Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Topsy-Turvy Christmas Story

Sometimes a home reaches a creative boiling point. Ours reached that point one morning last week as the kids acted out their Christmas play. This was an impromptu event which took the place of our normally scheduled Bible Time. I was purposely excluded from the preparation of this pageant and given the role of narrator, so my anticipation grew as the starting time approached.

Everything began beautifully. As I arrived, the director, my nine-year-old son handed me the Bible and told me where to sit. Shortly thereafter Mary, played by my seven-year-old daughter, entered with a blanket wrapped around her head and waited for Gabriel to appear. Gabriel flew in with brilliant, white, feathery wings to inform Mary that she was going to be the mother of Jesus.

After some stops and starts I discovered that a few scenes had been deleted due to artistic differences between my nine and five-year-old. Well, I guess that’s showbiz. About the time the shepherds were watching their flocks by night the five-year-old rejoined the cast and insisted her role be that of the star the wise men followed from the East – an interesting and inanimate choice. Since the star had to be directly above the manger, my darling diva stood on the couch and leaned her star wand precariously over the place where baby Jesus lay.

It was at this point we all learned the three-year-old was losing interest for he slumped to the ground and complained that he did not want to be a shepherd or a wise man any longer. My nine-year-old struggled to maintain his composure as he sensed he was losing control of his young cast. “But we haven’t even sung any songs yet,” he pleaded. “I thought this was going to go perfectly as I planned, but things have just gone...topsy-turvy,” he concluded. A good assessment, however my seven-year-old daughter took all of these things and pondered them in her heart.

I massaged the situation by promising cinnamon rolls for everyone who calmed down and agreed to participate. Now that we had everyone back on track, our Christmas train threatened to derail once again when the kids realized that the wise men never actually made it to the manger scene, but only found Jesus when he was around age two! Impressively, they compensated for the difference by having the narrator turn to the book of Matthew and helping “Mary” find some clothes for baby Jesus. The rest of the story was peppered with songs that the recovering director had decided to play on the piano.

After a rousing rendition of “Joy to the World” the maestro wrapped it up informing everyone that we should practice a little more this week, so we could do a better job in presenting the play to the grandparents on Christmas. It seems this show isn’t over. Although practice may make perfect, I’m not sure I could have enjoyed this little performance any more than I did today. It is, in fact, the imperfections that define our home and remind me of our need (even in the little things) for a Savior.

Monday, December 07, 2009

CT: The Devastating Mercy of God

This is a reprint of my post last week on
Caffeinated Thoughts.

Cartoon - idol

Today I was reading from the book of Isaiah, and I was struck by the holiness and justice of God. God was in the midst of chastising the nation of Israel. This judgment was proceeding because of the Israelites’ great sin, namely bowing down to idols, pursuing the gods of other nations, and exalting themselves and their own will above God’s. After repeated warnings to repent and turn from their ways God told His people via Isaiah that he was going to send men from Assyria, a wicked nation in their own right, to destroy them.

Despite many admonitions and divine intervention throughout biblical history it seems the Israelites just can’t keep out of trouble. Even after the miraculous parting of the Red Sea we find these stiff-necked rebels cornering Moses’ brother Aaron, and convincing him to cast a calf out of gold for the people to worship. After witnessing this scene or one like it play out in nearly every book of the Old Testament one begins to wonder, “What were they thinking?” As if we in our glorious hindsight could have done, or presently do, any better.

Consider for a moment the state of our country, our churches, and our homes. Are we any different from the Israelites who share with us the simple misfortune of being a member of a fallen humanity? “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).

I too have been subject to the chastisement of God. I could make excuses and tell you that I have never bowed down to an idol, but that wouldn’t be true. I have bowed down to my work and my craft while ignoring my relationship with God. I have given my allegiance to news and entertainment while ignoring the family that God has given me to care for. I have put my wants and desires above the needs of the widow and the orphan.

These are not statements made from hyperbole or out of a desire to elicit some feeling of shame or guilt. This is simply the truth of my sin, and it is why I must stand shoulder to shoulder with the Israelites and bear the judgment that God meted out to them. I am no better, I am no worse. I am a sinner.

The wonderful thing about the book of Isaiah, and the rest of the Bible for that matter, is that the story does not end with the Israelites destruction or the damnation of humanity. God tells his children, even in the midst of armies laying siege to Jerusalem that he is going to send a deliverer. He sees that they are weak. He knows that they are unable to achieve righteousness on their own; so he sets out the most bizarre and devastatingly merciful rescue plan ever conceived of.

Yes we will experience pain and there will be devastation, but as a result we are shaken from the prison of ourselves so that we can see God and in seeing Him, understand that a holy God cannot abide sin, not any at all. It is in this revelation that we see the Lord high and lifted up, and we hear his voice as it shakes the very foundations of the earth. So along with the angels we can’t help but bow down and cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory.” We humbly confess that, yes, we are a people of unclean lips and we live among a people of unclean lips, but we rejoice with shepherds who while going about their duties are the unlikely audience to a heavenly chorus who proclaims the arrival of the Deliverer.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10-14)

For it is only in the blanket of salvation offered by the tiny babe born in a manger that we find true hope, lasting peace, and genuine restoration.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, (Isaiah 9:6)

If you care to comment, feel free to do that here or on the website below.
Click Here to connect to Caffeinated Thoughts.

Monday, November 30, 2009

CT: Global Gore-ing and the Nobel Racket

There has been a lot of news stirring on the Global Warming front. Curiously many of the major media outlets have failed to report on this major news item.

I posted my thoughts today on “Caffeinated Thoughts.” I welcome you to stop by and add yours!

Click on the link below to read more about uncovering the Global Warming hoax.

“Global Gore-ing and the Nobel Racket"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blogging for Caffeinated Thoughts

I just started contributing to a blog called Caffeinated Thoughts. I invite you to check it out and read my most recent post. Just click on the title below.

“Pocketbook Economics Meets the College Koozie.”

For stimulating musings on news, politics, culture, life and theology it is worth the read.

I welcome your comments both here and on their blog!


P.S. I will still be posting thoughtful and humorous essays about family and life on this blog too!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Case Against Apathy

I am a new contributor to the blog "Caffeinated Thoughts." Please check out my first post on their site. Just click on the link below. I would appreciate your comments!

A Case Against Apathy

Thanks, JP

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We All Need a Little Enrichment

This year we joined a new homeschooling group and decided to experiment with some enrichment classes. Most of these classes are taught by a mom within the group who has a gifting or an interest in a particular area. Others are taught by professional artists and licensed teachers.

We signed each of our children up for three one hour classes once a week. Mondays are now affectionately referred to as our “school day.” The kids love their subjects ranging from Zoology to Public Speaking.

At dinner one Monday we were discussing what each of the kids had done in class that day. They regaled us with stories about the snake their Zoology teacher brought to class, the Dinosaur speech given in Public Speaking and the crafts made in Art (God bless that woman for giving me a break from scissors and glue)!

After most of the evening banter had died down and the little ones had splintered off to get ready for bed our 9-year-old lingered at the table. He took the opportunity to fill us in on his last class of the day, American Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. All at once he whipped out The Bill of Rights and proceeded to read them for us. Asking if we wanted to hear them was a foregone conclusion.

As our son read he paused to break down each amendment explaining what it meant. We listened politely as he continued, but the further he got down the list the more sober we became – taking in the truth and weight of the words he spoke.

Upon reaching the Fifth Amendment he needed a little help; so my husband and I took turns expounding on the meanings of the amendments. When we got to number ten I read,

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
“What does that mean?” he asked.

“Well, it means that the states and the people should have more power than the Federal government,” I said.

Holding up his Bill of Rights he said with conviction, “Well somebody needs to show this to the Federal government!”

Indeed! Perhaps we all need a little Enrichment. I can’t remember the last time I looked at the Bill of Rights much less gave them due consideration. In light of this and the precipice on which our nation hangs, I am listing our Bill of Rights below. May it be an encouragement to us, a reminder of our great freedom, and an admonition of the responsibility we have to preserve what we have been so richly blessed with!

