely (if ever) help. But reading? Reading has the power to change everything.

Here are my five suggested starting points:

THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.

You don’t have to be a Bible believing Christian to have your life enriched by Proverbs. There are many Chinese proverbs and Old English proverbs I glean wisdom from. Likewise, the book in the Bible has benefits for anyone who will listen:

  • “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it springs the well of life.” Proverbs 4:23
  • “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with your acquiring, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7

What an easy place to start. Pray for wisdom for every single person, side, perspective, hashtag. If you follow that to the book of James, verse 3:17,  hope comes alive: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”

Isn’t that something everyone could agree on?

A THOMAS JEFFERSON EDUCATION by OLIVER De MILLE.

Only when teachers realize that the principal cause of learning that occurs in a student is the activity of the student’s own mind do they assume the role of cooperative artists. ” Mortimer J. Adler

I am not a fan of the pubic school system. It is not that I don’t love teachers, I do. I believe the system is based on a flawed philosophy. Because the fundamental beliefs dictate direction, to me it is irrelevant how much money is spent in public schools because the money continues to move things in the wrong direction. I believe public schools are built on a myth:

“The myth is that it is possible for one human being to educate another…The fact is that the only person who can fix education is the student…[because] education occurs when students get excited about learning and apply themselves.” page 12.

Although this is not an emotional book, I cried as I read it.  It reframed much of my entire life…why, even though I was above average intelligence, I hated school and nearly flunked out. Why, even though I love God’s word, I struggled for years to get along and engage in Bible Studies. It boiled down to this:

People were trying to teach me what to think, and I was desperate to learn how to think.

According to DeMille, a primary goal of teaching students how to think is “to perpetuate freedom, to prepare people who know what freedom is, what is required to maintain it, and who exert the will to do what is required,” page 23. 

I want to be that kind of a person. I want it for my kids and as many people in this country who also want it. To bring that in context of this week, there is no freedom if the people enforcing the laws are not trustworthy. Likewise, respecting the rule of law is also demanded for freedom to reign. You cannot have one without the other.

THE READ ALOUD HANDBOOK by JIM TRELEASE.

Next to having a healthy, godly marriage, the very best thing we can do for our kids is read to them.

Study after study shows one consistent fact: “No reading outside school, low scores inside school,” page 5.

I believe this emphatically. The way to get kids learning and growing is to gather them around adults with books and to read to them.

I began with my kids as newborns. When my middle was 4 months old our pediatrician was part of a program to encourage literacy in families. He would give away books at well-baby visits. When we were finished with our check up, he grabbed a book and began his spiel about exposure to books.

Reagan lunged forward, grabbed the book out of his hand, opened it and started babbling as she “read” it. He laughed out loud and said, “I guess she knows what a book is.”

I believe teaching and encouraging parents to read good, quality books to their kids would, over time, help to fix many of the struggles in this nation. Some of the benefits to children include:

  • Increasing vocabulary
  • Encouraging growing attention spans
  • Giving a context for history and beauty

Reading Les Miserables, all 1300 pages of it, certainly would have a more positive effect than listening to rap music that says, “F#@!**^ the police” over and over and over again.

THE CLASSICS

These are my current obsession:

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Barnes & Noble has a beautiful, incredibly affordable collection of kids versions of classic books. I read them to my little peanut.

I cry EVERY TIME Gilbert Blythe gives up his teaching job for Anne Shirley, or when Jo comes home and has sold her hair to send money for her father. As Ryan grows, I want to start reading some of the abridged versions to her, finally reading the full length stories.

The classics pour into our hearts themes of family and loyalty. The villains show us how not to be while the heroes model endurance and faith. Studying character traits in third party examples helps to form our own character. We need to be pouring into the character of our nation…beginning with the leaders.

THE DOCUMENTS AND LETTERS OF OUR FOUNDING FATHERS.

Recently our teenager was doing a history report and needed original sources for the bibliography. She was getting frustrated because online sources were frowned upon and difficult to site. I started laughing and walked her over to a bookshelf.

“What do you need, kiddo? Here you are.”

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Common Sense by Thomas Paine? We’ve got you covered. Looking for the Declaration of Independence? We have several to choose from.

Members of the House of Representatives and Senate should have to read, out loud, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution once a month for 5 years straight… just to give a little perspective.

Rights are for all people, not some people. Let’s infuse our minds with the truths that set us free from tyranny so many years ago. It may be the only way to prevent tyranny in the years to come.

Yes, I know it may seem simplistic but no, I am not kidding when I say that reading may be the very best chance this nation’s future has.