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48b

The Bill of Rights

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Last Night I Died a Little

Have you ever really cried? That’s a silly question. I’m sure the answer is yes. I guess what I mean is when was the last time you cried?

I cried tonight, but not with tears. I groaned recognizing a pain in my heart and a lump in my throat that could not be swallowed. My ears rung and my eyes swam in an attempt to hold back a flood for I knew that if the tears came they wouldn’t stop at least not for awhile.

No one died. Nothing really traumatic occurred.

But what did happen stopped me cold. I witnessed something that left me broken, and then I encountered the heart of God.

I tasted a hint of the tragedy reserved for the mother who has lost a child. I felt a touch of the pain known to those who are estranged from a loved one. I carried for a moment the weight of being hated, unloved and unappreciated. Ultimately, I embraced the reality of a lost and hurting individual who is separated from God.

When was the last time you cried?

God is reconnecting me with my emotions. For a while I didn’t want to have anything to do with emotion. Writing and music fell by the wayside because for me those two activities require a great deal of passion and vulnerability. As a result it was easier to put them away rather than deal with the burden of having to feel so strongly.

Passion is dangerous. Once you open the door to such a strong emotion the pendulum can swing just as easily in the other direction. But one of the things I love about God is how he can take my emotion and do something totally out of my character. He can move me outside of myself and propel me to pray. He can show me his heart and give me a passion for His desires. So maybe it would be more accurate to state that God is reconnecting me with His emotion.

Yes I will pray tonight, but I will not pray as one who has no hope. I will pray as a child – broken, weak and needy, yet confident that my Father loves me and will answer my cries.

Maybe someone did die a little tonight. I pray that I would die a little more tomorrow and the day after that. “He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Matthew 16:24-26

Sunday, November 08, 2009

I'm Just Playin'...

What a wonderful invention – the Wii. It affords you the mindless fun of a video game, the unmerited skill of an athlete, and the favor awarded an Olympian upon successful completion of his appointed task.

We are not video game junkies in the Murie household, but we do occasionally succumb to the lure of competition.

One gray Saturday afternoon I observed a commotion coming from the TV room. I walked in to the pleasant hoots and high-fives of my four children. They were congratulating one another for scoring well in target practice.

I stopped and watched as each child in turn swung the Wii remote like a golf club while aiming for one of two targets on a virtual golf course. After awhile the kids turned and convinced both myself and my husband to compete.

We agreed. I was up first and stepped to the tee, club in hand. My first attempt wasn’t bad. We watched as my ball sailed over the first target and landed on the next garnering 50 points for me!

“Good Job, Mom!” they encouraged.

I patted myself on the back and prepared for my next swing. This time the ball flew over both targets – a miss.

“That’s okay Mom, try it again,” sang a chorus of little angels.

I did and struck gold with a perfect swing and a bull’s-eye worth 100 points. The crowd went wild! You would have thought I had won the Nobel Prize – so undeserving, so unexpected. There was jumping, there were high-fives, and there were shrieks of joy! “I could get used to this,” I thought.

I continued the game consistently scoring 25 points here and 50 points there, but every time I hit 100 there was a spontaneous celebration as I was swarmed by my adoring fans. I let myself enjoy the praise and used it to propel me toward the finish. After all, I now had to live up to my children’s great expectations and my ill-perceived potential.

After capturing the high score I left the game pumped up, feeling rather good about myself. In my children’s eyes I was the champion – the conquering hero. How kind they were to lend me accolades that I did not deserve. I recall the look in their eyes. There was no judgment, no jealousy, just unbridled excitement and satisfaction that I had done well.

Oh, that I could turn around and reinvest those smiles and cheers in each of my children as they live and learn, rise and fall come what may.

Perhaps I can prepare for this feat by heeding these words.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you will be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverb 16:24

Monday, November 02, 2009

We Are The One World Government

Depending on your leaning the term one-world government might conjure up apocalyptic images of the end of the age, or it might throw you back to a couch in the 80s where you and a friend sat glued to the television as Michael Jackson and company sang “We Are the World.”

These days it seems that more than just preachers and pop stars are addressing the idea of a one-world government. In fact, nationalism appears to be a thing of the past. Government need only accuse its subjects of pride and prejudice while regaling world peace and unity, and the people fall in line. The desired effect sees lemmings marching mindlessly toward this one world union with hands outstretched ready to exchange hard won freedoms for a guilt-free conscience.

Lord Christopher Monckton, chief policy advisor to the Science and Public Policy Institute and former policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher, made the news two weeks ago after addressing The Minnesota Free Market Institute at Bethel University. Monckton spoke in regard to Global Climate Change and National Sovereignty.

Through detailed analysis Lord Monckton dismissed the premise that CO2 emissions generated by humans are responsible for measurable climate change. He demonstrated the flaws in the arguments of proponents of global warming by introducing peer-reviewed scientific evidence to the contrary.

In closing, Monckton called attention to a treaty soon to be negotiated in Copenhagen.
He stated:

I read that treaty. And what it says is this, “that a world government is going to be created.” The word 'government' actually appears as the first of three purposes of the new entity. The second purpose is the transfer of wealth from the countries of the West to third world countries, in satisfaction of what is called, coyly, 'climate debt' - because we've been burning CO2 and they haven't. We've been screwing up the climate and they haven't. And the third purpose of this new entity, this government, is enforcement."

Of course this "government" which is short hand for an international enforcement authority would not be actually elected by the people who would be required to live under its dictates. No doubt taxes would have to be raised in countries that would be compelled to pay environmental reparations to the Third World. The enforcement authority or "government" would also have the power to regulate energy policy in the countries that sign the treaty.

Statements like those above are usually made to elicit a reaction, but that isn’t an altogether bad thing. While we need to be careful and not overreact like Chicken Little did, we must still consider such statements and research the validity of the claims for we may indeed find that the sky is falling! In light of that I found a draft of the aforementioned treaty and began to read it. I listened to Lord Monckton’s speech in its entirety, and I am continuing my own research on both climate change ‘theology’ and the United Nations. My initial findings are disturbing and somewhat in line with those of Lord Monckton.

The UN is a curious body. While there may be advantages to having a forum where world leaders can gather, there are the obvious pitfalls such as grandstanding dictators, murdering despots masquerading as corrupt politicians, and corrupt politicians posing as benefactors of the people. For years we have witnessed this organization wield treaties in an attempt to grab power and push its own agenda. How wonderful to be at the reigns of such an assembly. Why you could rule the world by means of blackmail and underhanded diplomacy.

Personally, I am very wary of giving rulers, whom I have had no party in electing and have no interest in vesting, aid in determining which liberties my country will uphold and which ones they will take away. These foreign leaders should have little to no decision in the course my country takes concerning climate change, industry or defense.

Still, I wonder will climate control be the avenue through which the UN realizes its liberal global agenda. What defense is there for critics of the policies purported to address the flawed science of global warming? Resisting the propaganda is inconvenient at best and scandalous at worst. It is a gamble that truth seekers take and in so doing are widely condemned as earth haters, barbarians and the like.

America at large has believed the lie perpetrated by those in the United Nations and the partisan scientific community. As a result we have been guilted into accepting the blame laid on us by the world. The price we will pay is our sovereignty and freedom.

As far as this one-world government is concerned, it may come, but that is not our immediate plight. I am not interested in conspiracy theories, and I am not worried about the apocalypse. I know where I stand.

What I care about right now is freedom. The freedom found in America still offers hope to many across the globe. If that freedom is taken from us, it is taken from multitudes. If we let the freedoms we don’t care about – the ones we’ve never really used slip away, then it won’t be long before our speech is muffled or silenced altogether. Government will reach in and take and take until it has all it needs. Sadly, it will never be enough.

It is arrogant for us to think that what has occurred in so many other nations cannot happen in America. The question is will we stand idly by and watch as our nation goes up in flames. In that regard I suppose the images we began with are appropriate as we end. If we will not act and we will not speak then perhaps we could simply join hands together and sing “We Are the World” as we watch it burn.

*One of the great reasons we need to pay attention and guard our freedoms is so that we might share God's Word without censorship. Today I share truth from Isaiah. I am always amazed at how God uses his Word to speak to the issues of the day.

Isaiah 8:11-19
11 The LORD spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. He said:
12 "Do not call conspiracy
everything that these people call conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
and do not dread it.
13 The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread,
14 and he will be a sanctuary;
but for both houses of Israel he will be
a stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.
And for the people of Jerusalem he will be
a trap and a snare.
15 Many of them will stumble;
they will fall and be broken,
they will be snared and captured."
16 Bind up the testimony
and seal up the law among my disciples.
17 I will wait for the LORD,
who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob.
I will put my trust in him.
18 Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.
19 When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.

There are many things that vie for our attention in the media both socially and politically, but I pray that we might look to God and his Word for our response to the problems that present themselves each day. Lord God, have mercy on us and rekindle our love and passion for you so that others might come face to face with your grace and truth.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

When Thinking Tanks

At what point did our thinking tank?

Was it when we abandoned our work ethic and became dependent on handouts from the government? Maybe it was before that when we refused to curb our spending because of our own personal and corporate greed. Could it have tanked when we accepted the proposition that government really does know what is best – rather than the individual? Or was it in the midst of all of this when we simply stopped believing that our voices could even be heard within the sea of corruption that stymies Washington?

Regardless, it appears that many of us haven’t let the collective brain melt bother us too much because we don’t think that politics affects us immediately or personally. The sad thing is we are wrong and unaware of the degree to which it does. So we plod along through our days, weeks and months wholly unconscious that we are being stripped of our liberties one by one – a little here, a little there, just so that we barely notice. Sadly, when we finally do notice we may find that the decisions made by those in power affect us much more personally than many of us ever imagined they would.

For our part, I think we tend toward one of these three schools of thought.

One, we are in agreement with big government’s policies and don’t take issue with whatever our party thinks is best. “After all, they must have our best interests at heart.” We reason, “Those who disagree are against progress and motivated by self-interest not the good of the whole.”

Two, we just don’t want to get involved. We tell ourselves, “It takes too much time. I’m not sure I’m really qualified to speak to those issues. I’ll let the person who handles those kind of things handle them. Surely someone is holding them accountable. I have a business and a family to manage, why should I concern myself with the bureaucracy of people out of my scope of reference.”

Three, we are scared – scared of the implications if we stand up and speak out. We ask, “What if I’m wrong? I don’t have all the answers. When is it right to speak up, and when should I just be silent? What kind of response will I receive?”

For many I have noticed the tendency to jump on the bandwagon of popular thought, or that thought which everyone applauds as forward and inclusive. But for the one who differs on politics or issues of faith there is often no parade. Fear may cause him to tiptoe through a landmine of friends whom he is worried about upsetting lest he bring a firestorm down on himself along with the label intolerant. This same fear may keep others from coming to his aid.

These paradigms are nothing new. They play out day to day, from decade to decade, which is why this at some point ceases to be about politics or even current events. For at the end of the day all politics is folly, and every society a vapor, a breath. Every man’s reason is flawed and every man is subject to his Creator.

With this in mind we must ask ourselves. Are some ideas superior to others? The answer is yes, because truth is non-negotiable. Are some governments superior? Again, yes. It must be so because absolutes do exist. There are universal, physical and moral laws that we are bound by, and they demand adherence. Above all we must value the right of individuals to live their lives and sustain their liberty in peace. The entanglements of an invasive government choke out liberty. Therefore the government which protects its people without encroaching on their liberties is a superior form of government.

Let us not forget these words penned by our forefathers, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration of Independence 1776

These men believed we each have a right to the pursuit of happiness but not necessarily to happiness itself or to another’s pursuit of happiness on our behalf. We lose ourselves when others begin making decisions for us. That is why we have a bill of rights.

George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

More recently Gerald Ford stated, "Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have. The course of history shows us that as a government grows, liberty decreases."

We can no longer be bullied by a power-hungry government. We must no longer allow our taxes to be spent on stimulus packages the government can neither afford nor implement. No matter how good they are for us.

Is it my job to care for the widow and the orphan? Yes it is, but it is not government’s job to make me care for the widow and the orphan. This is the responsibility of the church and the individual. And we – the church, have failed on many fronts. First we have failed to speak truth with boldness, clarity and love, and secondly, we have been slow to follow through on Jesus’ command to take care of the least of these.

Are we selfish? Yes, we are, and we should weep over this sin. But the answer to our problems does not come by throwing money that we do not have at these problems. It certainly does not come from giving our earth more attention than we do her Creator. It comes only through repenting as a nation over our sin. This sin has been committed, not against the nations of the world, but against our God whom we have ignored. It is then and only then that our thinking will begin to rise from the gutter in which it now stagnates.

Maybe we should take our cue from the Old Testament which reads, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You're Invited to Dinner

In many families the dinner table is a traditional space for sharing. One is likely to find laughter, inane banter, discipline and the recalling of events from the day.

Our family embraces this time-honored tradition; so one evening in accordance with dinner table bylaws I asked my 9-year-old son to tell his dad what he had done that day. Always the joker he responded with a crooked smile, “What do you mean Mom? I did a lot of things today.”

I gave him the look – the look that all moms give their irreverent children. I held his gaze for a moment before my easygoing husband interrupted, “Why don’t you tell me about your day, bud. How did it begin?”

With what appeared to be another stunt from his playbook my son tilted his head and spoke thoughtfully, “My day began by getting up. I never know whether to get up or stay in bed. I think it’s because I’m always so tired.”

I was prepared to pounce on his impudent reply before I recognized the sincerity in his voice. There was no hint of humor or sarcasm. In fact, it was as if he had been waiting all day for someone to come along and unlock the vault of his mind. My husband had cracked the safe with just the right combination of words. What he found was a wealth of information provided through a detailed accounting of our son’s rather routine day.

Moments like these remind me that my kids are interesting, fragile, and more than ready to share. However, I do not always find myself as tender and ready to listen. Their demands are so many and so frequent that I have difficulty maintaining a proper perspective where they are concerned.

I struggle consistently with how to block out the distractions children bring without blocking them out altogether. I want to hear my kids without it requiring a meltdown, a mediator or a disciplinarian, but too often this is exactly the point where I step in. Unfortunately, the result is that I sometimes miss the precious moments, the moments of innocence.

I long to really see my children and to see myself praising them for who they are and what they have done right rather than finding fault with them in their moments of weakness. Clearly, I must pay attention. I must resist the urge to say, “No, not now – later,” and I must not assume that my kids are headed down the path of mischief and mayhem. Why borrow trouble? There will be plenty of opportunities to correct them without anticipating imagined infractions.

Luke writes:
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.Luke 6:37-38

I am challenged by this scripture. These very words give me pause when I am tempted to withhold from my children the grace which is extended to me each day.

While addressing this challenge our family will continue to set the table with exciting stories serving up both grace and correction along with a fair helping of sarcasm and wit. Beyond that my hope is for our table to be an open forum where family and friends linger and laugh. Isn’t that what we all desire – a warm space to share our lives and the freedom to be ourselves.

“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.”Proverb 17:1

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Beautiful Mind

My daughter loves arbitrary numbers. When the dogs are barking she will frequently say something like, “Maybe they’re barking at something 22 miles away.” When driving somewhere she often asks, “How much longer till we get there?” If I answer, “Just 30 minutes,” her reply is, “Well, at least it’s not 142 minutes.”

Optimistically put.

This fascination with numbers has an origination point I’m sure. But each time I come close to unraveling the mystery that accompanies my 3 foot 9 nine inch enigma, she throws me a blistering curve ball.

The other evening my husband and the boys were gone to soccer practice while the girls and I sat happily munching on pizza. Between bites my five-year-old chirped. “I’m smarter than Joel Caleb.”

Now this was a bold statement because Joel Caleb is one smart kid not to mention four years older than she is. Still I was curious to hear her logic; so attempting to guard her fragile ego I asked, “Why do think you are smarter than Joel Caleb?”

“I know I’m smarter because Joel Caleb doesn’t know that I eat paper.”

I sat there slack-jawed as she continued, “I try not to, but sometimes I still do eat paper,” she said with a mischievous grin.

Pushing the paper-eating comment to the back of my mind and trying to introduce reason I posed, “It’s not nice to say we’re smarter than somebody else.” But she couldn’t be stopped, so I gazed in amazement at my fiber-friendly munchkin while my seven-year-old giggled at the exchange.

“Well, I know I’m smarter about me because Joel Caleb doesn’t know what’s in my head. So I am smarter about my head.” She then elaborated on the anatomy of her brain. I must tell you; it was fascinating. “This part of my head is always counting, and it is so annoying. My forehead is always telling me to play my piano, and this part is telling me to take a bath,” she said while pointing to the different parts of her head.

She seemed exasperated after recounting the various functions of her brain. I just couldn’t get past the phrase, “This part of my head is always counting.” Ever trying to resolve the number mystery I wondered aloud, “What is it always counting?”

“It’s counting to a million,” she said reasonably.

“Do you even know how to count to a million?” I countered.

“No, but my head does!” she smiled.

So the number mystery remains hidden in an annoying region of my daughter’s brain. I can only assume the random number we hear at various times during any given day is not really random, but a number plucked from a series of numbers as her head cycles through one million over and over again.

Yes. I guess that would be pretty annoying.

Monday, October 05, 2009

When is it OK to Exploit Children?

Have you heard of Roman Polanski? Let me introduce you...

The filmmaker/pedephile was arrested Saturday, September 26th, regarding a three-decade-old underage sex case as he arrived to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich film festival.

Celebrity, Debra Winger claims that the event was “exploited in an unfair fashion,” but last I recall it is the thirteen-year-old victim who was exploited – through use of drugs, alcohol and forcible sexual relations by a forty-four year old man who then fled to France the evening before his sentencing. This man now seventy-six is unrepentant and just “not sure if anyone was hurt.” Yes, those are his words.

His advocates claim we should let bygones be bygones. Others state that, “It’s really no big deal because we have so many other important items to deal with.” Since when is justice a choice? Do we give someone a pass because they are popular, or because they claim to be an artist given to the radical circumstances of the times?

We as a society should condemn those who support a pedephile like Roman Polanski. And I mean we should be taking down names! I’m disgusted by some of the articles I’ve read listing celebrities and public officials who support this fugitive of justice. I’m shocked by the people I’ve heard call into radio programs to justify Polanski’s actions and attack our justice system’s recent arrest.

How is it that we reward criminals and admire their outstanding achievement in business while ignoring their moral depravity? This man was set to receive a lifetime achievement award for his work as a director in film. He has scores of followers crying out for his release. But where are the voices crying out for the children? Where are the voices that demand justice?

Let me be clear. This is not about Roman Polanski.Is it any wonder that there still exists in our world the wholesale exploitation of people through the slave trade? We have set the table for the appetites of those who continue to degrade women and young children. We need only look as far as our own computer and the bloodlust of the Porn industry. To borrow a quote from Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu in his recent UN address, “Have we no shame? Have we no decency?”

Below are a few statistics concerning modern day slavery and human trafficking. I would ask that as you read them you first consider your own children, and then that you please pray considering how learning these statistics might move you to action.

Lord have mercy on us. We have excused ourselves through ignorance for too long.

An estimated 27 million people are held in slavery worldwide, meaning there are more people enslaved in the world now than were taken from Africa during 300 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

After drug trafficking, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms trade as the second largest criminal industry in the world, and it is the fastest growing. (hhs)

Approximately 800,000 to 900,000 victims are annually trafficked across international borders worldwide. (Dept of State)

In the United States alone, it is estimated that there are 200,000 slaves.

The average price of individual slaves is less than a new cell phone or about $90. (nfs)

By 2010, Human Trafficking will be the # 1 crime worldwide. (Dept of State)

Every 10 minutes, one person is trafficked into the U.S. Around the World, a victim is exploited every minute.

Each year, more than 1 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade. Approximately 80 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. (Dept of State)

The majority of transnational victims are trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. (Dept. of State)

13 is the average age of entry into pornography and prostitution in the USA. (FBI)

(*Source for statistics http://www.free-international.org/)
For more information check out: http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/

Monday, September 28, 2009

I agree with the French President...who'd of thought?

I wrote this note a week ago during the UN summit and after recent statements by French President Nicolas Sarkozy I've decided to post my own commentary regarding current U.S. foreign policy. Here goes:

President Obama’s foreign policy appears naive at best and dangerous at worst. The administration’s most recent decision to scrap the ground base missile defense shield for Eastern Europe telegraphs a posture of indifference toward our allies and panders dangerously to our enemies. Likewise our approach to strategic arms reduction at this point in time puts our national security and that of our allies at great risk – at risk because those to whom we would make ourselves vulnerable do not adhere to the same rules.

We endanger our own citizens as The United States caves to world pressure to be nice and play fair. Our longtime allies – Poland, The Czech Republic and Israel sense betrayal, and these friends are certain to bear the brunt of our attempts to court dictators like Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Kim Jong-il. And for what do we trade our friends? Is it the reputation as a tolerant, world-conscious United States, or is it for treaties with pompous leaders who would use our Chamberlain-like acquiescence to move forward with their own maniacal plans – nuclear proliferation and the like?

Has history taught us nothing? Is it possible that diplomats think so much of themselves that they believe they can make mad people sane by catering to their whims and entertaining their lunacy? This is the height of arrogance. This pride and denial of reality is what put Europe in danger in the 1930s and set the stage for fiends like Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini.

I suppose many are tired of hearing references to the WWII era, but they bear repeating. We are following in the footsteps of a weak and woeful Great Britain weighed down by the ineptitude of Neville Chamberlain. But the stakes are far greater today as we deal with an unparalleled access to information and technology – technology which can cripple and kill from thousands of miles away or be carried lightly in a suitcase.

Have we imagined that man’s consciousness has evolved since the 1930s? Have we gone mad? Evil is still evil. Men still thirst for power and will seek to promote themselves to the detriment of others when left unchecked. There is no negotiating with mad men. They understand nothing, but their own lusts. They respect nothing but the fear they incite, and they will hear no voice but their own.

Appeasement is futile.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Delinquent Tooth Fairy

You know your kids are growing up when they begin to dispense with make-believe characters like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Now Santa Claus is a little more difficult to let go of, but the Tooth Fairy – let’s just say my son has no problem throwing her under the bus.

My oldest son is nine and reason is beginning to settle in his mind leaving less room for childish notions. Recently he lost a tooth, and like most children his age, he assumes this means money in his pocket via his pillow. We have yet to address this sense of entitlement.

After the initial excitement of the lost tooth began to fade my son approached me with a look of diplomacy. “Mom, since we both know who the Tooth Fairy really is, I just want to remind you that I’m putting my tooth under my pillow tonight. I don’t want you to forget because last time I got really frustrated when the Tooth Fairy didn’t come – for a LONG time.” After this tender reprimand, he walked off to examine his toothless grin.

I had been dressed down by my nine-year-old son. He was right of course. The tardy Fairy was derelict in her duty by about two weeks (please don’t judge the Fairy). Poor boy kept looking under his pillow every morning to find nothing but his little baby tooth. I kept telling him the Tooth Fairy probably couldn’t get into his room because all the windows were closed. He wasn’t buying it.

Eventually the tooth disappeared, but nothing took its place. We would discover later that it had slipped down into the abyss under my son’s bed. I determined this time I would not forget about the tooth. The Fairy had been put on notice.

Throughout the rest of the day I continued to receive little notes from my son delivered on scraps of paper and napkins. The first note was delivered via airmail. It spiraled down from the loft and landed at my feet. I picked it up and read, “De-spare tooth...under pillow.” My son explained that it was an adaptation of a joke about a very sad car tire, De-spare tire. Ha!

After a long day I crawled into my bed ready for a good night’s sleep. I leaned over to my nightstand to grab a book and found scrawled on a napkin, “Don’t forget about my tooth.” A smile caught my lips; I shook my head in disbelief and proceeded to read my book.

After all of that, there is no justifying the inaction that followed. Despite many reminders the Tooth Fairy remained true to form. Attribute it to ADD or pure exhaustion, but the Fairy did not visit the pillow of the toothless boy that evening or the next. Lazy Fairy! The Poor little tooth was bound to lie in despair under my son’s pillow a little while longer. And due to the Fairy’s gross negligence, taxes, and tooth inflation, I suppose my son is now “entitled” to a larger payday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Do Over!

We homeschool.

This statement elicits a myriad of responses and suggests as many teaching styles.

Homeschool stereotypes are not hard to come by. Some suit us, others do not. I’m not sure that you could label us a typical homeschool family, because no two are alike. The most common characteristic of families who homeschool is they are Independent.

Given that disclaimer, it shouldn’t be too surprising that my children are fairly independent learners, but like any child they require good instruction to point them in the right direction.

One particular morning my newly initiated second-grader was demonstrating just such independence. She had been attacking her math all morning, completing three days of assignments (6 pages) in one sitting without my prompting. While I busied myself with varied household duties she moved on to Grammar.

Between Laundry and dishes I wandered over to check on her and discovered that she had entered unfamiliar territory. She was faced with putting a group of words in alphabetical order.

The directions were clear enough to me but baffled my daughter. Being the self-starter that she is, she moved forward performing the task as best she knew how without asking for my help.

She took the list of five words she was given – EAT, ORANGE, ABOVE, GRAPE and BANANA and instead of placing the group in ABC order, she alphabetized each word. EAT became AET, ORANGE became AEGNOR...well you get the picture! She had done an excellent job in HER assessment of the situation, and I praised her for her ingenuity; however she did not complete the task assigned. She had misunderstood and consequently had to do it again. It was an understandable mistake, but a mistake nonetheless, which resulted in having to start over.

How often have I with the best of intentions moved forward on my own accord doing just what I thought was best or necessary and made a great mess of things simply because I misinterpreted a situation or flat out didn’t understand? I wish life was as easy as Grammar. Just read the directions, follow the instructions, and at the end of the day wad up the pieces of life that I did wrong, throw them away and start over.

I spend so much time agonizing over the consequences of my actions real and imagined that I often make things worse through my worry or attempts to make things right. Though I can’t cite a “do over” and change my past I can admit to my error and ask forgiveness for a wrong and clear direction for the future.

The Psalmist King David writes of God:

"he does not treat us as our sins deserve or
repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:10-12

John writes:

"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.' But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one, sir,' she said. 'Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.'"
John 8:3-11

What incredibly good news! Through Jesus, God has given us a “do over.” If we confess our sin before him and leave it behind, he no longer holds it against us. We may not be able to undo our mistakes big or small, but we can start over with a better understanding.

That is why I am thankful for the Bible which introduces us to God, reminds us of his faithfulness through past generations and enlightens us of his promises for our future. Through this guide He provides clear direction for anything we will encounter and grants us an unparalleled opportunity to start over – with better instructions!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Moms Stink!

“I don’t like Moms.”

Just four careless words that tumbled out of my 5-year-old’s mouth last week. I’m sure no parent relishes hearing that their child dislikes them, but here was my daughter swearing off a whole class – not one mom but all moms! I suppose I should find comfort in this. She doesn’t want another mom; she was just stating her perspective – Moms stink! Ok, so I’m feeling a little vulnerable and hyperbolic.

I posed the obvious question.

“Why don’t you like moms?”

“Because they make us do things like clean up our rooms, and they don’t let us eat candy, and they don’t let us have Gatorade whenever the boys do,” was her honest reply.

Fair enough.

Like my daughter, I remember not liking my mom very much at times and even making similar statements (sorry Mom). I also remember vowing NEVER to do many of the things that I now do with great ease and justification. So let me join the ranks of the guilty that look back over their childhood and cringe at how they treated their parents. I now see with clarity much wisdom in many of the actions my parents took.

The statement at hand has also caused me to reflect on my father/daughter relationship with God. I don’t think I’ve ever told God that I don’t like him, but too often my actions display just that sentiment. Like a wayward preschooler I whine and drag my feet toward my appointed task resisting with every excuse that comes to mind.

The truth is I don’t want to clean up the mess of a room that lies within my heart. It’s too much work. It’s overwhelming. There are so many other fun things to do. In addition, it’s so tempting to eat and take in things that aren’t good for me. Wouldn’t it be easier to be my own boss and do things my own way? So I essentially say, “I don’t need you God. I don’t like you. I can do it on my own.”

But like my 5-year-old who cannot sustain or protect herself, neither can I sustain or protect my spirit. Like my daughter who generally functions out of self-motivated desire, I function in that place too. Though I am grown and would assume to know more as master of my own destiny, the context of my world most often revolves around me and my understanding of it. But my understanding is flawed and falls short making me a lousy god.

The apostle Paul writes of his own flawed understanding:
“When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-25

Additionally Isaiah writes:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my
ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

I recognize the truth and power of these words as I read them, but I only experience peace and freedom as I relax and submit myself to God’s authority. My struggle only creates confusion and pain.

I realize that natural human instinct moves us to fight for independence and strive for our own way; so I wait paitently for a quiet moment when I can wrap my arms around my daughter and hold her - as God holds me. For as long as I can I will attempt to comfort and guard this little one from those things that might bring her harm, and I will pray that she finds rest as she yields to these arms of love.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dead Bugs and Other Dead Things

“Mommy, I found a roly poly bug. It’s dead! I want to keep it as a pet!”

“You can’t keep it as a pet. It’s dead!” I told my 3-year-old.

“But I want to show it to everybody!”

During this conversation I was reading Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest. He writes, “Beware if in sharing your personal testimony you continually have to look back saying ‘Once, a number of years ago, I was saved.’ If you have put your ‘hand to the plow’ and are walking in the light there is no looking back.”

It’s so tempting to live in the past gazing on it with rose-tinted glasses remembering selectively the good times as better, easier or less confusing than the current state. I’ve noticed a tendency in myself to exalt such periods so that nothing in the present could possibly measure up to my slanted memory.

This is true especially in times of spiritual drought. I think back to the last time I felt close to God, more at peace, more alive. I try to conjure up good feelings about God and myself by doing good things or contemplating the last thing I remember that made me feel something. But doing that is like expecting yesterday’s meals to provide the sustenance I need for today. It only lasts for so long. If anyone goes on like that day after day depending on last week’s resources, they’ll become weak and eventually die.

I’ve never been more aware of my lack of resources than when I find someone else in need of refreshment, and I have nothing more to offer than my dead bugs. “Aren’t they lovely?” I ask. I know they’re dead, but once they were alive and man they used to move. You should have seen them then. Oh, the things you could have learned!” I know kind of gross. Time has allowed rot and decay to set in, and now only the shell of life remains, the memory of what once was.

Jesus said,

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” John 15:1-7

God doesn’t want us to live in the past. He wants us to grow from it as he cuts away the DEAD things that inhibit our growth. It’s exciting to think that He has something new and ALIVE for me today. I need only stop, ask and listen. I’m curious and expectant to see what he has in store. I just hope it doesn’t involve bugs.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So you think You can dance

I think every family has a child that dances to the beat of her own drum. For ours that dancer is Haley, and I’m pretty sure she has her own band.

Haley is five years old, our second girl and the third of four children. She is by default our middle child, but she will not go unnoticed. She has built-in qualities that call attention to her individuality. In a house where every child is up by 7 a.m. Haley will not be moved before 9 a.m. Attempting to pry her from the cocoon she has created of her blanket promises a struggle and a long day. We have learned to let Haley sleep.

Of course these late mornings mean late nights where Haley has energy to spare at 10 o’clock in the evening. Finding no one awake enough to play with, she often searches me out and insists on quality Mother-Daughter time. This makes for many an interesting moonlit-chat.

This morning after emerging from her quilted shroud and picking through breakfast, Haley asked me to color with her. When I suggested we color a cute, little duck orange she piped brightly, “Let’s make it a colorful duck.” And so, that is what it became – a very, colorful duck and the perfect representation of Haley.

Color is important to Haley. At an early age we dubbed her our fashion Diva. Her fashion choices are surprising and complex – often choosing layers and mixing florals and plaids. Somehow she always manages to pull it off with a bright smile and a wild accessory – usually a hat. Hats are her favorite and mine.

As naturally unique as she is, she desperately wants to do whatever her older brother and sister are doing just in her own way. She and her older sister both love to cook, but Haley wants to create something original EVERY day. Experimentation is key in this process. For someone, like me, who doesn’t enjoy cooking all that much, she is hard to accommodate.

Today our exchange went something like this:

“Mommy can I cook something?!”

“Not right now Honey.”

“Ok, when you’re done writing...You know what I’m gonna make...a strawberry cake! I need frozen strawberries and some candy!”

“Honey, we don’t have any strawberries, and I really don’t want to make anything today.”

“Ok, I’ll make it by myself. It’ll be a surprise...I’ll make an ice cream cake or a candy mix cake but not an egg cake because nobody likes my egg cakes.”

She’s right. Her egg cakes consist of disproportionate amounts of eggs, oil, milk, herbs, sprinkles and a few other mystery ingredients. All this is mixed and then radiated in the microwave. Poor girl needs an easy bake oven!

Along with this stellar creative streak comes a powerful will, one that needs to be bridled without muzzling the wonderful spirit that defines her. It is a blessing and a challenge to be the mother given that privilege. I love being Haley’s mom. I love Haley.

Given all her eccentricity, I’m not sure if she’ll grow up to be a designer, a chef, or simply a really cool mom, but I am confident that whatever she does she’ll dance her way through with an attitude that won’t quit and a whole lot of passion. Sounds like a dance I’d like to learn.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Public Servanthood

We have largely dismissed the notion of true service – that service which requires something of us for which we gain nothing in return as if it were but a notion.

One may assume that a public servant is one whose duty it is to serve the public. While that may be true, how and in what capacity they serve is varied. The term public servant encompasses a large group of people who work in all sectors of government from police officers and technical staff to senators and governors. But when I see the title public servant I immediately connect it with an elected representative.

This elected servant fills his role by serving to represent the best interests of the body – that is his body of constituents – before his peers and those who enact law and public policy. In taking that oath of office he agrees to dismiss his own prejudice and determines to act lawfully on his constituents behalf. But there remains that potential for these public servants to imagine such self-importance that they are quickly reduced to those who simply serve in public. Can we in good conscience call this service? For what are they serving but to enhance their own ego and secure greater power for themselves and special interests?

What answer is there? What recourse when the discourse has become such that ordinary individuals are considered inconsequential – mere pebbles in the politician’s shoe. In the republic there is but one answer, remove the shoe of the politician so that he no longer must deal with the pressure of the pebbles which threaten to upset him. If he can no longer bear the abrasion then he may no longer serve the public that grates so frequently against his conscience.

It seems so few are immune to this reality, and it is unfortunate that history supports this. It is a wonder that any man or woman survives the political arena much less emerges unscathed. I have facetiously wondered if the rites to enter public office include the dismantling of ones principles along with their prejudice. Though there are exceptions, it is a tragedy that so many are blinded by power and influence. For too often what rises in policy bears little in resemblance to what many public servants promised when they left home and entered the capitol, be it in their respective states or in Washington itself.

Shall our public servants be the left alone to shoulder this blame? No. We have failed to hold them accountable either through our apathy or our ignorance. We can no more extricate ourselves from responsibility than we can remove ourselves from the human race. We have left inconvenient, albeit important matters in the hands of humans given to every temptation. When given license and free reign one may be prone to corruption with what is mistaken as the very will of the people at his back. He surmises, “The people put me here. They trust my judgment, and I indeed know what is best for them even if they do not know it themselves.” This logic gives rise to pride and pride gives way to the fall.

We can trace this to Adam and his original sin. Adam and Eve discounted God’s warning and gave in to the serpent’s temptation thinking it would put them on level footing with God. Even Solomon, noted as the wisest man who ever lived, pursued foolishness in his old age, forsook the living God and followed after his lusts, bowing down to wood and stone. Each of these individuals was given tremendous power only to squander it on their own passions.

In contrast, Jesus always sought the will of God before acting. This discipline allowed him to see beyond himself. Observe Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper before his crucifixion:

"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." John 13:14-17

Also, when asked about leadership positions in Jesus Kingdom, Jesus responded:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

This is the public servant which I long to see in myself and in my community - the kind that lays down his life and considers others before himself. I wonder what that job listing might look like.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Bible Gambling...Don't knock it till you've tried it.

For better or worse my husband has always played a game with the kids, which involves Bible questions and cash. Sounds holy doesn’t it? Read on it gets better.

The kids love this crazy game and look forward to it.

My husband begins by giving everyone eight pennies. In turn each child puts up the amount of pennies they are willing to risk and then they get their question. If answered correctly they gain the amount of pennies they wagered. If they get it wrong they lose their pennies. To be fair the questions are age appropriate, with each child usually surprising us with how much they have learned. Our younger kids generally get questions where the only answers are God or Jesus. We all cheer and everyone is very happy.

This particular evening I was observing the game and playing the phone-a-friend role while our youngest son dozed on the couch. Things were going quite well or as well as one might expect in the world of Bible gambling. Our oldest son would respond to everyone’s questions with, “That’s easy. Can I answer that one?” Our oldest daughter was raking in the cash with her total coming to 14 cents (that girl’s been reading her Bible). Sadly, our 5-year-old daughter could not be helped even with the largest of hints. After three tries she finally remembered that Noah built the ark.

The end of the game saw the 5-year-old trailing the other children, a fact which did not escape her. In frustration she commented that everyone had more pennies than she did. We tried to soothe her by pointing out that she had no pennies when we began but now had seven to keep. It was no use - reason was lost in the wake of emotion.

I didn’t help things one bit when I innocently praised her sister for how much she had been reading her Bible lately.

As a result we were hardly surprised when our 5-year-old announced rather loudly, “But I can’t even read!”

Classic! Clearly, I should have been more careful in my appraisal of the children and the situation. Our older daughter took notice.

As we wrapped up and everyone gathered their winnings, the girls sat conversing and before we knew it had come up with a plan. They declared to us that next time they would work together as a team, so that they could help one another with the answers to the questions and consequently split their earnings. What clever, communal and capitalistic thinking.

With bedtime approaching they ran upstairs, to read their Bibles I assume, and prepare for the next Bible match, date and time TBD. The last we heard was our older daughter offering to read while the 5-year-old promised to listen attentively. Ah, teamwork.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Ramblings from the mind of a 3-year-old boy

Last night around 11:30pm my 3-year-old son entered my bedroom. After a moment’s hesitation, I squelched the urge to send him back to bed and invited him to stay. As he climbed onto my bed I proceeded to ask him what he wanted to say to Daddy in the email I was typing. His response was, “I love you Daddy.” I was fishing for more, so I asked him to share with Daddy what he did today. He then asked, “Mommy, what did I do today?”

I continued to probe, and his response was, “You tell me.”


I somehow was able to catch a few more interesting little quips, but mostly just, “I love you Daddy.”

I sent the email and began to read my Bible. Of course my son would not be left out, so he asked me to read to him – from the book of Ezekiel. “We’ll see how kid-friendly this is,” I thought. To my surprise he started repeating each phrase I read, so I slowed my pace to allow him to keep up. He mirrored each inflection and did his best to say the right word. It was too cute. I wondered how long he could keep this up.

After about a chapter of Pete and Repeat he said, “Mommy, I can’t do this all day long.” “Why?” I feigned disappointment, “Because I’m ready to go to sleep,” he replied. But he wasn’t – he just changed the course of the conversation.

“Mommy, are there fireflies outside? It’s too dark outside. I wish I could catch a big firefly.”

“Mommy, are we going to a garage sale tomorrow? ‘Cause I need to get a choo-choo train.”

“Mommy, guess what I made up. Can you please eat them Sam I am? I do not like them Sam I am. I cannot eat in a car, or a tree, or a box, or anything. I CAN eat them on a table!”

I’m always curious to see what little roads we will travel down when he leads the conversation. I just don’t always have the time to wait and see, but for now...

“Mommy, don’t you know what that guy does? He smacks his face.”

“What guy?” I ask, “The guy on T.V. – on the movie tonight.”

I let him talk and talk, uninterrupted except for the occasional question to clarify. I mostly marveled at him and then thought about how we relate to God in prayer. God never turns us away and sends us back to our room when we come calling. He is never in a hurry. He invites me to stay and waits to hear from me - maybe hoping for an “I love you Daddy.”

How God must marvel at us as we go on and on and on about our day and our concerns. Like a parent with his child I imagine him smiling lovingly and enjoying the often one-sided conversation. What a pleasant thought, that God really enjoys listening to me ramble.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Loneliness vs. More than Enough

“My children I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’” John 13:33-34

How heartbroken must the disciples have been upon hearing this? How lonely must they have felt as they encountered the departure of their friend and teacher? These men had given up everything to follow him. Where in the world was he going that they wouldn’t be willing to follow? Peter responds, “Lord, why can’t I follow you? I will lay down my life for you.”

Peter has made it clear that he doesn’t want Jesus to go anywhere without him. Peter will not be left behind, and the thought of life without Jesus is unthinkable. Peter is the same disciple who, when asked if he would join others who were bailing out on Jesus, uttered the words, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” John 6:68

Peter doesn’t want to be alone.

I don’t think anybody wants to be alone, at least not for long. We’d like some alone time, but we don’t want to be lonely. I watched my mom deal with loneliness as a Navy wife. She, like thousands of others, endured months of being alone with the three of us while Dad was at sea. And all this before cell phones and the internet. I have watched friends experience the tragic loss of a spouse, a parent or a child. We have grieved together, but I can only imagine the loneliness that steals in behind closed doors. And I have spoken with others who, though surrounded by people and experience, have shared that they still feel very much alone .

I experience loneliness often as Brian travels. When he is away I feel like a part of me is missing. I feel incomplete. Most days I deal with our separation in an acceptable fashion, but other days are really depressing. On those days I don’t know if I want noise or silence. Sometimes I want noise to drown out the other noise in my head. Noise to drown out the ache I experience when he is gone and life is overwhelming.

And my heart aches as I hear Jesus say, “Where I am going you cannot come.” Like Peter I wonder Why? My heart longs to be where he is – for his peace and his presence. But Jesus is preparing us just as he did his disciples for our most difficult and rewarding challenge yet.

Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled...I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3),but meanwhile, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35.

Jesus is leaving, and he knows that his friends will grieve. He understands they will be lonely and persecuted because of their belief in him. So he says:
Take care of each other.
Meet each other’s needs.
Cry with one another.
Laugh together.
Don’t ignore one another.
Love with intent.
Love with purpose.
Love without your own agenda.
This is how Jesus loved them.
They cannot be separate from him if they are acting and responding to one another in love.

In all this Jesus knows the love that they attempt to give one another will not be enough. Have you ever tried to love someone with everything that you have in the best way that you can? It’s hard – really hard! I, for one, always screw up! I know I’m not alone in this.

Peter, when confronted with his association with Jesus, denies him three times before the rooster crows on the very day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Each denial creates distance between he and Jesus causing him to feel more and more alone. Only days earlier Peter had claimed he would follow Jesus and die for him. Why did he deny him? Because he is human, and like me, he is weak, selfish and often afraid. Thank God for the grace that Jesus’ bought when he died for Peter on the cross.

This same Peter, weeks later, filled with the Holy Spirit of God, preached the Good news of Jesus' death and resurrection with boldness to a crowd of thousands in Jerusalem - inviting them to receive the same grace that he had been given. What changed? Peter did! He was no longer alone. He was now armed with supernatural power, radical conviction and sacrificial love.

Sacrificial love which really became a sacrifice, as Peter went on to lay down his life in the name of Jesus.

Have I encountered Jesus in such a way? Have I relied on his supernatural presence that I might love selflessly, enough to lay down my own life? Can I do that without surrendering all that I am?

Today, while singing at church, I wondered, "Do I really believe what I'm singing about?"
Is it true Jesus?
Is...........All of you
Really......More than enough for all of me?
For (my) every thirst and (my) every need?
Do you really......Satisfy me with your love?
Is...........All I have in you more than enough?

Have I allowed you to be more than enough? Have I slowed down enough to listen and understand your voice? Oh God, empty me of the substitutes that I've filled my life with both physical and emotional, and fill me with more than enough.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In the Stillness

The constancy of the message of Christ lives in action. Sometimes that action means sitting still, but it is a productive stillness. A still life submitted to God is very productive indeed. For it is in the quiet and in the stillness that we are able to develop the discipline of listening for his voice. It is in the calm that we learn to recognize that He is speaking, and we may discern when he is telling us to move and when he is telling us to stop moving.

Stillness seems impossible to achieve these days with the constant demands we place on ourselves, not to mention the ones others place on us. I for one don’t want to be seen as lazy or irresponsible, so I keep busy with tasks both important and frivolous. But what is my busyness accomplishing? Honestly, sometimes I just busy myself because it’s really too hard to sit still and be patient. After all there is always something that needs to be done – even if it’s just changing my Facebook status.

The truth is I haven’t cultivated stillness, and therefore it is something akin to cajoling a 3-year-old into eating his vegetables. And what is the big deal anyway? Does every moment of my life need to be laced with purpose? Well, I think every moment does have purpose, but the real question is what purposes or whose purposes am I fulfilling. Sadly, too often I am a self-fulfilling prophecy and my designs reach no further than my own selfishness, but I’d like for that to change.

So again I look to Jesus. Jesus really is amazing! He had the most successful ministry on the planet. People were literally tearing his roof apart to see him, and He says crazy things like let’s leave this place and go on to the next town. And I do only what I see my Father doing. He steers clear of popularity and fame. When a crowd plans to come and make him king (by force) he eludes them and seeks solitude.

Solitude – not to get those things done that he’d been meaning to do, but solitude focused on stillness, listening to God and waiting for direction. How many evenings do I end wondering where my day went? How many mornings do I give more than a simple checkmark to my time with God – God the creator of the universe, God the Lover of my Soul – God the one who holds each life in the balance? Surely he has perfect direction for my day. What am I waiting for?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

War, Foreign Policy, Abortion, Cap and Trade, The Fairness Doctrine, stimulus after stimulus – there is a battle raging, and it’s not one fought across party lines. It can’t be. The parties are too similar, and I’m fed up. I don’t know where to turn my frustration – so I’m venting. The politically squeamish should beware.

On the way toward any proposal I have many questions and observations to share. I wonder. When did we sell our souls? How long have we believed that government, any government is our salvation or even has our best interests at heart? Is it because we’ve had it so good for so long? Is it because we really believe they are smarter than us or that they have examined the issues more deeply? If so, it is only because we have chosen our ignorance. We have incredible freedoms fought and paid for by countless Americans and drafted just outside a tyranny that our founding fathers experienced firsthand.

We appear to be freer than any country in the world, possibly freer than any people has ever been. Is that what makes it so easy to give our freedoms away? I wonder if we will recognize that we have no one to blame but ourselves when we finally realize those freedoms are gone.When will we wake up and think for ourselves instead of letting bureaucrats in Washington or our state capitols, Republican and Democrat alike, do it for us. Last time I checked we were a Republic where individuals matter not just the collective whole.

Shame on me for saying and doing nothing for so long. Shame on me for being afraid of what people will think if I speak up. Shame on me for thinking my voice doesn’t matter and that individuals can’t really make a difference. Shame on us for calling on government to do what it is our job to do – to feed the poor, clothe the homeless and take care of the orphan and the widow– to name a few. How long will we follow party lines and ignore our own responsibilities? Shame on us for feeling entitled to be served by the government – for it is in accepting that service that we sign away more and more of our personal freedoms.

What about freedom of speech and freedom of religion? How long before not just the cars we drive, or the businesses we run, or the light bulbs we use are a target of legislation. The truth is even those unalienable rights are already on the chopping block being carved up for limitation as I write, and it’s all done by “experts” for our own good.

The time to act is now. We have ignored the warning signs of a society that has turned its back on God. We have gone about business as usual and been lulled into apathy by our comfortable lives. But the battle is raging whether we join the fight or not. Many a nation has fallen into corruption because of the comfort and apathy of its citizens. Will we be footnotes in the pages of a tragic history?

I was hesitant to write on politics because I prefer to share my opinions one on one until I read these word by C.S. Lewis. They screamed out at me and begged to be shared.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good, will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” ~ C.S. Lewis

My call is for us to pray. I believe that God is calling us to repent as a nation for our sin against him. If you are reading this and you are not a Christian, then I would simply ask that you consider the claims of Christ. The revolution begins in our hearts, and we live out truth on a daily basis. We speak truth in our actions and by refusing to be silenced by those who would tell us not to speak.

For those who prefer to leave politics in a quiet corner, please understand that we are beings who cannot compartmentalize our spirituality from the rest of our lives. Jesus is either Lord of all or he is not Lord at all.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Invade album by JP

Invade album by JP

Shared via AddThis

Walking Through Wildflowers

Today we were walking waist-high through walls of weeds and wildflowers. My children wandering in wonderment pocketing worms and grasshoppers while I, warily, watched for the more nefarious snakes and spiders.
Wow! I love alliteration. Fifteen minutes into our adventure I loosened up and began to enjoy our jaunt into the wonderland that is our front yard. My five-year-old daughter took my hand and led me fearlessly through the grass that brushed against her face on the way into the unknown. What lie ahead? Need it matter if she held my hand? Every two minutes or so she paused, knelt down and chose a flower. She dutifully handed each to me as if it were what she was born to do. And could it be that she was born to do just that? The cup of water that I had brought along to quench my thirst quickly turned into a vase, filling with clover, dandelions, daisies and a wide assortment of weeds. C’est la vie, perhaps this glass was brought along for just this purpose.
As we continued to wander, I paused to consider why children pick flower after flower and run with smiles and excitement to their mothers and place them proudly in mom’s waiting arms. I’ve noticed that children rarely keep flowers for themselves. They seem compelled to share the beauty that they encounter. And with whom do they share this beauty? With the object of their affection of course! What do they receive for their efforts? A smile, maybe a hug and most often a look of love that penetrates their very being causing pure joy to pour out of them with more smiles, laughter and a race to find more flowers.
At every turn I see beautiful blooms, each gift more surprising than the next. I bask in the warmth of a brilliant sun and a generous God who is compelled to share beauty because it is his very nature. I laugh out loud at the simplicity of today and the measured task of unwinding to enjoy the treasures with which God is wooing me. Me...the object of His affection? Why, of course! My smile widens, and my sense of longing is rekindled as I accept the gifts that surround me some unopened and others in full view. My walk back has taken on a new sense of expectancy. What lie ahead? I’m not sure, but need it matter if He holds my hand?

Accountability, Hypocrisy & Fraud

I sat down, pen in hand, my paper a blank slate and was preparing to write something about Accountability, Hypocrisy and Fraud. My mind flew to the note I wrote a week ago, the fish dish and the challenge to let things go. I thought about the implications and the responsibility of continuing to let go...

No sooner had I placed my pen on the page there was a crash in my kitchen. The crash that only comes from a dish shattering as it comes in contact with the floor. The casualty? Another fish dish – this time it was a mug.

My initial reaction was Aggh – nobody move! My second thought was to catalogue the irony! My third called for integrity and accountability. In other words, “JP, what’s your next move? Who are you really when nobody’s looking?”

Now, I promise not to write a note every time a dish is broken at our home. But c’mon, what are the odds of this kind of timing? And just what are these little lessons we learn without testing and the accountability or our peers?

In my nice little semi-suburban home I am pleasantly isolated from the eyes of a watching world. You see only what I allow you to see. You trust me to be sincere and truthful about my life and experiences and I expect the same of you.

We have opened a door in our lives and have agreed to let one another in. We have allowed others to comment and critique our lives from a distance. We are reservedly letting down our guard and becoming vulnerable, looking for friendship and encouragement while hoping that our trust is well placed and well deserved. In some sense we are attempting to figure out life together.

So, I am compelled by our relationship though, tenuous, to act responsibly and with integrity. And, nothing puts our integrity to the test like the crashing elements of reality – whatever they may be. My response to the unfortunate fish mug and the offending child must line up with my lesson learned about letting go. But, who is to know, and I control, to some degree, what others know about me.

I have at times been a hypocrite, and I could very easily, though not in good conscience, live a fraudulent life without anyone’s immediate knowledge. But, hypocrisy always shows itself in the end. Jesus had strong words for hypocrites, particularly those in positions of power and influence. Read Matthew 23:13-33 for more details.

I believe it is because of our incredible tendency toward hypocrisy that Paul wrote in Hebrews 10:24-25

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.”

All of us are potential frauds. But, we have the fantastic opportunity to live life alongside one another. Call it good peer pressure. Life is too difficult for anyone of us to do it alone. No one has the corner market on wisdom. And, no one is perfect. I, for one, need the community of friends, family and the Word of God to motivate me to be honest, accountable for my actions and true to my word. If you are reading this, I want you to know that I am thankful for you.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” - King Solomon / Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Thursday, February 26, 2009

One Split Second

As I was loading the dishwasher it occurred to me that I wasn’t being as careful in my handling of dishes as I normally am. In fact, I nearly lost hold of four glass bowls and sent them crashing to the floor.But, I realized, in the space of one split second, that I was okay with that.Haley, my youngest daughter, had aided in this process of letting go by being the first to break one of our “fish” dishes. These fish dishes are part of our everyday china collection that we received as a wedding gift 12 years ago. They are so cute!I know a four-year-old breaking a dish is oh-so-normal. In fact, it is altogether abnormal that we haven’t broken one up to now. After all, the dishes are 12 years old and our oldest child is eight. Anyone who has spent any time with us knows what a miracle this is.The significance of this moment is that it got to the heart of my issue with letting go. My things are precious to me. I don’t make a lot of new purchases. I just hold onto a lot of stuff for a long time.So, this epiphany that I would be okay with not just one dish breaking, but four, was a source of freedom for me. If I can let go of a fish dish, then I could let go of other things as well. Maybe, I could leave it all behind!?Was I unaware of how these things have held my heart and mind captive? Do I own these things or do they own me?The truth is, I have been indifferent and avoiding this very conversation. I don't want to be challenged to give up the comforts of my home. I don't want to be confronted with letting go of what is mine. But, I have been challenged, and I have been confronted with these questions, "Where does your treasure lay? Who or what holds your heart?" Wow. This all started with one silly dish. Must a dish be so demanding? Though this little thought began with a dish, the effects travel much further and penetrate much deeper. The things that I place value in and give attention to hold my heart. If I let go of everything with my heart, how can I be sure that I won't be asked to give it all away with my hands? What will I have left, and what else might be required of me? And, there it is. The root of this problem. Do I trust God?Yes. I do - though my actions don't always display it. Still, in that inadequacy, I am encouraged by the words of Jesus, who, in response to his disciples who had left everything to follow him, said: “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – and with them persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31Funny how it takes a split second to receive these gems, an hour to write them down and a lifetime to work them out.